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Default Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009

Federal government has decided in principle to grant the autonomous status to Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) in line with the other federating units having Chief Minister and Governor. The decision to this effect was taken at a high level meeting of the Committee on Northern Areas Governance Order held with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in the chair at the PM’s House here Thursday.

Sources said that a comprehensive briefing was given to the Prime Minister on the new constitutional package to be given to Northern Areas and the Prime Minister gave approval to the package.

The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting and KANA, Qamar Zaman Kaira; Federal Minister for Labour and Manpower, Syed Khursheed Ahmad Shah, Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Dr Zaheer-ud-Din Babar Awan; Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Nawazada Malik Amad Khan; Minister of State for Law and Justice, Mohammad Afzal Sandhu; Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar and Secretaries Interior and KANA.

Sources said according to the new package the area would have its own chief minister and governor and all the executive powers would be transferred to the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan whereas the incumbent Chairman Northern Areas would be replaced with the Governor.

Sources said that now KANA division would have no role in administration of the area.

According to the new package, constituencies would be increased from present 24 to at least 40. At present, there are 24 elected members of the Northern Areas Legislative Assembly along with six seats of technocrat and six women seats, who were elected by the 24 direct elected members.

In a landmark decision, the government approved on Saturday a self-governance reforms package for the Northern Areas aimed at giving it full internal autonomy, but without the status of a province, and changed its name to Gilgit-Baltistan.

Supporters of this decision:

The People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League-N and PML-Q have supported the decision, but most nationalist parties rejected the package as a ‘gimmickry of words’.

They contend that the region was an integral part of Jammu and Kashmir and any change in its administrative status betrayed a tacit shift in the government’s stand on Kashmir.

Amanullah Khan, chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), said:
the move had robbed the Northern Areas of a special status, virtually converting it into the country’s fifth province.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani briefed newsmen after obtaining approval from the cabinet for the ‘Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009’, which will replace the Northern Areas Legal Framework Order of 1994.

Under the order:
Powers of Asssembly and Council:
Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly will formulate its own Rules of Procedures, while legislation on 61 subjects will be done by a council and an assembly in their respective jurisdictions.

In order to empower the Council and the Assembly on financial matters, there shall be a Council Consolidated Fund under Article 54 of the Constitution, and Gilgit-Baltistan Consolidated Fund under Article 55.

A detailed item-wise budget shall be presented before the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly and shall accordingly be voted upon under Article 56.

In reply to a question, Mr Gilani said the Council did not need the parliament’s shelter as it will have its own Rules of Business, while a boundary commission has also been set up.

Elections for a new assembly and a chief minister will be held in mid-November.

Qamar Zaman Kaira, the federal minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas, will act as governor till a new system is put in place. He said the order would now be sent to President Asif Ali Zardari for final consent before its implementation.

Supreme Appellate Court:
Qamar Zaman Kaira said a ‘supreme appellate court’ shall be headed by a chief judge who will be appointed by the Chairman of the Council on the advice of the governor.

Other judges shall be appointed by the chairman on the advice of the governor after seeking views of the Chief Judge, Mr Kaira added.

The number of judges has been increased from three to five and the tenure of the present judges of the Supreme Judiciary has been protected in the draft.

The new set-up will have:
*a public service commission,

*a chief election commissioner and

*an auditor general.

Amanullah Khan, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), said Islamabad had lost support of the Security Council over the years due to a ‘wavering stand’ on Kashmir and now it was squandering whatever goodwill it had by merging Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan.

Sabir Ansari, Raja Latif Tahir, Nazir Ahmed, Mushtaq Ghazali and Ghulam Ahmed Butt, all office-bearers of the Front, said that Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan, was an indivisible unit and Islamabad had no right to slice off any part of it.

They said every government had usurped fundamental rights of these areas and the present one had outdone its predecessors by turning the region into a fifth province.

They expressed fears that real powers’ would rest with the governor, the president’s nominee who will not be answerable to Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly. Local people will have no constitutional protection, the JKLF statement said.

Nationalist parties in Hunza-Nagar rejected the Self Governance Order, describing it as old wine in a new bottle.

Hafizur Rehman, a member of the Northern Area Legislative Assembly, termed the package a gimmickry of words and said once again the centre was trying to hoodwink the people of the Northern Areas.

what is your view on such opinions?
well i think the step taken is a constructive one only if iplimented in its true letter and spirit..

Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.
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