Northern Areas people want constitutional status resolved
11 September 2006
Islamabad: The people of Northern Areas (NAs) are seeking an end to the long ambiguity over their constitutional status, access to basic rights and an end to unrest, sectarian violence and sense of uncertainty currently prevailing in the region, said a report of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Northern Areas. Speaking at the launch of the report “A strong yearning for autonomy” here on Monday HRCP Secretary-General Iqbal Haider said people of Northern Areas seek to be part of Pakistan, but the government by tying the fate of the region to Kashmir had left Northern Areas constitutional status in a limbo and had effectively denied the fundamental rights to the people of the area. He said on the basis of the findings, the HRCP mission concluded that to resolve the problems of the Northern Areas, it was essential that the people of Northern Areas be given greater say over determining their future destiny and their day to day affairs. “A guarantee of fundamental rights must be made to them,” he said and called for greater efforts to end sectarian friction and to alleviate the socio-economic miseries of the people, who have the most limited access to education and healthcare. The report based on the findings of HRCP mission to Northern Areas in the later part of 2005 encompasses issues pertaining to constitutional rights of the Northern Areas, governance and civil liberties, sectarian troubles and socio-economic situation of the people. The objective of the mission was to investigate the political situation in the Northern Areas and its impact on the access of people to fundamental rights. Sectarian violence was also a key concern for the team. CONSTITUTIONAL STATUS The HRCP, based on the wishes of the people of the region, recommended that either Northern Areas should be merged into Pakistan as a fifth province or should be given an autonomous status like Azad Kashmir. As, short term measures, the HRCP suggested that Legislative Council should be given legislative powers; chief executive of NAs should be an elected member of the legislative council, answerable to the council, based in NAs and should be given full executive authority. All laws, which are in force in Pakistan, except taxation, laws should be extended to NAs and their extension to NAs should not be at the discretion of KANA Division of Government of Pakistan. JUDICIARY AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS The report called for making judiciary independent from the executive; granting the chief court powers of the high court particularly in running the affairs of subordinate judiciary and establishment of Court of Appeal. The HRCP report mentions the doubts of the people of NAs regarding the ability of existing judicial system in enforcing fundamental rights. ADMINISTRATION The administration, it said, should be local and answerable to the chief executive. The report asserts that rule by Islamabad has made the public servants arrogant and inefficient and denies local people their basic right to govern their own affairs. It further stated that absence of a service structure has created frustration amongst the civil servants. The report that seeks implementation of Supreme Court judgment (1999 SCMR 1379) regarding provision of basic rights to people of NAs also has recommendations concerning police and jail, sectarianism, education, health, communications, women rights, Kargil victims, dams and electricity, bank loans and language and culture.