Pakistan SC Extends Its Powers To Gilgit Baltistan, Refuses Altering Its Status

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Srinagar

While extending its powers to the Gilgit Baltistan (GB), a seven-judge bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court has upheld the Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 that gave the arid region of the erstwhile Kashmir state certain rights that it lacked since 1947. The verdict was announced by the bench, presided by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, on Thursday, Pakistani media reported.

Pakistan Supreme Court

The verdict has grated the region fundamental rights, which the population in the region lacked, so far. “The written order also states that no part of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan can be abolished or amended without proper legislation,” Pakistan newspaper Dawn reported. The verdict was a response to a series of petitions challenging the Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018, Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009.

A section of the GB population has been demanding that the region should be declared a part of Pakistan instead of being administered through presidential orders. The federal orders were aimed to reforming the constitutional and legal eco-system in which GB would operate. This was, however, “subject to the decision of the plebiscite to be conducted under the UN resolutions.

“The move, however, would require an amendment in the Constitution, which needs a two-thirds majority in the parliament and “would take time”. Therefore, as an interim measure, the government plans to give such fundamental rights to GB residents as enjoyed by the people of any other province,” the Dawn reported. “Today’s order clarified that no changes will be made to the current state of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir and that the constitutional status of these areas shall be determined through a referendum.”

The Pakistan apex court order, according to the newspaper, said that India and Pakistan are responsible for giving more rights to the [people of]the areas under their control. “Pakistan is bound to give Gilgit-Baltistan as many rights as possible,” the newspaper said.

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“Gilgit-Baltistan courts hold the right to review the law-making done by the Gilgit-Baltistan Council. However, these courts do not hold constitutional rights within Pakistan,” Dawn said. “The people of Gilgit-Baltistan will be able to challenge the appellant court’s decisions in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.”

While the Supreme Court has suggested changes in the presidential ordinance, it has clarified that the Pakistani president can enforce the Order upon the proposal of the federation. However, it has ruled out that the 2018 Order cannot be amended. “If the Parliament makes any changes to this order they can be “examined on the touchstone of the Constitution”,” the newspaper said. “The order further said that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have the same rights as the people of Pakistan.”

Meanwhile, in Srinagar, Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Muhammad Yasin Malik held a meeting at the aged leader Geelani’s residence.

The spokesman said during the meeting leadership expressed satisfaction over the verdict announced by the seven judge-bench of Pakistan Supreme Court that upheld the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir and directed the Pakistan government to provide more citizenship, legal and social rights to the people of Gilgit and Baltistan besides stating that the lingering dispute of J&K be resolved by means of plebiscite.

The Leadership said that Pakistan Supreme Court in its fresh verdict has laid stress on the fact that till the issue of Kashmir stands unresolved, Pakistan and India must ensure that the people of this region enjoy maximum rights for areas within each country’s control.

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