Gilgit-Baltistan package termed an eyewash

29 August 2009
The Dawn


GILGIT/SKARDU: Public representatives, nationalist and progressive political groups and activists on Saturday rejected the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-governance Order, saying it is gimmick of words to perpetuate the bureaucratic rule over the region. Labour Party Pakistan Gilgit chapter chief Advocate Ehsan Ali rejected the package and said that it would increase the sense of deprivation among the people. 'The real powers rest with the governor, who is President's appointee and not answerable to Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly,' said Mr Ehsan. There is no constitutional protection to the provincial setup. Talking to Dawn Hafizur Rehman, member Northern Area Legislative Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president declared the package mere a gimmickry of words and said once again the centre was throwing dust in the eyes of people. He said a powerful governor, who would be appointed by the President, would enjoy absolute authority. He criticised that other political parties were not taken on board nor any consultation was done in formulation of this package, which was not desired by the people of the region.Chairman of his own faction Nazir Khan Naji bashed the centre and said Gilgit-Baltistan were again deceived in the name of package. He said the so-called packages could not heal the decades-old wounds of the people of this region and they need only their identification. Advocate Fidaullah, member Nala, said Islamabad and PPP-led government won hearts of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by giving them autonomy and this would ensure that people were governed through their elected representatives. He said independent judiciary was longstanding demand of the people. The PPP member said that the new setup would strengthen democracy. Advocate Aftab Haider, PPP member of Nala, stressed the need for observing a thanksgiving day for this historic package and said the federal government had once again fulfilled the demands of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who had introduced remarkable reforms. Mr Aftab said that the package would usher in the area into a new era of prosperity. He was of the view that now Gilgit-Baltistan would be hub of economical and political activities as the package was guaranteeing social, political and economical uplift. Member Northern Area Legislative Assembly Ghulam Mohammad, also secretary general of PPP, said that the package was complete reflection of the aspiration of the people and the government had taken all members of the society on board before finalising it. Safdar Ali, spokesman for Balawaristan National Front, said his party totally rejected the package, which was mere eyewash. 'It's meant to detract the international community from the violation of human rights in this region,' he added. Local journalist and political analyst, Imtiaz Ali Taj, said the package contained nothing for the people and it would only benefit the representative of the federal government who would enjoy the authority and powers. Shujaat Ali, a nationalist leader, said the centre should allow the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to govern their region. 'The so-called provincial setup aims at concealing the human rights violations and continue the colonial control over the region,' said Manzoor Hussain Parwana, chairman Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement Said that the so-called empowerment order was illegal and held no ground at all because Gilgit Baltistan didn't fall under the constitutional ambit of Pakistan. He demanded an independent judiciary and constitutional assembly until the resolution of Kashmir dispute. He said the government did not take the public representatives and political leadership on board to formulate the packages while the people were expecting and demanding Azad Kashmir like setup. Zulfiqar Ali Khan adds from Hunza The nationalist parties in Hunza-Nagar termed the package 'old wine in a new bottle'. They said through such cosmetic measures the government was playing with the legal and constitutional rights of the people. They however welcomed renaming of the region as Gilgit-Baltistan. Talking to this correspondent, Baba Jan, chief organiser of Progressive Youth Front, demanded an independent and constitutionally protected governance system for the region. He said the federal government through such packages wanted to justify and prolong its illegal occupancy of the region. The Hunza chapter of Pakistan People's Party has appreciated the new package however shown their concern for not giving additional seats for Hunza in the Assembly. Karimullah Baig, general secretary of the local chapter of PPP, said the party would issue detailed statement after convening a special meeting regarding the package. Public opinion leaders and representatives rejected the empowerment and self-governance package and said that nothing new had been announced rather old win had been poured into a new bottle. The package was criticised and it was declared as designed to strengthen the bureaucracy and unelected forces which ruled the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.