GILGIT: Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed’s remarks on the status of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) have caused an outcry among political leaders in the region.
HunzaNews, December 4th, 2014.
Earlier on Tuesday, Rasheed, who is also the federal law minister, claimed G-B is only geographically a part of Pakistan whereas it is legally a separate entity. The statement was made with reference to a verdict delivered by a Gilgit court. The information minister’s remarks earned the ire of many regional leaders who censured him for isolating G-B from the country. Moreover, the statement sparked fears of the region falling deeper into constitutional limbo.
“Pervaiz Rasheed has clarified G-B’s position in relation to Pakistan’s Constitution,” said Muhammad Javed, central chairman of Karakoram National Movement, a nationalist organisation.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Javed insisted the region should be granted autonomy. Furthermore, he also voiced objections over Pakistan’s decision to develop a railway track connecting Gwadar with China via G-B.
“Pakistan has no right to make agreements about the region with any foreign country without the consent of the local people,” Javed added.
Other regional leaders also expressed their reservations about the information minister’s statement.
“If the region isn’t part of Pakistan, then Lalik Jan should never have been awarded Nishan-e-Haider,” said Zulfiqar Shigri, a nationalist leader.
G-B was liberated from Dogra rule on November 1, 1947 and acceded to Pakistan unconditionally. Although the map of Pakistan shows G-B as part of the country, the region has no representation in Parliament.
In 2009, the federal government introduced the Self Governance and Empowerment Order 2009 which established the offices of chief minister and governor for the first time in G-B. However, this did not change the region’s constitutional status as it continued to lack representation in Parliament and the NFC award.
With the risk of constitutional limbo looming large and the G-B government approaching the end of its five-year term, Rasheed’s statement has raised uncertainty and alarm.
“The minister’s remarks are tantamount to rubbing salt on the wounds of G-B’s inhabitants,” said G-B Bar Council Vice Chairman Shahbaz Khan. “It has erased any expectations we had of the federal government in this regard.”
“We have CNICs issued by Pakistan,” said Niat Wali, a resident of G-B. “And yet, we do not belong to Pakistan. How can the country deprive 1.5 million people of their rights and representation?”