AJK-GB democratic deficit, way out
BY: Manzoor Gilani
Parts of princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) under the administrative control of Pakistan are neither its constitutional part nor autonomous to be called as ‘local authority’ as mandated by UNCIP. Despite that they are controlled by the Government of Pakistan directly as well as indirectly through AJK and GB council headed by Prime Minister of Pakistan, federal bureaucracy at Islamabad, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit without any representation in policy and decision-making institutions affecting these areas more than any other part of Pakistan. AJK and GB, though governments in name, are practically non-entity and hostage to federal structure. Democrat deficit in both the areas and resentment against it, is more than loud. GB Assembly has passed two resolutions and all factions of AJK political leadership and civil society led by its prime minister Raja Farooq Haider from front are vociferous in demand. Although they differ in details, but agree in substance.
Perceiving the resentment and demand for empowerment, the prime minister of Pakistan, Mr Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has agreed to scrape the most condemned AJK and GB councils and devolve all the powers to elected governments of these areas on the pattern of 18th amendment of the constitution of Pakistan in two separate meetings with the authorities of these two areas. It is a welcome break-through if the authorities who matter do not leak under the pressure of beneficiaries of the status quo.
Indian claim over these areas under the disputed accession deed by the former ruler, cease-fire violations throughout the CFL, its propaganda of subjugation of the rights of the people of these areas fuelled by some self-styled human rights activists in Europe and America, absence of any constitutional linkage between these areas and mainland of Pakistan, besides many other reasons, are very sensitive issues which make the constitutional empowerment, linkage and reforms inevitable and, time is running out.
The empowerment will lend support to uncontrolled and unmanageable struggle for freedom by Kashmiris in Kashmir under Indian control by seven lac Indian forces with all its might.
Perceiving the resentment and demand for empowerment, the prime minister of Pakistan, Mr Shahid Khakan Abasi has agreed to scrape the most condemned AJK and GB councils and devolve all the powers to elected governments of these areas on the pattern of 18th amendment of the constitution of Pakistan in two separate meetings with the authorities of these two areas. It is a welcome breakthrough if the authorities who matter do not bend under the pressure from beneficiaries of the status quo
Acceding to the demand of empowerment will be in line with the commitment of Pakistan under Article 257 of its constitution to the extent of these areas to attract and make the people struggling for freedom to believe that Pakistan means business.
The formula of quantum and extent of autonomy is very simple and comprehendible i.e. scraping the colonial authority of AJK — GB councils, devolving all those (+tax powers in addition to them) to these areas which are given to provinces of Pakistan under 18th amendment in particular, in return all powers of federal nature should vest in federal parliament and Government, give provisional representation equal to the provinces pending final resolution of Kashmir dispute to these areas in parliament, CCI, NEC, NFC, (Articles 153 to 163 of constitution of Pakistan) the local constitutional orders of these areas may be passed by parliament under Art 258 of constitution of Pakistan by consensus and approval of the elected representatives of these areas in their assemblies.
Given the disputed nature of both the areas under UNSC Resolutions, the nature and process of empowerment must be similar and simultaneous.
The writer is former Chief Justice(r) Azad Kashmir Supreme Court
Published in Daily Times, February 21st 2018.