MIRPUR: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider has advised a member of the federal cabinet to refrain from making ‘irresponsible statements’.

“We hold every federal minister in high esteem for their being the elected representatives, but unnecessarystatements should be avoided,” he told correspondents in this lakeside city on Saturday.

“We have cordial relations with the federal government but some people want to disorientate the situation… I think it’s the need of the hour to concentrate on national unity and solidarity and discourage divisive elements,” he added.

AJK premier says ‘divisive elements’ should be discouraged

Mr Haider was referring to Ali Amin Khan Gandapur, the federal minister for Kashmir affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, some of whose statements have left a bad taste in the mouth of the AJK prime minister.

On Thursday, Mr Gandapur visited Mirpur and sought cooperation of AJK’s political parties and civil society in “extending jurisdiction of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to the region.”

AJK prime minister should not have any objection to extension of NAB to AJK, Gandapur had said during the visit.

No federal body or institution can extend its jurisdiction to AJK unless a constitutional amendment or subordinate legislation is done for the purpose by the state government.

Taking strong exception to Mr Gandapur’s proposal, Mr Haider reminded him that an accountability body had already been functioning in AJK under an Act of the Legislative Assembly.

“We are contemplating bringing improvements in the accountability law.Options such as whether the same [accountability] body should continue or a new institution should be raised are also under consideration,” he said.

He said his government was determined to take all opposition parties on board in this regard.

To a question about filing of reference against AJK Supreme Court Chief Justice Chaudhry Ibrahim Zia by an opposition lawmaker, he said: “Superior courts are not the name of any individual. They exist and work as an institution and the government respects and wants to strengthen them.”

On April 2, Sardar Hassan Ibrahim of Jammu Kashmir People’s Party had handed over a ‘reference’ to Mr Gandapur in his office in Islamabad “to be submitted to the AJK Council chairman (prime minister of Pakistan).”

According toAJK Constitution, if, on information received from the Supreme Judicial Council or from any other source, the AJK Council Chairman or the [AJK] President is of the opinion that a supreme or high court judge hasbeen guilty of misconduct, the Chairman or the President, as the case may be, shall direct the Supreme Judicial Council to inquire into the matter.

The AJK premiermaintained that the judiciaryas an institution had been ridiculed and disrespected through the reference.

He emphatically said his government believed in independence and supremacy of judiciary, and turned his guns again on Mr Gandapur.

“The Kashmir affairs minister is also respectable for us but I cannot help but advise him to think before he speaks,” he said.

Mr Haider maintained that on many occasions the governments in Muzaffarabad and Islamabad were led by rival political parties but never had a situation like this been created in the past.

“I am also going to write to Prime Minister Imran Khan about this issue,” he said, expressing the hope that Mr Khan would direct Mr Gandapur to avoid making “misguided statements that ran the risk of impairing national harmony and solidarity”.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2019