Gilgit-Baltistan reforms hailed

Published September 2, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Sept 1 Former Azad Kashmir prime minister and president Muslim Conference, Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, has welcomed reforms package announced by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani giving internal autonomy, constitutional and political rights to people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

“I fully support the reforms package as it was the need of hour to empower people of Gilgit-Baltistan because their rights were being denied for the last 65 years,” he told this agency.

Expressing satisfaction over present arrangements, especially appointment of the acting governor, he said, “I do not doubt sincerity of the government.”

He, however, said, Northern Areas was an integral part of Kashmir and this status should not be changed.

The former prime minister observed that that announcement of the governor and chief minister for Gilgit-Baltistan pointed to the preparations to make it a province.

Responding to a question, he said before any announcement of reforms package, the leadership of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir should have been taken into confidence.

He, however, acknowledged that the self-governance reforms package would ensure constitutional, political and legal rights of the local people.

To another query, he said the people of Gilgit-Baltistan should be granted autonomy on the pattern of Azad Kashmir.

The governor and chief minister could have been replaced with a president and prime minister as, he said, this arrangement is functioning successfully in Azad Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Azad Kashmir chapter has lauded decision of federal government for introducing the reforms package for Gilgit-Baltistan. President PPP Azad Kashmir, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, termed the decision as historic one.

He said credit of this step went to the president, prime minister and minister for Kashmir Affairs. Mr Majeed said they had won the hearts of the Kashmiris through giving fundamental and constitutional rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

He also appreciated the decision of federal government for appointing Qamar Zaman Kaira as acting governor of the region, adding that that minister had close affiliation with Kashmiri people and knew their problems.

The PPP leader hoped after announcement of the package, elected legislative assembly would come into existence with the votes of the people and local population would be able to exercise their right of franchise.

Senior vice president of Pakistan People's Party AJK and Advisor on Local Government Azad Kashmir Chaudhry Muhammad Yaseen and AJK Minister for Usher and Zakat Muhammad Hanif Awan also lauded the federal government for announcing the package.

Meanwhile, various notables representing cross-sections of the civil society in various parts of AJK, including Mirpur, also welcomed the constitutional package announced for empowerment of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

President Pakistan People's Party Mirpur City Chapter, Ghulam Rasool Awami, termed the decision as accomplishment of a long cherished demand of the people of the area for securing fundamental rights to run their administrative affairs on their own.—APP

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