Provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan

  • Pakistan’s Law and Justice Ministry has finalised draft legislation to incorporate Gilgit-Baltistan, the region known before 2009 as Northern Areas, as a province of the country. India has clearly conveyed to Pakistan that the entire union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of the country by virtue of its fully legal and irrevocable accession.
  • India maintains the Government of Pakistan or its judiciary has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it. The area’s strategic importance for India has increased in light of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor agreement, under which Beijing is investing hugely to develop the area as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and the concerns of a two-front war after the standoff in Eastern Ladakh last year.
  • According to the sources, the draft Bill has been prepared after careful reading of the Constitution of Pakistan, international laws, the UN resolutions especially those related to a plebiscite on Kashmir, comparative constitutional laws and local legislation. The stakeholders, including the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, had been consulted on the proposed constitutional amendment.
  • The proposed law suggests that due to sensitivity attached to the region, it could be given provisional provincial status by amending Article 1 of the Constitution that related to the provinces and territories. Also set of amendments would be introduced to give the region representation in Parliament, besides the establishment of the provincial assembly in the territory.
  • Recently, a committee headed by Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs Advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, recommended that Gilgit-Baltistan be officially recognised as the fifth province of Pakistan in addition to Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.