Gilgit-Baltistan reforms: SC directs govt to submit special committee’s report

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ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court (SC) Thursday directed the federal government to submit final report of the special committee formed to examine the constitutional, administrative and governance reforms for Gilgit-Baltistan.

Attorney General for Pakistan Anwar Mansoor filed reply and informed a seven-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, that the federal government in pursuant of the apex court’s direction notified a high-level committee on November 8, 2018 to examine the constitutional, administrative and governance reforms for Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).

According to the notification, the committee comprises federal minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, federal minister for law and justice, attorney general for Pakistan, governor Gilgit-Baltistan, minister for law, government of Gilgit-Baltistan, secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs, secretary Ministry of Defence, secretary Ministry of Kashmir Affairs & GB, chief secretary Gilgit-Baltistan, and joint secretary finance Gilgit-Baltistan.

The committee was tasked to review Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 in light of the Sartaj Aziz Committees, Supreme Court judgement in Al-Jihad Trust case 1999 and recommendations of attorney general for Pakistan to examine the status of GB with regard to the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolutions on Kashmir and the stand taken by the federal government at international level.

The AGP submitted that former Prime Minister [Nawaz Sharif] had constituted a committee for constitutional and administrative reforms in GB under the chairmanship Sartaj Aziz. However, the report of Sartaj Aziz was neither presented to, nor approved by the cabinet.

The draft Government of Gilgit Baltistan Order, 2018 was prepared by the Ministry of Law and Justice, which was also not submitted for approval of the federal cabinet. The then president of Pakistan had approved the Government of Gilgit Baltistan Order, 2018 on May 26, 2018 upon the advice of the then prime minister and which was notified on June 1, 2018.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 was challenged in the Supreme Appellate Court Gilgit-Baltistan, which set aside it on July 13 and restored the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order, 2009. The order of the GB Appellate Court was challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which had suspended the GB Appellate Court order and admitted the petition for regular hearing. The apex court on November 1, 2018 directed the federal government to submit a concise statement.

The attorney general said that he had discussed with the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan the constitutional status of GB, judicial reforms, status of GB Council and GB Council consolidated funds in the backdrop of the GB Order, 2018.

The AGP apprised that he has proposed ministerial committee to carefully examine the constitutional/administrative and governance reforms for GB on the pattern the ministerial committee formed by the ex-PM to revisit the recent constitutional amendments in Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution (13th Amendment).

The attorney general said that he has put forward three possibilities. Firstly, the federal government decides that it does not want to make any amendment in the Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 and, inter alia, the said order will remain in force as it is. Secondly, Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 is amended to remove there from the words, ‘and who is a citizen under the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951 in section 2(b) and further to remove a proviso to Section 75(10); “Provided that the chief judge and judges of the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court will not be entitled to any pension or related benefits.” The third possibility is to amend the 1973 Constitution including GB as the Temporary Provisional Province in the nature as provided by the Section 370 of Indian Constitution.

He said that the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan is of the view that the status of the GB cannot be altered as per the Al-Jihad Trust case and the UNCIP resolutions. The proposition of giving it special status on the line of the India Constitution is therefore, not tenable.

He, however, said that the ministry agreed to his recommendation/proposals for constitution of high-level review committee on the pattern of the committee notified by the ex-PM [Nawaz Sharif] to review the 13th constitutional amendment in Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act, 1947.

The Chief Justice asked the matter is delayed and remarked whether the matter is put to cold-storage. The dam has to be constituted and the people of GB love Pakistan. Justice Gulzar said that this policy should have been framed in 1947 and why it has been put in cold storage for such long time. The case was adjourned until December 3. – Courtesy Business Recorder

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