–Three seats each proposed for GB in both houses of parliament besides representation in constitutional bodies
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet will discuss on Thursday the summary of the ministry of Kashmir affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) regarding awarding of provisional province status to GB until the final settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan also approved the status of a provisional province for GB.
Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan on Wednesday sent the summary to the cabinet after due deliberation by the committee constituted by PM Khan for evaluating the issue.
The committee unanimously agreed that GB should be given the status of a provisional province and should be allowed representation in the National Assembly (NA) and Senate. Interestingly, according to reliable sources, for the first time, the defence ministry, foreign ministry and the army are on the same page over this matter because they want to remove the sense of deprivation among the people of the region. Had the defence institutions not backed the initiative, the development would not have been possible, he added.
GB Order, 2018, was a milestone in granting fundamental rights to the people of GB. However, the issue of representation in the parliament, as per the aspirations of the locals, needs clarification so that the people of the area can be declared full citizens of the country with the right to participate in the affairs of the federation.
According to the draft proposal, this arrangement can be formalised by giving representation to GB in the parliament through constitutional amendments in Article 51 and 57 respectively. GB will be entitled to three special seats with one for each of the three divisions and one additional seat for women can also be added by the order of the president under Article 258. Provision of these seats can be made by amending Article 51 (4) of the Constitution of Pakistan. Similarly, three special seats may be created for GB in the Senate with one for each division through appropriate amendments in Article 59. The proposal further recommended that the GB government may be given representation in constitutional bodies like NEC, NFC, IRSA and CCI as an observer or by extending special invitations similar to those extended to Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK).
The attorney general has also proposed judicial reforms, including extending the tenure of the judges of Supreme Appellate Court of GB from three to five years and fixing of the retirement age to 65 besides provision of pension and other benefits.
The draft proposal also recommended that the appointment of chief judge of Supreme Appellate Court of GB may be done by the chairman of GB Council or the prime minister in consultation with the chief justice of the Supreme Court (SC) or they could be appointed through a judicial commission on the pattern of appointment of judges of SC.
It is worth mentioning here that the proposals forwarded by the committee were based on the recommendations of the committee led by Sartaj Aziz during the tenure of the previous government. However, the previous government could not implement those recommendations, which according to sources, was because of opposition from Kashmiri leaders.
On Tuesday, Federal Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan Affairs Ali Ameen Khan Gandapur presided the second meeting of the committee formed to bring constitutional and structural reforms in GB on Tuesday. The meeting discussed the issues pertaining to the constitutional and administrative empowerment of GB. The report of the subcommittee headed by the attorney general was presented in the meeting, after which a detailed discussion was held on different suggestions and proposals of the sub-committee. Speaking on the occasion, Gandapur said that GB would be empowered constitutionally and administratively according to the wishes of the locals. The committee later met the premier at his office in the presence of GB governor, the defence minister, attorney general, law minister and other prominent political figures.
On November 15, the federal government formed a committee to review the legal status of GB following directives of the Supreme Court (SC). As a seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar heard the case, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan informed the court that he had the followed court’s directives and written a letter over the matter to the centre, after which the cabinet had formed a committee to review the legal status of GB. The top judge then gave the committee 15 days to reach a conclusion and expressed his reservation that the government wanted to defer the matter into “cold storage” with the formation of a committee.
In October, the top court had directed the federal government to take a decision concerning GB’s provisional provincial status, in line with the recommendations noted down by a special committee for constitutional and administrative reforms in GB.