I would like to draw your attention to the strategically located regions of the South Asia which is disputed between India and Pakistan and the world knows it by the term "the last colony of the 21st century". The region is called Gilgit-Baltistan and is surrounded by four nuclear powers; Pakistan, India, China and Russia. Before Pakistan occupied it, the region remained as an independent entity for thousands of years and boasts its own culture, language, traditions and political system. In 1947, the locals freed themselves from the despotic Dogra rulers of Jammu & Kashmir and established the Gilgit Republic. On April 28, 1949, Pakistani government signed an agreement with the leaders of J&K Muslim Conference, called the Karachi Agreement of 1949, which enabled Pakistan to acquire administrative control of these regions. Since then the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan are treated like slaves and Pakistan has violated UNO Resolutions on J&K by occupying these regions.
There is no document to prove that Gilgit-Baltistan desired merging with Pakistan. If it was true, then locals of Gilgit-Baltistan would have had enjoyed constitutional rights under article 1 of the Pakistani constitution rather being ruled through a presidential ordinance for the last 63 years. When the Karachi Agreement of 1949 linked Gilgit-Baltistan with AJK, it should have been made part of it. Instead, these regions are governed by a KANA Division Minister who hails from Punjab or NWFP and imposes his will upon the locals like a viceroy. Pakistani government does not stop from talking and demanding freedom for Jammu & Kashmir and Palestine, but they have kept people of Gilgit-Baltistan enslaved for the last 63 years. By not granting genuine autonomy, the locals are deprived of rights which others enjoy in Pakistan.
On August 29, 2009, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Yusuf Gillani signed a Presidential Ordinance called “Empowerment and Self-governance Ordinance 2009 for Gilgit-Baltistan”. The ordinance will pave way to incept governor’s rule through Pakistan’s colonial system. This reform package is a hoax and the two million inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan condemn it by calling ‘The Ordinance for Advancement of Slavery’. This ordinance has been rejected by political circles and concerned authorities of AJK and Indian Jammu & Kashmir. Further, Pakistani political parties including Pakistan Muslim League has rejected the ordinance as unilateral decision of Pakistan Peoples Party and harmful for the Kashmir movement. All these circles have reiterated that Gilgit-Baltistan is part of Jammu & Kashmir and as long as Jammu & Kashmir issue is not solved, Pakistan can not annex these regions through a presidential ordinance and by imposing governor’s rule.
The ordinance violates Pakistan’s constitution since Gilgit Baltistan is not part of Pakistan and also, the federal cabinet which approved the package, are not citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan but Pakistanis. Pakistani cabinet is not a legal authority to make decisions on Gilgit-Baltistan as Gilgit-Baltistan does not fall under the jurisdiction of the federal cabinet. This ordinance is not only illegal and immoral; it does not fulfill the genuine political and judicial needs of the local people who want nothing but complete autonomy as per UNCIP resolutions and not a governor’s rule.
As per Pakistani constitution, the president of Pakistan is not a representative of the people of Gilgit Baltistan, hence this ordinance is illegal. We fear that the governor will be an absolute authority who will enjoy a status similar to that of the current chairman of NALA. He will control the local legislature and the council. Hence constitutional rights of local people will be unsafe in his presence. The UNCIP resolutions on J&K demand of Pakistan to place a ‘local authoritative government’ in Gilgit Baltistan but this ordinance will create a province like structure with Pakistani governor overseeing the locals. It is not an alternative to what UNCIP has prescribed for Gilgit-Baltistan. The word ‘self rule’ in the ordinance is just there to confuse the world and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. The governor’s rule is created to defuse the nationalist movements in Gilgit-Baltistan.
According to the Empowerment and Self-Rule Order 2009 the provincial like set up will be given to Gilgit Baltistan.The governor will be the constitutional head and executive authority of the region who will be utilizing his powers through the chief minister and the cabinet The governor of the region will be appointed by the President of Pakistan .The post of the governor can also be handed over to the federal minister for Gilgit Baltistan while the prime minister of Pakistan will be the head of the council. The chief minister will be the head of Gilgit Baltistan Assembly. The selection of the cabinet of Gilgit-Baltistan will be done by the governor instead of the chief minister. The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly however, cannot discuss or legislate on issues relating to defence, foreign affairs, finance, security and interior.
The law officer of the government will be called advocate general who will be appointed by the governor. The Gilgit-Baltistan Council will consist of 15 members including six members recommended by the president, prime minister of Pakistan and the governor of Gilgit-Baltistan and six members proposed by the chief minister and legislative assembly of the region. The chairman of the council will be the prime minister of Pakistan, while governor of Gilgit-Baltistan will be its vice-president. The legislative assembly will consist of 33 members out of whom 24 will be elected directly; six women members will be selected by the house, while there will be three technocrat members. The assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan will have no power to legislate against the principles of Sharia and in case of any confusion it can approach the Islamic Ideology Council of Pakistan.The region will have a supreme appellate court which will hear appeals against verdicts of all subordinate courts in the area. The court will consist of one chief judge and two other judges.
Gilgit Baltistan United Movement as representatives of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan disapproves this ordinance. In order to grant political and judicial rights to locals, we demand that:
After abolishing Gilgit-Baltistan Presidential Ordinance for Empowerment and Self-governance, 2009, an independent and autonomous legislative assembly for Gilgit-Baltistan should be incepted and local authoritative government should be placed as per the UNCIP resolutions, where the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will elect their president and the prime minister
Only defence, foreign affairs and treasury should remain with Pakistan whereas all other administrative affairs should be delegated to the local authoritative government In order to ensure autonomy, all Pakistani civil personnel should be withdrawn from Gilgit-Baltistan and replaced with local administration. The State Subject Rule should be reinstating with immediate effect.
To ensure peace in Gilgit-Baltistan, the right of speech should be respected. Further, all Pakistani para-military personnel including those of frontier constabulary, Chitral scouts, Pak Rangers and Khyber rifles should be withdrawn from Gilgit-Baltistan. Further illegal involvement of Pakistani agencies in the local affairs should be stopped.
All historical trade and tourist routes between Kargil and Skardo, Chorbat and Nubra, Gultari and Drass, Guraiz and Astore, Ishkomen and Tajikistan should be opened to improve livelihoods of locals as well as allowing divided family members to reunite on humanitarian basis.
Author is Chairman, Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement