‘People of Gilgit-Baltistan Must Get Say in How They Are Governed’

On May 2018, the Gilgit-Baltistan government promulgated the Gilgit-Baltistan Order-2018, replacing the GB Empowerment and Self-Governance Order of 2009. Under the new order, “all powers exercised by the GB council, including passing legislation regarding mineral, hydropower and tourism sectors, have been shifted to the GB Assembly.”

However, many in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), particularly opposition parties, voiced objections to the Order.

According to a report in Dawn, the new order was not an improvement but rather restoration of the old bureaucratic structure: “It is not an improvement because under the 2009 order the legislation on the federal laws was adopted on the recommendations of a council that had the representation of six members elected by the GB Legislative Assembly along with an equal number of members nominated by the prime minister. The GB’s chief minister and governor were also members of this council. In 2018 all these powers have been entrusted to the federal government, thus eliminating even a semblance of an elected body. This will restore the old bureaucratic structure, with the prime minister and bureaucrats, who are not accountable to the people, controlling the affairs of GB.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) recently called upon President Arif Alvi to defer the enforcement of this order pending consultations with the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. In its letter to the President, HRCP has said: “In view of the time-limit fixed by the Supreme Court for your assent to the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) calls upon you to give due weight to the sentiments of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and defer the enforcement of this controversial order pending necessary consultations with the people concerned. “HRCP had earlier noted that the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 was a step backwards as compared to the previous order issued in 2009, i.e. the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order, 2009. The democratically minded people of Gilgit-Baltistan have long been fighting for the recognition of their fundamental rights and for their equal treatment as citizens of Pakistan. It will be politically unwise to compel them to continue agitating for their rights.”

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