Pakistan makes draft law to grant provincial status to illegally occupied Gilgit-Baltistan

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The Pakistan government has finalised a draft law to grant provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan- an illegally occupied Indian territory, a media report said.

Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan

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The Pakistan government has finalised a draft law to grant provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan- an illegally occupied Indian territory, a media report suggested. This comes in the wake of PTI forming the government there in November 2020 by winning 22 seats in the 33-member Assembly. As per the report, Pakistan Law Minister Farogh Naseem has prepared the legislation taking into account international regulations and the United Nations regulations.

It added that the draft law has been presented before Pakistan PM Imran Khan for his approval. In March earlier this year, the so-called G-B Assembly had passed a resolution demanding an interim province status. Moreover, it also sought an appropriate representation for the region in Pakistan’s National Assembly, Senate and other federal institutions.

Status of Gilgit-Baltistan

A part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, it was separated from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 1949 via the controversial Karachi agreement. Purportedly signed by Muslim Conference leaders with the Pakistan government, it was a clear violation of the UNSC resolutions as it altered the status quo of the territory before the potential plebiscite. Moreover, this agreement came in this public domain only via a 1993 judgment of the PoK High Court.

The people of G-B got partial rights only in 2009 when the Pakistan Peoples Party government issued the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order. Though it created a separate legislature for the region with the first Assembly elections conducted in 2009, most powers were vested in the Gilgit-Baltistan Council headed by the Pakistan Prime Minister. While this order allowed the G-B Assembly to exclusively legislate on 61 subjects, the Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018 abolished this list. 

Before the so-called Assembly polls in G-B last year, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz Sharif had opposed the PTI regime’s ‘provincial status’ plan. Openly hinting at the Pakistan Army’s role, she said, “It is an issue that has to be dealt with by government representatives. Such decisions have to be taken in Parliament and not GHQ”. It is perceived that the Pakistani military has tightened its control in G-B as it is integral to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Responding to Pakistan’s attempt to change the status quo, the MEA affirmed in September 2020, “Any action by Pakistan to alter the status of militarily occupied Gilgit-Baltistan has no legal basis whatsoever and is totally void ab initio. Our position has always been clear and consistent. The entire territories of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been, are and would remain an integral part of India. Pakistan has no locus standi to comment on India’s internal matters.” 

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