by Tariq Hasan
In addition to tribal areas there are other constitutionally disadvantaged territories in Pakistan. These comprise the Northern Areas comprising the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan district of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar, which are not even mentioned in the Pakistan Constitution. These territories do not have their own constitution like the state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, which although an integral part of the country, is also not mentioned in the Pakistan Constitution. Furthermore, unlike Federally Administered Tribal Areas or Provincially Administered Tribal Areas these territories are not even autonomous or semi-autonomous. But like the tribal areas, most of these territories are under the administrative control of Pakistan.
Northern Areas are administered by Pakistan under the Northern Areas Council Legal Framework Order, 1994 (LFO) and are for this reason also referred to as the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA). No government in Pakistan to date has ever taken any meaningful steps to address the wider issues of constitutional disregard and political deprivation of the Northern Areas.
This lingering neglect has evoked judicial intervention at the highest level. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a landmark case entitled Al-Jehad Trust vs. Federation of Pakistan, held that the people of Northern Areas are citizens of Pakistan for all intents and purposes and like other citizens have the right to invoke any of the fundamental rights, and liable to pay taxes and other competently imposed levies. It further observed that these people are also entitled to participate in the governance of their area and to have an independent judiciary to enforce, inter alia, the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Pakistan Constitution. The Supreme Court, therefore, directed the Federation of Pakistan to initiate appropriate administrative and legislative measures within a period of six months from May 28, 1999, to make necessary amendments in the Pakistan Constitution and relevant statutes, orders, rules, and notifications to ensure that the people of Northern Areas enjoy their fundamental rights to be governed through their chosen representatives and to have access to justice through an independent judiciary, inter alia, for enforcement of their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Pakistan Constitution.
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The writer, a former chairman of the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan, is a lawyer based in Islamabad.