AJK Assembly Supports Gilgit-Baltistan Package

2 September 2009
DAWN


Islamabad: Elected representatives in Azad Kashmir voiced their all out support for maximum autonomy and constitutional rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan on the floor of the legislative assembly here on Wednesday but warned the federal government against any move which could change the complexion of Kashmir issue. While discussing the ‘pros and cons’ of the ‘constitutional reforms package’ for Gilgit-Baltistan, recently announced by Islamabad, many said the area should be given an AJK-like setup instead of a provincial status and terminologies like chief minister and governor ‘as it smacked of machination to divide Kashmir’. Prime Minister Sardar Yaqoob Khan, who has so far avoided any reaction on the package, preferred to watch the proceedings in his chamber downstairs and the debate was wound up on behalf of the government by Senior Minister Sardar Qamar Zaman, who is a PPAJK leader. Interestingly, PPAJK President Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, who was supposed to speak on behalf of his party, also quit the hall during the course of speeches and the party was represented by Sardar Ghulam Sadiq, adviser to chairman AJK Council. It may be recalled that on Tuesday, Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir had allowed the call attention notice by Sardar Siab Khalid of opposition Muslim Conference (Attique) on this issue for debate. The ongoing session has been requisitioned by the MC (A). However, when he gave floor to Mr Khalid on Wednesday to make a speech on his notice, Mr Majeed said before holding debate on the ‘sensitive issue’ on the basis of newspaper reports, the legislators should first go through the package which, he claimed, had seen by none of them so far. Endorsing his views, PPAJK secretary-general and Minister for Finance Chaudhry Latif Akbar asked the house to wait until Friday when the Foreign Office would give a briefing to the Kashmiri leadership. But his contention was confronted by the chair and many others on the ground that Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Kashmir affairs minister had unfolded the package at a press conference. Mr Qadir said the house should give suggestions which the federal government could incorporate in its policy for Gilgit-Baltistan. The lawmakers took strong exception to talk shows on different TV channels which, they regretted, were creating impression as if the people and the AJK government were inimical to the grant of rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. MC (A) President Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan said Gilgit-Baltistan should be given an AJK-like setup with president and prime minister from the area. Calling for representation to the area in the AJK Council, he said his party could even vacate some seats for this purpose. He also announced that his party would shortly convene an all party conference on this issue. Winding up debate the senior minister said it was a sensitive issue and a committee should be constituted to draft a unanimous resolution on it. However, much to the surprise of many, as the chair started to name the members of committee, Mr Akbar emphatically opposed the move. The chair then adjourned the house till 11am on Thursday.