Pakistan Government Seeks Working Papers On N. Areas
29 July 2003
Islamabad: The federal government has sought working papers on the proposed amendment to the Northern Areas Legal Framework Order, 1994, Dawn has learnt. In a notification issued on July 17, the ministry of Kashmir affairs and Northern Areas has asked the local administration to submit its suggestions on the LFO. Some time back, the Kashmir affairs ministry had sought comments from the foreign ministry on the recommendations made by the legal committee of the Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) on the constitutional status of the area. The ministry had said that keeping in view the importance of the proposed amendment, it would be appropriate to thoroughly examine the recommendations at an inter-ministerial meeting. Therefore the Northern Areas administration has been asked to furnish the working paper on the issue. The Supreme Court of Pakistan in a verdict on May 28, 1999 had directed the government to take administrative and legislative steps to ensure fundamental rights in Northern Areas, and allow people to be governed by their elected representatives within six months. After the SC judgment the then Nawaz Sharif government had announced a 'package' for the Area, wherein it was provided that an appellate court, comprising three members of the Supreme Court bench, would sit in Gilgit. On Oct 28, 1999, the government increased the number of seats - four technocrats and five women - in the council, which was renamed as Northern Areas Legislative Council. Under the new dispensation, the judicial system of the area would consist of a court of appeals, a chief court, subordinate judiciary, and other courts. A committee, comprising NALC members and set up on May 17, 2000, suggested that an interim set-up on the pattern of Azad Jammu and Kashmir or an alternative provincial set-up headed by an elected chief executive with full powers and a lieutenant governor be appointed as a representative of the federation. Other proposals of the committee are: NALC be renamed as Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA) and the post of deputy speaker be created as the federal government has sanctioned the post in November 2002; NALA be empowered to amend the interim constitution; the Northern Areas LFO be replaced with an interim constitution and the Legislative Assembly be given financial powers. The committee had also sought representation in the federal cabinet, a separate public service commission, an upper house, etc. The government increased the annual allocation for the area substantially, but financial and administrative powers have not yet been delegated to the elected representatives. The people of Northern Areas have been demanding full constitutional status or self-rule for a long time.