Le­gal link­age with GB

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Afzal A. Shi­gri

WITHIN a month of their oath-tak­ing, the newly elected mem­bers of the Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly of Gil­gitBaltistan (GB) adopted a res­o­lu­tion de­mand­ing the grant­ing of full con­sti­tu­tional rights to the peo­ple of their re­gion. The as­sem­bly also passed a sim­i­lar res­o­lu­tion on Sept 29, 2014.

In the ear­lier res­o­lu­tion, the de­mand for the in­te­gra­tion of GB as a fully fledged fifth prov­ince of Pak­istan was put forth. How­ever, in or­der to ac­com­mo­date the stance of the govern­ment of Pak­istan on the Kash­mir is­sue, which links the fate of GB with Kash­mir, the as­sem­bly has gone on to mod­ify the res­o­lu­tion and de­manded the in­te­gra­tion of GB as a prov­ince in Pak­istan pro­vi­sion­ally un­til the fi­nal res­o­lu­tion of the Jammu and Kash­mir is­sue in line with the rel­e­vant UN res­o­lu­tion.

The pro­vi­sional de­mand for its in­te­gra­tion as a prov­ince is based on the prece­dent set in the 1963 Pak­istanChina bor­der agree­ment for de­mar­ca­tion of the bound­ary. It was specif­i­cally stated that this in­ter­na­tional treaty was pro­vi­sional and sub­ject to rat­i­fi­ca­tion af­ter the fi­nal set­tle­ment of the sta­tus of this area. The dis­puted sta­tus of this area has been re­peat­edly re­it­er­ated by the Pak­istani govern­ment be­fore all fo­rums, in­clud­ing the Supreme Court of Pak­istan. The peo­ple of the re­gion look at the ar­range­ment through a dif­fer­ent lens. To them, the area had ac­ceded to Pak­istan as an in­de­pen­dent en­tity once lo­cals had lib­er­ated GB, and Pak­istan had ac­cepted the ac­ces­sion in a two-way agree­ment. This should have set­tled their sta­tus. Un­for­tu­nately, in­stead of for­mal­is­ing this agree­ment, the govern­ment of Pak­istan chose to en­ter into the in­fa­mous Karachi Agree­ment of 1949 with the lead­ers of the All Jammu & Kash­mir Mus­lim Con­fer­ence who did not rep­re­sent GB, and sub­se­quently the ad­min­is­tra­tion of this re­gion was handed over to the Pak­istani govern­ment with­out their con­sent.

The de facto ad­min­is­tra­tive con­trol of the area by the Pak­istani govern­ment is based on the fol­low­ing two fun­da­men­tals:

I) Res­o­lu­tion adopted by the UN Com­mis­sion for In­dia and Pak­istan on Au­gust 13, 1948. Part-II A(3) states that this ter­ri­tory will be "... ad­min­is­tered by the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties un­der the sur­veil­lance of the Com­mis­sion".

II) The gen­eral will of the peo­ple for ac­ces­sion to the state of Pak­istan that has been re­peat­edly ex­pressed through un­wa­ver­ing loy­alty, com­mit­ment and pa­tri­o­tism. The peo­ple of the re­gion take pride in the fact that the North­ern Light In­fantry, an army reg­i­ment of this area, is the most dec­o­rated reg­i­ment of Pak­istan with hun­dreds of mar­tyrs who have laid down their lives de­fend­ing the state of Pak­istan in all con­flicts with its en­e­mies.

De­spite the above, the fed­er­a­tion has not al­lowed the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion to ad­min­is­ter their affairs in­de­pen­dently through their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives as per the United Na­tions res­o­lu­tion. Un­der es­ca­lat­ing de­mand for con­sti­tu­tional rights, var­i­ous gov­ern­ments have in­cre­men­tally and re­luc­tantly given lim­ited pow­ers to the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of this area. This process was ini­ti­ated by the first Pak­istan Peo­ples Party govern­ment, but none of the sub­se­quent gov­ern­ments has met the de­mands of the peo­ple for full con­sti­tu­tional rights.

All im­por­tant de­ci­sions that have a di­rect im­pact on the daily lives of the peo­ple of the area are be­ing taken in the name of the Gil­git-Baltistan Coun­cil that has a to­tal mem­ber­ship of 15, of which only six are elected in­di­rectly by the lo­cal leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly. The re­main- ing mem­bers are the nom­i­nees of the govern­ment of Pak­istan. The coun­cil uni­lat­er­ally has been ex­tend­ing fed­eral laws to this re­gion with­out any con­sul­ta­tion of the di­rectly elected as­sem­bly.

Sim­i­larly, the le­gal struc­ture pro­vided for the gov­er­nance of this area has no sanc­tity and can be amended through a pres­i­den­tial de­cree. Even the ju­di­cial struc­ture with tem­po­rary ap­point­ments of the judges by the Pak­istan govern­ment raises ques­tions about their in­de­pen­dence in ad­ju­di­cat­ing key is­sues in which the fed­er­a­tion is a party.

This de facto con­trol of the area by the govern­ment is based solely on the gen­eral will of the pop­u­lace as it does not con­form to the bench­mark of sel­f­rule en­vis­aged in the UN res­o­lu­tion. The with­drawal of this gen­eral will is likely to cre­ate a le­gal void sev­er­ing any le­gal link­age with the fed­er­a­tion. The govern­ment has failed to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the grav­ity of the emerg­ing dis­con­tent, which has been catal­ysed by a very high level of education and aware­ness amongst the youth who ques­tion the con­tin­ued dis­re­gard for the rights of the peo­ple of this area.

The ob­vi­ous ne­glect of the area in China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor projects in the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion's list of schemes shown on its web page and im­po­si­tion of cus­tom du­ties and in­come tax with­out the in­volve­ment of the elected as­sem­bly are key is­sues which are a source for con­cern amongst GB res­i­dents. Th­ese are is­sues which have at­tracted re­cur­ring protests and in­creas­ing ex­pres­sion of re­sent­ment on so­cial me­dia. Al­though the Pak­istani govern­ment had set up a com­mit­tee to look into the con­sti­tu­tional is­sue, there have been no con­crete out­comes as a re­sult of its de­lib­er­a­tions, and the govern­ment has con­tin­ued to ig­nore this mat­ter of na­tional im­por­tance. Pur­port­edly, China has also ex­pressed its con­cern about the le­gal sta­tus of the area as ac­cess for CPEC projects is from GB. The pro­vi­sional pro­vin­cial sta­tus could place this re­gion within a broad le­gal frame­work and as­cer­tain le­gal link­age with Pak­istan. As the present gov­er­nance struc­ture is not in line with the UN res­o­lu­tion, it is vi­tal that in or­der to pro­tect the le­git­i­macy of the pres­ence of the Pak­istani govern­ment in this area, the peo­ple's de­mands are taken se­ri­ously and spe­cific le­gal ar­range­ments for­malised.

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