After the 18th amendment to the constitution, the powers of the center were decentralization with the intention to bring powers close to the general populace. Of course, devolution and delegation of powers is a basic feature of resilient and well flourishing democracy.
Although, not constitutional part of Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is hanged over by the only constitutional clause of Article 1 (2) (d), which states, “Such states and territories as are may be included in Pakistan, whether by accession or otherwise”. Apart from the above cited clause, there is no mention of Gilgit-Baltistan or formally known Northern Areas in the Constitution of Pakistan.
Despite the fact that the local folk of Gilgit-Baltistan liberated the region on 1st November, 1947 from the Indian occupation and acceded to the newly Muslim State of Pakistan, without any condition and demand.
For the next Six decades, Pakistani establishment linked the fate of G-B and its people with Kashmir, although, the region has no historical, political or cultural and any other kind of semblance with Kashmir.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution and Subsequent promulgation of Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and self governance order, 2009 provided quasi-autonomy and comparatively a greater degree of power to exercise then before. More than the former, the later development provided a provincial status to G-B with a legislative assembly, Chief Minster, Ministers and a governor in line with other four provinces of the country.
People of the region were satisfied, that, the system is evolving towards greatly autonomy, self-rule and representation of the region in national Parliament thus becoming instrumental for the local resident to participate in the national decision makings similar to the rest of the citizens in the country.
Although unconstitutional, but for the greater cause of fighting against terrorism; the 21st amendment to the constitution was also extended to the territories of Gilgit-Baltistan under the special orders of the prime minister of Pakistan. The local leadership and civil society welcomed the move and asked the central government to fully implement the 18th amendment to the constitution also for giving complete autonomy to the region.
In stark contrast to the aspiration of the local people, the recent engagement of an incumbent government servant as interim Chief Minister and appointment of a non-local governor, the Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan as Ex-officio basis by altering Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and self governance order, 2009 is an encroachment to self governance and autonomy of the region.
Whereas, Article 101 (2) of the constitution qualify a governor of a province to be a registered voter and resident of the Province concerned. And also, it is an understood fact that, a serving government servant cannot participate in a political activity unless he has completed two years of his retirement.
Such stupid moves by the ruling PML-N government with predefine ulterior motives is no more than a political rape of the region. Former ruling party PPP and PTI have already protested and raised concern of pre-rigging intentions behind PML-N’s decisions regarding caretaker setup.
In addition, unnecessary linkage of Gilgit Baltistan with the Kashmir Cause and hanging the basic rights of self decisions for the last six decades has cause in fading way Pakistani Patriotism from the region, celebration of Independence day on 1st November each year with far greater zeal and zest, as compare to 14th Aught is an evident example.
Furthermore, the ruling PML-N in centre has exhibited more benign policies towards Kashmiris in Gilgit-Baltistan as compare others. That is why rumors are already spreading in GB that the aim of ascending Federal minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, a non-local, to the position of governor is basically paving a way to a local of Kashmiri origin, who is the current President of PML-N G-B, to become the next governor. Repeating the last election results, and his clear inclination towards religious right, the PML-N president apparently foresees his defeat in the upcoming elections in Gilgit-Baltistan from GB/LA-2, where he was decisively defeated by Deedar Ali, an independent candidate who later joined the Isalmi Tehreek.
Needless to say, the current caretaker Chief Minister G-B is also a Kashmiri by caste and a distant relative of PML-N’s President for G-B who is an aspirant of next governorship. In this way, PML-N policy in the region revolves around a particular section with complete negligence and lack of interest towards peculiar political dynamics and aspirations of the local people.
Such selective treatment and open attack on the autonomy, self determinations and withdrawing Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and self Governance Order 2009 not only undermine the free and fair democratic process and also is, giving a way to indirectly empower Islamabad based bureaucracy to run affairs in the region.
Lastly, all political parties should play their due role to empower the region by making G-B constitutional part and declare it the fifth province of Pakistan. No one can neglect the importance of G-B, its geo-political position, its economics potentials, tourism industry and possible trade routes with China, India, Afghanistan and central Asian republics. China has ready extended and repaired Karakurm High way to link Gawadar through G-B. Trade route with Tajikistan through Wakan corridor via Ghizer District is already under considerations.
In short, by making G-B 5th Province of the country is by no means a loss deal to Pakistan. The region has lot of potentials, not only to sustain itself, but also can contribute to the national revenue through all types of taxes, national resources, tourism industries, minerals, trade links, hydro electric potentials and cheap labor. Leaving the area at the discretion of stupid and un-pragmatic policies of PML-N would plunge the area in to a chaos and uncertainty.
The writer is Graduate in politics and Economics from FC college (A chartered University) Lahore. Irfanali14@gmail.com