Governor proposes special status of province for GB


–Amendments in Article 257 proposed to federal government’s committee

ISLAMABAD: As a high-powered committee constituted by the federal government will be submitting its recommendations regarding further empowerment of Gilgit Baltistan (GB) to the Supreme Court on December 3, GB governor has proposed special status of province for the region pending settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

According to details, GB Governor Raja Jalal Hussain Maqpoon, who is also a member of the committee, has suggested the federal government make amendments in Article 257 of the constitution to give fundamental rights to millions of people in GB without harming the country’s international obligations regarding the Kashmir dispute.

The governor has suggested addition of Article 257-A, which may read as, “Temporary provisions with respect to the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) in this constitution, (i) the territory of GB shall be provisionally a special province pending final settlement of Jammu and  Kashmir dispute, (ii) the provision of Article 1 of the constitution and of this article shall apply in relation to the territories of Pakistan, and (iii) such of other provisions of this constitution shall apply in relation to the territories mentioned in article 1 (2) (a), pending final resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”

The federal government had recently constituted a high-level committee to examine the constitutional, administrative and governance reforms for GB and to review the “Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018” in the light.

As per GB governor’s suggestion, the amendment in constitution would be the best way forward to implement the historical judgment of the apex court reported in 1999 SCMR1379 titled “AlJahad trust versus Federation of Pakistan”; and being of provisional nature, it would have no prejudicial effect on the stance taken by Pakistan on the Kashmir issue in the light of UN Resolutions.

The governor said that the Sartaj Aziz-led committee, which worked for two years on the same subject previously, had overlooked the provision of fundamental rights to millions of people of GB, which can only be achieved through an apex constitutional court of the country. And so, it is pertinent through amendments in Articles 175 to 209 that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan is extended to GB.

He further suggested that for judicial reforms, till the constitutional arrangements take place and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is extended through constitutional amendments, the judges of Supreme Appellate Court and GB Chief Court may be appointed as on the pattern of appointments of judges of apex courts through a judicial commission.

Referring to the TORs [Terms of Reference] related to the Kashmir dispute, he said granting special provisional status of a province pending final settlement of the Kashmir dispute not only is the one and only solution that corroborates and substantiates the principled stance taken by Pakistan in the light of United Nations (UN) resolutions on Kashmir issue, but it will also ensure the provision of fundamental rights to millions of people of GB through access to independent apex judiciary. It will provide the right to self-governance through their chosen representatives.

According to the recommendations, the proposed amendments in the constitution will foil the attempts to exploit the constitutional deprivation that prevails among millions of people of GB and will also prevent anyone from taking advantage of the ambiguous legal status of the region on international forums for human rights and peace.