Muhammad Tahir Rana
Before we discuss the constitutional amendments and any progress regarding Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, we must look back at the origin and historical background behind it. Independence of Indo-Pak became reality due to the law of independence of sub continent; according to its act the princely state of then the newly partitioned India had the liberty to join either Pakistan or India. Whereas India unilaterally took over all the states falling within its boundaries, it did agree to put down the Kashmir situation on status quo. After the independence of AJK, Gilgit Baltistan too freed themselves from the Dogra army and merged with Pakistan by own free will. Since past 66 years both these regions are under Pakistan administration but due to UN resolutions passed on Kashmir as a disputed territory between India and Pakistan the regions are in a constitutional limbo and bear no legitimate rights enjoyed by rest of Pakistan. Even though both regions have throughout decades fought for their rights but due to divisive status of Kashmir no such law could be enacted to unite both regions as provinces of Pakistan. Recently some analysts and experts have found one solution which can be termed closer to reality. The current Government of PML N who in past has been the champion of freedom of Kashmir and assertively defended the Kashmir cause on international forums is deliberating seriously to grant some sort of status to the region of AJK and GB and it seem somewhat likely that this issue might find some soothing middle ground. The political pundits and the journalists of GB have always demanded such a solution which does not harm the Kashmir cause and neither the people of the region remain constitutionally deprived. Infact GB has boldly demanded representation in Pakistani Upper and lower house of parliament.
Last month a new development emerged when ex chief Justice of AJK Mr. Manzoor Hussein Gellani and Ex IG Sind Mr. Afzal shigri presented a legal Formula brief on GB/AJK’s constitutional rights to the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign affairs and it is in progress at the moment. For more in-depth analysis, the formula brief is sent to the ministry of AJK and GB, The political, legal, think tanks and institutional experts will be consulted vigorously before any final decision can be taken upon it. Any resolution passed in this regard can vastly pave way for gradually gaining some status in Pakistan but there are some people who are of the view that care must be taken not to jeopardize the sacrifices made for the Kashmir cause for whom the people of the region have greatly suffered and faced injustice. The turning point will arise sooner or later and if people of the region are granted some sort of representation in the federal, it can profoundly shape some deprivation faced for decades. EX chief Justice Manzoor Gellani while giving interview to local media expressed views that without bringing about any new changes in the present status of AJK and GB there is room for participation in federal assemblies. He elaborated that neither GB nor AJK can become provinces of Pakistan in actual sense, Council is also an irrelevant institution. He has suggested 3 seats for GB and 8 seats for Kashmir in National assembly of Pakistan whereas 5 seats each in Senate should be allocated to both regions. According to his formula after granting this above mentioned special status to GB and AJK,both the Councils should be dissolved and all its powers which are linked with federal government should be given to the government of GB.In other words in compliance with the 18th amendment all power is shifted to the provinces which used administered by the federal, in similar way all the council’s rights and work should be handed over to federal government and GB and AJK shall also benefit from the transfer of power to provinces as other provinces have benefited. This is not only instil a positive signal to the region but also diminish many suspicions and grievances present in the regions and a larger forum will be presented to them. He further said that GB/AJK should be given province like status Not Provisional status. According to UN resolutions it is forbidden to make the territory its binding province no clause halts giving rights and privileges to these territories.
In 2009 the past government of PPP organized elections in GB through the Governance Order by which first time in history of GB a chief Minister and Governor came into existence. Unfortunately the expenditure of non developmental funds reached all time high to 80% and the prior schemes were neglected let alone introduce new schemes for region. This worsened the process of development and the loopholes in package gave rise to poor administration, Chief Minister and members of assembly who envisioned this package as a life saver for the region are now unconvinced about its weakness and shortcomings.
Recently a Think tank’s findings reveal that The government of PML N is desirous to bring about a landmark progress in the stagnant status of GB/AJK,which is a good sign but what remains to be seen is how much effort can the Government put in to grants seats in Pak Assemblies to local people and can it really bring sound changes without touching the Kashmir issue on International level which can be achieved by declaring this region as “special territory”. Due to the ongoing peace negotiations between Taliban and Government has slowed down work on the formula. What can be anticipated that before 2014 elections in GB or right afterwards there is a milestone progress on the formula .In such a case nominations will be selected in the same manner as council members are chosen, by votes of the members of the GB assembly, while as the GB assembly will remain the same. This formula is welcomed by nearly all the parties existing in GB.
The constitutional and legal experts as well as political analysts are sceptical about this formula because some pioneers of this formula are deemed as foreign agents but they have denied such allegations leveled against them. This is a very sensitive issue, one for which Pakistan has sacrificed greatly and continues to do so, if in such testing times, some folks deliberately try to politicize the Kashmir stance of Pakistan, this is not only harmful for the image of Pakistan severely but also all the sacrifices made during the journey will all go in vain.