Extra-Constitutional Order

By Iftikhar Ali

Hedley Bull of English School upheld the view in 1977 that “Order can exist between states which do not feel they belong to a common civilization”, same views were upheld and expressed by PM Khaqan Abbasi in his address to the Joint Session of GBLA and GB Council on May 27, 2018. While endorsing an Extra-Constitutional Order called GB Order 2018, he said people of Gilgit-Baltistan does not need constitution rather an Order can serve the purpose.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are renowned for their hospitality and bigheartedness in welcoming their guests but first time in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan, the people of the region welcomed a sitting prime minister with unprecedented shutter-down strike, public demonstrations at various districts with single slogan of Order on Order is Unacceptable! Contrary to the past, there were no kids at the airport to receive the prime minister with a bouquet of flowers rather angry protesters with shows on their hands chanting “Look at him, who has come, thief has come, thief has come”. The situation become further embarrassing for the Prime Minister when the joint opposition tore the copies of the Order in front of him and walked out of the Session. Out of frustration in such a situation, a technocrat-elect member of the treasury bench Maj (R) Amin attacked an already injured opposition member Raja Jahanzeb of PTI who was standing on crutches due to his injuries in the previous day baton-charge by police during his protest against the Order. In retaliation, Raja Jahanzeb pulsated his bald-head with the crutch-stick in front of the prime minister. PM Abbasi was left with no other option to limit his speech to ten minutes and to leave the session. The scenarios provided India an opportunity and it summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah and lodged the protest over Gilgit-Baltistan Order whereas Indian External Affair Minister Shashma Swarj also hit out at Pakistan over its “Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018” saying Pakistan always “distorts history”. In response to the domestic as well as geopolitical scenarios, Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan along with his cabinet called a press conference in haste and termed the protesting opposition parties are serving the Indian agenda.

In the backdrop of the geopolitical scenario, it is pertinent to mention that the outgoing PML (n) government is playing with fire by promulgating an Extra-Constitutional Order similar to the Provisional Constitutional Order (popularly known as PCO), which is an emergency and extra-constitutional order that suspends either wholly or partially the Constitution of Pakistan. This Order has empowered the prime minister beyond his constitutional limits and made the GB Assembly subservient to him. In the name of judicial reforms, the Chief Court and Supreme Appellate Court are converted into Vice-Admiralty Courts of colonial era where actions and orders of the prime minister are barred to be challenged. Community lands are grabbed by the government in the name “Khalisa-e-Sarkar lands” a term used by Dogra/Sikh rule in GB during 1846-1947 which is protected through article 64 of the GB Order. As per the Land Acquisition Act 1894, there is no mention of lands called Khalisa-e-Sarkar but in case of Gilgit-Baltistan PML (n) government is insisting that community lands belong to “Khalisa-e-Sarkar” referring to all barren and un-cultivated common lands owned by communities. Amjad Hussain Advocate, the provincial president of PPP has launched the Right to Ownership and Right to Rule movement against the land grabbing by the government which has gained wide popularity in the region.

Moreover, proteges of Mian Nawaz Sharif in Gilgit-Baltistan are also in collision with the state institutions. Chief Minister Hafeez-ur-Rehman is known for his patience and his endurance, but since the PML (n) government in the center is completing its term and he would be having no support from then center for the remaining tenure of his government in GB, his frustration and anxieties were evident in his speech to the joint session and the press conference on the same day where he seemingly lost his patience. Without naming, he lashed out at PPP member Javed Hussain and considered him to be a blue-eyed of military establishment. He also hinted that the opposition will be handled with law if they continue their protests.

It evident from the actions and speeches of the PML(n) members that they are losing the popularity and GB Order 2018 has brought them to a cross-road. Bashing against the military institutions, labeling the protesters as traitors and igniting sectarian hatred will not serve their purpose. Their persistence on the promulgation of this order will further aggravate the situation meaning more demonstrations within GB and across Pakistan which will provide Indian propaganda machines to woof against Pakistan. The people who are demonstrating against this extra-constitutional order are demanding nothing other than their integration with Pakistan and it is the only movement in the global history that a nation is struggling for seven decades to be integrated with their mother land constitutionally. One who considers them traitor is the traitor of all times because the patriotism of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan is unparalleled and not comparable to the people of any federating unit in the present times. Therefore, state institutions should play their role by calling back this unnecessary and extra-constitutional order which is nothing but to instigate the people of GB and indirectly providing a chance to India to distort history by bashing against Pakistan.

The contributor is Assistant Professor at Karakoram International University Gilgit and former Secretary GB Local Council Board. Iftikhar.ir@kiu.edu.pk

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