MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid have accused the Shehbaz Sharif led federal government of pushing their territories to the wall by slashing their rightful share in fiscal grants.
Both leaders also resolved to establish institutional linkages between their respective areas to bridge the gaps prevailing for more than the past seven decades.
They were talking to mediapersons after a dinner hosted by Mr Ilyas in the honour of Mr Khurshid here on Wednesday night.
Mr Khurshid maintained that over the last seven decades GB and AJK lacked relationship “perhaps because of the negligence of the leadership on both sides.”
However, he said, he and Mr Ilyas had agreed to strengthen ties between both areas through different measures, including construction of the Shounthar tunnel.
Accuse centre of slashing their rightful share in fiscal grants
Kashmir-House and GB-House would also be built in Gilgit and Muzaffarabad, respectively, he said.
He was of the view that connection between the people of AJK and GB would also go to the benefit of the cause of Kashmiris.
“I believe instead of leaving the Kashmir issue at the mercy of the federal government or foreign ministry we should ourselves become its torchbearers.”
He said Pakistan’s economic condition had never been exemplary but AJK and GB were taken care of by every government.
“But the incumbent regime is the first to cut our grants, thus completely pushing both the regions to the wall.”
In response to a question, the GB CM alleged that the federal government was trying to topple his government “by hook or by crook.”
“They are working to weaken the judiciary in GB by trying to induct their favourites in violation of an adopted procedure… They are trying to reduce the term of assembly and they have cut our budget.”
“I don’t have any good hopes from them. But I am sure they will face humiliation at the end of the day.”
GB Provincial Status
Between the lines, Mr Khurshid maintained that the grant of provincial status to GB and AJK, without causing harm to the Kashmir issue and violating UN resolutions, could help both regions overcome their fiscal and other problems.
“If we look at it in the context of the Kashmir issue, the resolution passed by the GB Assembly categorically stated that the region wants to be brought into constitutional ambit without weakening the Kashmir issue and Pakistan’s position on it in the UN,” he said.
“But we are not hurrying up because we have a commitment to the Kashmir issue. It’s sort of a sacrifice and silent jihad.”
“If AJK and GB get constitutional guarantees without damaging Kashmir issue and UN resolutions they will have political representation at the highest political forums and no one will dare cut their budgets.”
He said in his view it was time for practical steps with a different strategy because the strategy pursued over the past seven decades offered nothing but [hollow] promises to the Kashmiris “who have been waiting for us.”
Earlier, Mr Ilyas regretted that the government in Islamabad had come with an agenda to push its opponents to the wall.
“Nobody can remain in the government for life. The federal government should give up discriminatory attitude and show political maturity and farsightedness.”
“If you think by denying us our share you can make us bow down, you are mistaken.”
He said AJK’s share in the variable grant, according to a mutually agreed formula, was more than Rs 200 billion and “we say if you can’t give us this much money, give us just Rs 100 billion.”
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2022