Islamabad - A proposed document circulating on the social media about the future status of Gilgit-Baltistan and political as well as constitutional rights of the subjects has elicited strong reaction from local political leadership and other stakeholders, who fear, if implemented in the current shape, it would further deprive them of their existing rights.

A senior government minister, however, downplayed the development terming the proposed document — “Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018, which is going to replace “The Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009” — tentative, needing vetting from the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA).

The proposed document gives the overriding authority to the prime minister of Pakistan.

Under the proposed document, the GB Council has been done away with and the prime minister has been given sweeping powers for legislation over 50 subjects.“The Prime Minister shall have the powers to adopt any amendment in the existing laws or any new law in force subject to the legislative competence under sub-section 2,” says one of the provisions of the proposed order.

Almost all stakeholders have vehemently rejected the new order, saying the suggested command is an eyewash and seizure of the rights, which will further alienate the already marginalized inhabitants.

They said that the people of GB were hopeful that something positive could be worked out for their political and constitutional rights, but, the new order has almost rolled back the powers transferred to the GBLA under the previous package.

GBLA Deputy Speaker Jafffarullah while talking to The Nation said that the National Security Council has returned the current document, suggesting incorporating political and constitutional rights and a committee is still working on it for vetting.

“The Pakistan government had taken the issue (about giving a new status and political rights to the people of GB) to the UN, but the world body’s top officials advised not to alter the disputed region’s status as Pakistan was not enjoying support from world powers especially the US and it could have backfire. India also raised the point that if GB was made a province, it will unilaterally declare Jammu and Kashmir its province,” Jaffar said.

According to him, Pakistan is facing a delicate situation about the status of GB and “we hope, it will come up with a regime, which will be acceptable to us,” he added advising the GB people not to get panic on a tentative proposal. He revealed that about 13 drafts are under consideration and one of them may have been leaked to the media.

Pakistan People’s Party G-B President Amjad advocate said that the new order would cause further discontent among the local people. He claimed that the Sartaj Aziz-led committee had recommended representation to G-B in the parliament and superior judiciary but “Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman in collusion with Adviser to PM Zaffarullah Khan made changes in the document before its final shape”. “These (PML-N and its leadership) are the people who are talking about the sanctity of vote but when it comes to empowering and giving rights to the people of GB, they are least interested about it. Their slogan is nothing but a sham,” he remarked adding that the PPP was soon going to present a manifesto promising political and constitutional rights to the GB people.

Nationalist leader and GBLA member Nawaz Khan Naji termed the new order another futile attempt to keep the subjects in the dark. He said that he had been facing the wrath of the state machinery and criticism at home on his stance that “G-B cannot be given a representation in parliament or any other forum until and unless the region is delinked from the Kashmir issue. “We are not Kashmiris, nor am I talking about accession to Kashmir, but Gilgit-Baltistan is a party to the Kashmir dispute. G-B has, historically remained part of the Kashmir state and Pakistan has commitments with the UN and India. Unless the government of Pakistan takes up the GB issue with the UN or India, it cannot give full rights to us. A minimum can be done is to give a set-up like that of Azad Jammu and Kashmir unless the Kashmir dispute is resolved,” Naji said.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNA Raja Jahanzeb remarked that the new order was nothing but a brazen robbery on the rights of the already marginalized people. “The PTI completely rejects this new order. The whole concept of the new order is an eyewash,” he said.

Awami Action Committee chief Maulana Sultan Raees said that the proposed order was a complete nonsense and they were soon going to convene an APC to reject the offer aimed at further subjugating the subjects.

Meanwhile, G-B High Court Bar Association also rejected the proposed order, terming it a cruel joke with the people, whose frustration, due to the denial of basic rights, has touched its zenith. The lawyers urged Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar to take up pending pleas in the Supreme Court, seeking a decision on the political and constitutional status and rights of the people.