ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Monday sought more time from the Supreme Court to implement the court’s Jan 17, 2019 verdict which asked for providing rights to the citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan.
In response, a seven-judge Supreme Court bench headed by acting Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed issued notices to the Supreme Appellate Court Gilgit-Baltistan Bar Association and Gilgit-Baltistan High Court Bar Association to come prepared to answer the federal government’s plea for the grant of more time in implementing the court verdict.
The federal government through the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA) has approached the Supreme Court, seeking extension of time to comply with the Jan 17 judgement in which the Supreme Court had accorded approval to a freshly proposed presidential order enshrining framework for governance of Gilgit-Baltistan.
“For full and complete compliance with the directives of the Supreme Court, time be granted for the enactment of the Gilgit-Baltistan Governance Reforms 2019 such that the federal government may table the bill before the parliament of Pakistan to bring necessary amendments,” the application pleaded.
One of the proposed amendments to the reforms is about appointments in the four-judge Supreme Appellate Court of GB to be nominated by the chief judge of the same court for a period of two years. Earlier, the chief justice of Pakistan used to nominate a former judge of the apex court to act as judge of the Supreme Appellate Court.
The earlier judgement of the Supreme Court had come on a set of petitions challenging the Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018, Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009, as well as the rights of the citizens of the area to be governed through their chosen representatives.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 was earlier opposed and a demand was made that GB be declared a part of Pakistan instead of being administered through presidential orders.
On Monday, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor informed the Supreme Court that the government needed more time for the implementation of the verdict in which the president was asked to promulgate the court order on the advice of the federal government within a fortnight.
The order stated that no amendment would be made to the order (Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018), except so promulgated in terms of the procedure provided in Article 124 of the Constitution, nor would it be repealed or substituted, without the instrument amending, repealing or substituting (as the case may be) the same being placed before the Supreme Court by the federation through an application that would be treated as a petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.
And if the order so promulgated was repealed or substituted by an act of parliament, the validity, if challenged, would be examined on the touchstone of the Constitution, the judgement had stated.
The verdict had also explained that Article 187 of the Constitution conferred a special jurisdiction on the Supreme Court over GB.
The verdict had expressed concern that though the apex court had articulated the basic position with regard to the status and rights of the people of GB in the Al-Jihad Trust case two decades ago, the actual realisation by the executive of that expression remained fitful at best.
The verdict had also stated that the human rights jurisprudence of this court had served, and would continue to serve, as the sheet-anchor of the liberties and rights of all the people, and Gilgit-Baltistan was no exception.
Earlier, the federal government had also constituted a committee, shepherded by the attorney general, to review the entire issues and place before the apex court the draft of a fresh order for the governance of GB through suitable framework for ensuring the rights of the citizens of the area.
Meanwhile, in its application, the KANA ministry contended that substantial compliance with the apex court directives had been done that would also fulfil the demands of the people of GB.
It stated that some amendments to the proposed order of the Gilgit Baltistan Governance Reforms, 2019 had been made in consultation with all stakeholders, including the GB government, federal law ministry and the office of the attorney general.
The meeting to seek consultation was held on Feb 6 in which it was decided with consensus that the reforms would be enacted through parliament as per the aspiration of the people of GB.
Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2019