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GILGIT: The federal ministry of Kashmir affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan recently submitted a report, based on the recommendations of a parliamentary body, to the federal cabinet, seeking its approval to bring political reforms in GB.

The nine-member constitutional committee headed by Sartaj Aziz, the then adviser to the PM on foreign affairs, was formed by the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Oct 29, 2015, to recommend steps to bring political and constitutional reforms in GB.

Before its presentation in the cabinet, the report, a copy of which is available with Dawn, was also submitted to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Jan 3, 2018.

It was mandated to (1) review the current constitutional and administrative arrangements in GB and analyse any shortcomings in relation to aspirations of the people; (2) after studying the historic record and relevant treaties, examine whether the existing eternal boundaries of the territories that constitute GB overlap with territories that formed part of the state Jammu and Kashmir and if so, make recommendations for corrective measures; (3) recommend constitutional and administrative reforms for GB, keeping in view the implications of these recommendations vis-a-vis the UN resolutions on Kashmir.

In accordance with ToR 2002 of the committee, the foreign office had carried a study of historical archives for the period 1940-2000, to determine the statues and boundaries of GB vis-à-vis Kashmir. The GB government had also set up a committee to consolidate the historical record and analyse the relevant treaties.

Based on the studies of the foreign office and the GB government, the parliamentary committee had submitted its final report to the federal government on March 10, 2017.

The committee recommended de-facto integration of GB with Pakistan but not a de-jure change since that will affect Pakistan’s principle position on Kashmir. It recommended delegating further legislative, administrative and financial powers to GB to enhance the people’s sense of participation and to improve service delivery.

The committee recommended that to bring GB Legislative Assembly on a par with other the provincial assemblies, all legislative subjects, other than those enumerated in article 142 of constitution of Pakistan and its fourth schedule may be devolved from the GB Council to GBLA.

The GB government may be given representation in constitutional bodies like NEC, Ecnec, NFC, and Irsa, as an observer. Special arrangements should be made for setting up one or more special industrial zones in GB under CPEC to provide larger employment opportunities for GB people.

It also recommended that GB people should be given special representation in the parliament.

On July 3, 2017, after receiving new proposals for administrative and financial powers from the GB government, the prime minister office reconstituted the committee by adding ministers of finance, laws and Kashmir affairs, and called for additional recommendations.

The committee submitted a supplementary report on Sept 26, 2017, recommending provision of funds through an agreed formula to cover the revenue deficit in GB budget; transferring of development funds directly to GB government rather than through the ministry of Kashmir affairs and shifting of budget of GB Supreme Appellate Court and Chief Court to GB Council.

It recommended that in line with the spirit of the 18th amendment, the ministry of Kashmir affairs, before extending any federal government notification to GB, should consult the government of GB.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2018