Provincial status should be temporary: expert

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MUZAFFARABAD: Former acting chief justice of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Supreme Court Syed Manzoor Hussain Gillani suggested a ‘provisional’ provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan without compromising the basic stand on the Kashmir issue. He said AJK and GB should be given same rights enjoyed by the provinces after the 18th amendment and the parliament of Pakistan should replace AJK Council. He suggested that the assemblies of AJK and GB should elect members of the parliament to be, subsequently, notified by the President of Pakistan. The minster for Kashmir affairs and GB as well as the chairman parliamentary Kashmir committee must be from among these members so that they effectively and impressively handle the Kashmir issue in and outside the country, he added.

Mr Gillani added that internal representation and governance of AJK and GB had no relevance to the UNCIP resolutions so long as these territories were not integrated like other provinces of Pakistan. “Non-participation of the people of these territories in policy and decision-making process at all levels, in fact, militates against UN resolutions,” he said, adding both parts of the state needed empowerment in all policy and decision-making institutions.

Mr Gillani recalled that all princely states in undivided India, including Jammu and Kashmir, had reserved seats in the Imperial Legislative Council under the Government of India Act 1935 despite the fact they were not part of the British India. “It is delusional to think or say that AJK and GB are not part of or governed by Pakistan government. Nobody accepts the theory; it’s the ground reality that counts,” he said. Similarly, he said, India’s theory that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir was its integral part was also delusory for the reason that AJK and GB were under Pakistan’s control and the territory held by India was in conflict with it and also because UN resolutions negated that pretence. “So let us take a realistic and pragmatic view to meet the aspirations of GB people, quell misconceptions about the rest of the state, sail both parts to gather under the protection of Pakistan, protect their security interests against any intrusion by India and ensure their economic development and prosperity like other administrative units without any confusion till the determination of their ultimate status either through UNCIP resolutions or bilateral/trilateral parleys,” he said. However, differing with the idea of a permanent or provisional provincial status, a foreign policy expert of Kashmiri origin warned that mishandling of the case could cause serious problems to Pakistan’s case on Kashmir.

The expert said bold steps were required by Islamabad to evince trust in AJK and GB people and empower them in practice. He said while there was a need to assure greater stabilisation in GB en-route the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the solutions envisaged in Islamabad were neither capable of providing stabilisation nor satisfying people’s aspirations. He maintained that empowerment could not come by sending a few representatives to the parliament but by giving GB control over its resources and finances and return of the State Subject Law that was taken away in the 1970s. “Empowerment does not and cannot imply eroding the juridical personality of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as enshrined in the UNCIP resolutions. It must not weaken the Kashmir case or make Pakistan responsible for sanctifying fragmentation of the state,” he added.

The expert suggested that Islamabad should rather upgrade the legislative authority of assemblies in GB and AJK to include all subjects that related to Maharaja Hari Singh’s government under British suzerainty, except for defence, foreign affairs, currency and those subjects they delegate to the government of Pakistan on an ad hoc basis, including mega projects linked with CPEC. The two assemblies should separately adopt a Charter of Rights and proclaim it in a joint session that they should hold at least once in a year to address common issues, he said. The two assemblies should also adopt a proclamation reaffirming their support for Pakistan’s responsibilities under UNCIP resolutions and trust in it to carry forward mega developmental projects.

 

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Abdul Hamid Khan is the chairman of Balawaristan National Front (BNF), a nationalist political party of Balawaristan (Pakistan Occupied Gilgit-Baltistan), which Pakistan had purposefully named as Northern Areas to keep its disputed status obscured. Chairman Khan started a political struggle for the human and political rights of the deprived people of Gilgit-Baltistan, after the year 1988. However, in the depoliticized region under the Pakistani bureaucratic establishment he faced many difficulties.

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