Natives, opposition leaders rile up against Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018

  • Order aims to turn office of Pakistani PM ‘supra-constitutional’ for the region

ISLAMABAD: While the country prepares for the next elections, the constitutional happenings in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) have largely been ignored at great peril, with the natives and local opposition leaders riling up against Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018, which aims to bestow upon the office of federal prime minister supra-constitutional powers, Pakistan Today has learnt.

In the recent development, the joint opposition has said that they will not accept GB Order, 2018 without due constitutional protection.

The leaders of opposition parties staged a protest demonstration in front of parliament in Islamabad a few days back against the order saying that they would not accept it without constitutional protection.

The protest demonstration was attended by Javaid Hussain, Captain (r) Muhammad Shafi Khan, Raja Jahanzeb, Kacho Imtiaz, Nawaz Khan Naji, Rizwan Ali and others.

Speaking on this occasion, Opposition Leader in GB Legislative Assembly Captain (r) Shafi Muhammad Khan said that whatever package or order has been given to GB, it should be provided with a constitutional protection. He demanded that the federal government should provide Azad Jammu and Kashmir-like (AJK) political setup to Gilgit-Baltistan if it was unable to constitutionally protect the order.

Meanwhile, the nationalist member of the assembly Nawaz Khan Naji said that the GB has been a disputed territory according to the United Nations’ resolutions and any constitutional reforms should be made by the government while keeping in view sensitivity of the issue and status of Gilgit-Baltistan. He added that the opposition parties were united on one agenda that Gilgit-Baltistan should either be made a full province of the country or it should be given an AJK-like political system.

Furthermore, in his speech, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) member of the assembly Javaid Hussain said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has approved the new order to add salt to the wounds of Gilgit-Baltistan’s people by increasing their problems. He added that the political and administrative power of Legislative Assembly has been curtailed under the new order.

Earlier, the joint opposition said that efforts have been made to bring GB under the rule of a single person, which was unconstitutional. They demanded that the model of Jammu and Kashmir was already at their fore in which the region had been made a separate state while keeping in view its disputed status.

They added that they didn’t want to create unrest and tension in Gilgit-Baltistan due to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the federal and regional governments would be responsible if such a situation was created in wake of enforcement of the proposed “slavery order”. They urged that the federal government should avoid such constitutional reforms resulting in deprivation of political and administrative power of the people.

Earlier, they boycotted an in-camera briefing on the GB Order 2018 by the government, with the members of opposition benches in Legislative Assembly saying that Gilgit-Baltistan should either be made a full constitutional province of the country or should be given Azad Kashmir-like political setup rather than giving it different constitutional orders or packages.

Going through the contents of the draft bill, the most startling aspect was Article 77(2) according to which the courts of GB have neither the power nor capacity to hold the prime minister to account, effectively turning him into a ‘supra-constitutional’ entity that is above and beyond the law.

Interestingly, the exclusive power of appointment in judiciary too is vested in the prime minister, along with the powers to indemnify any person from due process of law that have also been vested in PM under Article 107. The power to appoint the caretaker setup has, however, been given to the president under Article 34 (b).