By Awais Ali Khan
Gilgit Baltistan’s empowerment package was principally introduced to give long-constitutionally neglected region; an identity of peculiar existence, enhanced quantum of autonomy and localized empowerment , to stream line its legal and administrative status with rest of provinces. Apart from its theoretical promulgation, the novelty aimed to mitigate communal-disparities by enabling local representatives to ‘self-govern’ region and formulate a ‘functional’ framework under the ambit of 2009’s ‘empowerment-act’. However there is still existence of grey areas in the incumbent statuary cover, which needs to be reconciled, accommodating changing geo-political paradigms, to save its principle essence and basis of promulgation. Framework’s legal basis is an ordinance which was kept unrevoked with changing democratic regime. However national level consensus is yet to be achieved and exhibited in form of an act, primarily based by consent of parliamentary approval, which will ultimately provide national basis for framework’s promulgation, rather than putting it as only presidential ordinance, which is technically vulnerable, subjected to discretion of subsequent political regimes. Mainstream political parties seem to be using its ‘empowerment card’ in its local elections only as electoral leverage, and forget putting things right afterwards, by proper placement of a consensual-statuary cover.
The unaddressed arenas of sectoral functionality, provide a basis for inefficient governance and unaccounted power structure, that is more skewed towards federation rather than province .The quantum of autonomy provided to local-governance’s power structure is nominal, with meager residual-decision making left for local provincial setup. Moreover, lack of representation in federal decision making forums exacerbates localized-alienation-potential of the far long neglected community. It’s a paradoxical scenario that, needs of people of GB are ‘apparently tried’ to be catered to, by creation of a setup ,but in major forums like Commission of Economic Interest, National Economic Council and National Finance commission, there is no way interests and concerns of these long-neglected people are addressed .It’s a big question mark that TTP’s newly appointed spokesman belongs to this region and sarcastically, local people are saying that ‘at least’ TTP gave this region mainstream-representation ,which state couldn’t unfortunately provide, in last six decades .It’s not that TTP’s deliberately did it to create soft corner in people’s heart which they have been targeting also, but this clearly reflects the general opinion that ‘lack of representation issue‘ is taken how much intensively by people these days. Without adequate representation and inclusivity in mainstream –decision making, fulfillment of this indispensable paradigm of ‘localized-empowerment’ would merely be a dream, easy to cherish than materialization.
Post 18th amendment effects of ‘decentralization principle’ could have been materialized in principally more efficient manner, if likely to be devolved portfolios, were put through process of capacity building. The larger provinces, despite of having more organized statuary formations, had not yet been able to perform efficiently. How could naïve provinces then, have been able to replicate same administrative and legislative functions which they didn’t had controlled in past six decades. To accumulate post-devolution effect, naïve- provinces, could have been made going through institutional capacity building processes, prior to putting them at test. This unaccounted factor also played a significant role in rendering the framework’s functionalism inefficient, and resting of ‘real decision making portfolios’ with central government. Legislative assembly of Gilgit Baltistan is a powerless body, with nominally vested legislative fronts, and residual-trivial-executive authorities, ’for granted’ by federation under empowerment package .The technically supreme body GB-council has its apex authority prime minister, which is less likely to pay heed to local representatives .This attitude is evident from lack of inclusion of GB’s local stake holders in Kashghar to Gawadar economic corridor’s developments, and prime minster is seen, ‘only’ with its federal and party cronies.
The above mentioned problems are enshrined in two reasons; one is internal-political-instability in past and, second Pak-India’s issue of post colonial territorial distribution. Scenario is basically implication of inter-state level-issues, having after effects on state and province relations. Inconsistency of political regimes in past, frequent government shuffling and retardation in nurturing of democratic culture, have been the reasons why Pakistan couldn’t provide adequate heed to this region’s needs. At international level, political dilemma of Pakistan and India, on Kashmir issue never seems to be solved soon. India presumes Gilgit-Baltistan to be part of Kashmir, claims its extended ownership to this region too along with Kashmir. India, in exhibition of its claim, considers it legitimate to build up dams, in its held part of Kashmir .But when Pakistan goes for developing Gilgit-Baltistan through improved governance-structure, transportation-infrastructure and building up of dams, India gets irritated. India’s irritation on KKH’s extension and ‘increased-concern’ on the economic corridor provisions, puts a question to its own role in, its held part of Kashmir, and falsifies its claim to this region. To India independence of Gilgit-State on 1-Nov-1947, from ruler of Kashmir carries no significance, it results in falsely cultivated-perception, as the region got independence, and after 17 days of its autonomy, it got annexation with Pakistan by, discretion of its majority liberators. Merging Kashmir dispute with Gilgit-Baltistan, and pressurizing state of Pakistan not to execute, any developmental projects in this region ,is an illegitimate ground and unacceptable perception of India.
Pakistan can have a possible solution to this problem, which can neither weaken Pakistan’s standing on Kashmir issue, nor let India to get agitated. The solution lies in ‘provisionally’ considering this region as a full-flash province, unless world community and UN get enough nerves to execute plebiscite, in light of 1948 Kashmir resolution, in all declared parts. Pakistan can carry out development and empowerment projects in region, consolidating its good will by empowering local population and nurturing sense of ‘state-service’. India baselessly, tries to use this as leverage point, and arm-twist Pakistan, but in fact India’s own role in its held part is questionable and self-centered.
The state’s internal issues and inter-state issues are at their place, but they shouldn’t serve as pretext, legitimate enough to put the long neglected community to socio-economic retardation and developmental-stagnancy. The frame works of local governance needed to be enhanced, empowered and entrusted with responsibilities, whose ambit is fully enshrined with power-devolution and local-empowerment principles. Only then, this strategically important region, can functionally perform well, and contribute exponentially in national prosperity, with more improved, prolific and accumulative socio-economic contribution.
Awais Ali Khan, is a youth activist and a student in Department of City and Regional Planning, UET, Lahore.
He can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/awais.a.khan.7