ISLAMABAD – Gilgit Baltistan (G-B) Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman has said the G-B can no longer be run through administrative orders and the system should be given protection through an act of parliament or the provincial assembly.
“The G-B people will no longer accept themselves to be governed through orders. The order should either be protected by the provincial assembly in the shape of an interim act or the federal government should protect it through an act of parliament.
“I am still holding talks with the federal government and have maintained that the system in the G-B should also be given protection through the provincial assembly or a parliamentary act just like the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK),” Rehman said in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune.
He said the provincial government should not interfere in the federal affairs and the federal government should also desist from intruding in provincial matters. Only a politically elected government and not the courts can assure the G-B rights.
Talking with reference to his relations with the new government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), he said it will take him some time to ‘get acquainted’ with government of ‘new Pakistan’.
Until now, he said, there has been no progress in developing a working relationship with the federal government. But I make it clear that the provincial government will not compromise on its powers under any condition, he added.
He said the G-B has been deprived of its constitutional rights for the past 70 years due to the Kashmir dispute. He said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government were the first to direct serious efforts to ensure provision of rights for the G-B people.
“A reforms committee was formed under former adviser for foreign affairs Sirtaj Aziz. The committee gave various options in its recommendations including formation of a province, but unfortunately due to fear of delays in the constitutional amendment, the former government did not give all financial and administrative powers to the G-B as enjoyed by other provinces of the country.”
He said the G-B has introduced multiple reforms for ensuring peace in the region including police reforms. The G-B through the provision of modern equipment to the police has for the first time introduced the safe city programme to combat crime.
“The project has allowed us to control crime rate in the G-B by 90 per cent. The G-B has also finalised the project of installing CCTV cameras at parts of the Karakoram Highway that fall with the G-B. The project will allow monitoring and control of traffic accidents on the highway,” he said.
Commenting on the reforms in health and education sectors, the CM said the government as per its promise established a university at Baltistan, and its campuses have been set up in almost all districts.
“It is for the first time that the government has ensured merit and transparency in appointment of teachers at the university through the NTS tests. The G-B has also introduced reforms in the public schooling system through which enrolment grew by 10 per cent.
He said before his government, the G-B only had 198 doctors against 500 posts but now the area has 534 doctors in all. The operation budget for health was also raised from Rs50 million to Rs500 million.
“The facilities of CT scan and MRI were nonexistent before our government but the former government of Punjab under the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif gifted the equipment for MRI and CT scan after which our people can avail these facilities.
He said former PM Nawaz Sharif laid down a web of developmental projects in the G-B, prominent among which is 167 km-long road between Jagloot to Skardu. He said 46% work on the project that would cost Rs33 billion has been completed. The remaining work will be completed by June 2020.
“The road would greatly benefit us in terms of defence, economy and tourism and it is for this reason Mian Nawaz Sharif had particular interest in this project.
“The former government increased the annual budget of Gilgit Baltistan from Rs2.5 billion to Rs18 billion while the PSDP [Public Sector Development Programme] budget for the G-B was also increased to Rs160 billion,” he added. — Courtesy The Express Tribune