The bill on provisional Provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan was submitted by Balochistan Awami Party or BAP, a ruling party allies in the Senate
by Inayatur Rahman
A parliamentary panel working on a draft bill seeking provisional provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) lambasted Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) senators for submitting a bill in the Senate on the same issue.
In a dramatic turn of events, senators from BAP submitted a bill in the Senate secretariat seeking change in the status of the disputed region into an interim province of the country with representation in the National Assembly and the Senate.
The panel while criticising the move vowed that no other draft bill other than the one prepared by themselves would be accepted.
The bill submitted by senators Kahuda Babar, Ahmad Khan, Naseebullah Bazai and Prince Omar, proposed an amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, which experts fear would jeopardize Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue.
A meeting of the parliamentary committee was held in Gilgit-Baltistan House Islamabad to consider the situation arising out of the move by BAP lawmakers.
The meeting was attended by the members of the key committee including GB Assembly Speaker Amjad Zaid, Deputy Speaker Nazir Ahmad Advocate, Minister of Excise and Taxation Haji Shah Baig and other members of the assembly.
A statement circulating on social media quoting the lawmakers as saying that the bill submitted by the BAP for a constitutional amendment was against the will and intentions of the people of GB.
They said the move will face rebuke and resistance.
The committee was working on a transition plan and making recommendations for further improvement in the draft.
On the other hand, GB Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid announced that he has spoken to the prime minister through telephone informing about the reservations of the committee. He has also spoken to Senate Chairman Sadiq Najrani who has assured to withdraw the bill.
Agitating over the move, the parliamentary committee unanimously decided to suspend work on the consultation and drafting process until the withdrawal of the amendment bill.
Last year, the prime minister announced that an exclusive committee would be tasked to work out the formalities for the provisional provincial status on a timeline basis that would meet the longstanding demand of the people.
The move to declare the disputed territory an interim province of the country has sparked an intense debate on social media and in mainstream media over the pros and cons of the proposition.
Progressive and nationalist voices in the region have dubbed it an attempt at changing the demography and to provide a legal cover for the non-local investors to grab land, natural resources and tourist resorts of the disputed region where a long-promised UN plebiscite is due to be held.
While it remains to be known as to what exactly the proposed amendment may entail, intellectuals, academicians, and youth activists are voicing concerns over declaring GB a provisional province of Pakistan.
They believe it could not guarantee constitutional, political and fundamental rights to the people and make up for the decades-long deprivation and broken promises.
Inayat-Ur Rehman is bureau chief for the High Asia Media Group in Gilgit.