Disputed Territories: Call For True Autonomy, Equal Rights For G-B, AJK19 May 2011
Islamabad: A paradigm shift in Pakistan’s decades old stance on Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is needed alongside genuine autonomy and equal rights at par with other provinces without altering UN resolutions on Kashmir. This was the consensus of participants in a forum on “Proposed Constitutional Amendments in the Constitution of Pakistan for Empowerment of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan” organised by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT). Participants also called for an end to bureaucratic rule and interference from Islamabad in the internal affairs of the two regions and ensuring genuine democracy in AJK and G-B. The participants, including political leaders, former presidents, prime ministers of AJK, former diplomats, retired military officers, journalists and legal experts, were near unanimous that Pakistani rulers are treating the two regions like colonies and are not honouring the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolutions regarding Kashmir and G-B. They called for giving equal representation to the people of AJK and G-B in Pakistan’s parliament. Justice (retd) Syed Manzoor Hussain Gillani, Former acting Chief Justice of the AJK Supreme Court, presented his discussion paper on the proposed Constructional Reforms. “AJK and G-B should provisionally be given at least the same quantum of autonomy (without changing their status) as given to the provinces of Pakistan,” he stated in his presentation. Suggesting a few amendments in the Constitution of Pakistan, he stressed that these amendments would not affect the status of the disputed state, nor Pakistan’s position on the Kashmir dispute. “The state is disputed but rights are not disputed,” he said. While analysing the proposed amendments, Daily Pakistan Editor in Chief Mujibur Rehman Shami said, “If we recognise AJK and G-B as provinces then we should give them an equivalent number of seats in the Senate of Pakistan.” Raja Farooq Haider Khan, Former AJK Prime Minister, said the powers given in article 31(3) should be given to the Pakistan Government and the rest should be given to the AJK government. Former IGP Afzal Shigri believed that rights should be given to those people who want to join Pakistan and struggled for it. Gen (retd) Muhammad Aziz Khan, a former CJCSC, was of the view that maximum autonomy should be given to AJK and G-B. Asif Ezdi, an analyst, believed that there is a ‘constitutional limbo’ over AJK and G-B status. Mosharaf Zaidi suggested that strategic calculations should be kept in mind when ever we discuss any constitutional, administrative or legal change. Inamul Haq, former foreign minister, while commenting on the topic said that it is only in the ambit of the UN Security Council that Pakistan can stand internationally on Kashmir. Ghulam Abbas, Editor Daily K2, said that UN Security Council doesn’t deny fundamental rights of the people of AJK and G-B, therefore these constitutional amendments should be acted upon. Amina Ansari, member G-B Legislative Assembly, said that people of G-B are part of Pakistan who voluntarily joined Pakistan. She objected to the legality of the G-B self governance order. Haroon Khalid, a politician from G-B, commented that G-B is a strategically important part of Pakistan, therefore this region should be given its due importance. Dr Riffat Hussain, a political analyst, was of the view that any effort to empower people of AJK and GB would undermine India’s stance of denying rights to those areas. Khalid Sultan, Director General Civil Services Academy and Former Chief Secretary AJK, said that the only way to protect the rights of AJK and G-B could only be done through amendments in the constitution. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director PILDAT, said that the constitution status of AJK and G-B should be reviewed as it has been ignored in the mainstream political and constitutional structure of the country for almost half a century.