Pakistan has once again, in a subtle move, wanted to bring Gilgit-Baltistan(GB) at par with other provinces. In a decision taken by National Security Committee (NSC) on May 19, the civil and military leadership has conceptualized to grant more administrative and financial autonomy to Pok (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) and Gilgit-Baltistan, keeping PoK and GB councils as advisory bodies. Giving further fillip to their new plan NSC has also recommended incentives of granting a five-year tax levy holiday to GB to bring it at par with other developed areas of the country. Intriguingly, Pakistan in its new strategy has brought substantial changes in the political structure in Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order of 2009 which does not mention GB status as a province of Pakistan.
The lacunae of the NSC order, titled “Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018”, are that the GB assembly shall not discuss “matters relating to foreign affairs, defence, and internal security” and the conduct of a judge. Also no citizen of the region would become the chief judge of the Supreme Appellate Court. But this order has invoked criticisms by various political, social and activists from GB. They have raised a valid question, if GB is merged as a part of Pakistan, then it should be treated at par with other provinces of Pakistan in every respect. In case of disputed territory the region be given the status of PoK in light of Kashmir problem.
To put the record straight, in 1999, Pakistan Supreme Court judgement extended full constitutional rights to the people of GB in line with the UN resolution. However, direct federal rule continued to be forced upon the region under the Karachi Agreement of 1949. The 1994 order was superficially revised by Pervez Musharraf in 2006, with few inferences for significant changes to the structure.
Senge H. Sering, a scholar from Gilgit-Baltistan based in Washington DC in a statement the US Senate on Rights and Freedoms in Pakistan-occupied-Gilgit-Baltistan recently recalled the UNSC resolution 47 that declares Pakistan an occupier and aggressor in Gilgit Baltistan and calls for its withdrawal. He said, Pakistan treats Gilgit Baltistan like a colony and even today in this modern day and age; our local people live without basic constitutional rights including the right to vote; the right to send representatives to the parliament,the right to appeal to apex judiciary; the right to employ local languages in educational institutions; and the right to legislate on local land and resources.
He also mentioned about the The Asian Human Rights Commission’s report on Gilgit Baltistan that practices of land grabbing have resulted in the displacement of locals and a state has sanctioned demographic change. The report claims that the non-local proportion of the population in Gilgit Baltistan has increased significantly in recent years since government is violating a local law called State Subject Rule, which has opened the floodgates of immigration from Pakistan.
Pakistan's time and again attempts to make GB as a part of its provinces has a definite aim of getting the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) executed according to their choice. Both China and Pakistan have crushed the legitimate voices raised by the people of GB of violating their human rights to achieve the CPEC objectives. The locals here feel Pakistan and China are exploiting their resources. Several local NGO delegations and intellectuals who study the region are constantly voicing these concerns in the United Nation Human Right sessions.
China is well aware of this fact that Gilgit Baltistan is in political and diplomatic dispute and Pakistan's sovereignty does not extend to this region. Though. knowing the fact that Pakistan's constitution and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, or other federal government institutions, do not have jurisdiction in Gilgit Baltistan, yet China with firm strategy wanted to establish trading routes to Iran and the Middle Eastern countries.
The strong reaction and the statements of the political leaders across the political divide have decided to stall the order, but if the proposal is implemented, political upheaval and violent agitation with serious consequences will only not confine to the region but also affect CPEC projects, observe political scientists.