Federal govt fails to grant due rights to GB owing to ‘diplomatic obligations’


–Summary for constitutional and administrative reforms in Gilgit-Baltistan submitted to PM


ISLAMABAD: After an exercise of over three years, the federal government has finally shown red signal to Gilgit Baltistan (GB) saying it could not grant the due “constitutional rights to the region owing to diplomatic obligations and in national interests”.

A summary submitted to the Prime Minister Secretariat by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, a copy of which is available with Pakistan Today, for approval from the cabinet, shows that despite the number of sittings of a high powered constitutional committee under the head of Sartaj Aziz, Planning Commission deputy chairman, the committee could not suggest the center to bring GB at par with other provinces.

The committee says giving representation to GB in National Assembly and Senate, as demanded by the assembly and people of the region, was against the international obligations and interests of the country.

Accordingly, the Foreign Office carried out a research study, particularly focusing on the historical archives for the period 1940-2000, in order to determine the status and boundaries of Gilgit-Baltistan vis-a-vis the historical State of Kashmir.

Government of Gilgit-Baltistan also constituted a committee for the purpose of consolidating and analysing the historical record and relevant treaties, with special emphasis on the Treaty of Lahore 1846, Treaty of Amritsar 1846 and Lease of Gilgit 1935. These studies were consolidated and submitted for consideration of the committee in June 2016. Taking into consideration the findings of these studies, the committee submitted its final report to the prime minister on March 10, 2017.

The summary further says that the prime minister constituted another committee for greater administrative devolution under the convenorship of Sartaj, which submitted a supplementary report on September 26, 2017, proposing administrative and financial measures for further empowerment.

It says a special meeting chaired by the prime minister, was held on January 3, 2018, and reviewed the recommendations submitted by the two committees. It was decided that legislation may be prepared to incorporate the recommendations, to bring GB at par with other provinces. However, it was decided that owing to the diplomatic obligations and in the national interest of the country, issues of constitutional status and representation in the Parliament would be considered subsequently.

The Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs was tasked to prepare the draft of the new order, in consultation with the Government of GB, as well as Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan and other stakeholders.

Similarly, recommendation for one member of Federal Public Services Commission from GB could not be incorporated in the droll Order as it would be dealt with under a separate law. The recommendation would be made pan of the summary.

Accordingly, the Committee chaired by Sartaj Aziz, held a number of meetings with relevant stakeholders to propose amendments in the draft in accordance with the guidelines provided to it, in order to bring GB administratively and politically, at par with other provinces. After receiving input from the stakeholders, the draft was finalised in the Law Division under the supervision of Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, on Law and Justice. The final draft of Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 was sent, for approval and authorisation of the Prime Minister, for placement before the Federal Cabinet, in accordance with the Rules of Business 1973.

According to the summary the committee, also discussed the post abolishment scenario of the GB Council, its Secretariat and other departments working under its administrative control i.e. Accountant General Gilgit-Baltistan, Directorate General of Audit, Gilgit-Baltistan and Department of Inland Revenue, Gilgit-Baltistan. The Committee recommended that Office of Accountant General, Directorate General of Audit, and Department of Inland Revenue, along with its assets and regular employees will be shifted under administrative control of Controller General of Accounts, Islamabad, Auditor General of Pakistan and FBR, respectively as these departments are working under Federal Government in other provinces of the Country.

Similarly, the regular employees of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council Secretariat, Islamabad having domicile of GB will be given an option either to be inducted in Government of GB or they may be sent to Federal Surplus Pool. Employees other than GB Domicile will be shifted to Federal Service Surplus Pool. However, the fate of almost 100 contingent paid staff of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council and its departments have to be decided as per government policy.

The summary says approval may also be accorded for introducing Civil Service Reforms in Gilgit-Baltistan including up-gradation of the posts of Secretaries of departments to BS-20 and the post of Chief Secretary to BS-21/22. In addition, officers of Gilgit-Baltistan Civil Service may be included in all schemes for the induction of provincial civil servants into Federal Services.