ISLAMABAD – The Senate on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan People’s Party calling upon the government to amend the Gilgit Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order 2009 to empower the people of the area.
Speaking on the resolution, Senator Babar said that the people of Gilgit Baltistan have critical geo-strategic importance for Pakistan as the route of security, foreign policy and economy passes thru it. He said that the people of the region were governed by the 12-member Legislative Council headed by the chief minister.
He pointed out that this supreme body – the Legislative Council – was manned by the bureaucracy of the federal government. Later talking to journalists, the lawmaker said that it was a colonial mindset that seeks to control Gilgit Baltistan through executive order from Islamabad and refuses to empower the local assembly to control their own affairs.
Under the Rules of Business, the powers of the Legislative Council are exercised in its name by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan which regulates and controls the administration in the region directly. Senator Babar said it was wrong to say that until a permanent settlement on the status of the region was arrived, “we cannot do anything for them.”
“This is a ploy of the bureaucracy in Islamabad,” he said. Empowerment orders in 1994 and 2009 were issued from Islamabad. The Islamabad-based Gilgit Baltistan Council has powers to extend any Pakistani law to the region. Several laws including those against terrorism have been extended to the region, Senator Babar said, and debunked the argument that Pakistani laws cannot be extended so why more autonomy cannot be devolved to the people of Gilgit Baltistan.
He said that the Empowerment Order 2009 was issued before the 18th Amendment which has set new standards for the local autonomy and parliamentary control over the government which must also be applied to Gilgit Baltistan. The Senate chairman put the resolution to vote which was adopted by the upper house of the parliament.
Published in Daily Times on August 18, 2014