GILGIT: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has decided to abolish the Gilgit-Baltistan Council and transfer its powers to the GB Legislative Assembly.
An official of the GB council on condition of anonymity told Dawn that a high-level meeting was held in Prime Minister House, Islamabad, on Thursday where Mr Abbasi directed the authorities concerned to abolish the Gilgit-Baltistan council within a month.
GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and GB, Chaudhry Barjees Tahir, Planning Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz and senior government officials attended the meeting.
The powers currently exercised by the GB Council would be shifted to the elected GB Legislative Assembly. For this purpose, the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan would prepare a draft which would be sent to the law ministry for approval.
After approval from the law ministry, the summary would be presented in the cabinet session for final approval after which a notification would be issued to discontinue functioning of GB and AJK councils.
Powers exercised by the council will be shifted to the elected GB Legislative Assembly
In a separate meeting at the PM House, Prime Minister Abbasi assured Chief Minister Rehman that the government was committed to the socio-economic empowerment and uplift of the GB people.
He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would create new economic opportunities for the people of the region, adding that all proposed projects relating to GB under the its portfolio would be pursued for early finalisation and implementation.
Speaking about the energy situation of the region, the GB minister said the government during the past two years had added 54MW to the existing 82MW power which was being produced in the area for the last 70 years.
The chief minister said the two proposed power projects of total 180MW under CPEC would be instrumental in meeting the energy requirements of the region.
Political reforms in GB
Meanwhile, the 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 submitted to PM Abbasi on Jan 3.
The committee recommended de-facto integration of GB with Pakistan but not a de-jure change since that would affect the country’s principle position on Kashmir. The committee also advised to bring the GB Legislative Assembly on a par with other provincial assemblies, all legislative subjects, other than those enumerated in Article 142 of the Constitution and that its fourth schedule might be devolved from the GB Council to GBLA.
Special arrangements should be made, said the report, for setting up one or more special industrial zones in GB under CPEC to provide larger employment opportunities for its people. It also recommended that GB people should be given special representation in the parliament.
When asked, PPP Gilgit-Baltistan council advocate Amjad Hussain said the party supported the decision to demolish GB Council.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2018