Gilgit-Baltistan likely to get provincial rights

28 August 2009
The Dawn


ISLAMABAD: A special meeting of the federal cabinet to be held on Saturday is likely to approve a constitutional reforms package to give all the rights of a province to the region without declaring it a province. The package, Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) order, renames the Northern Areas as Gilgit-Baltistan and sets up a council under the chairmanship of the prime minister of Pakistan. The Northern Areas, comprising seven districts, was created by the government of Z.A. Bhutto in early 70s by merging all states in region into a single entity. A cabinet meeting on Thursday gave final touches to the draft of the order. The head of the Gilgit-Baltistan region will be a governor to be appointed by the president. He will also be the vice-chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council. An elected legislature will replace the region's current assembly. It will appoint a chief executive, the chief minister. The governor will appoint a cabinet on the advice of the chief minister. The Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas minister is likely to be appointed as the area's first governor. There will be a Supreme Appellate Court in place of the Supreme Court and a Chief Court instead of the high court. The order will ensure fundamental rights like freedom of movement, assembly, association, trade, business and profession, speech, religion, safeguards against taxation for purposes of any particular religious order and protection of educational institutions in respect of religion.