Current Affairs Opinion

The autonomy delusion of Gilgit – Baltistan

The much awaited package of structural adjustment reforms was unveiled by the prime minister of Pakistan, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, after a cabinet meeting, today.

Despite of high claims of granting internal autonomy, a governor, to be appointed by the presdient, and the prime minister, himself, have been made the supreme authorities. The Gilgit – Baltistan Council would be chaired by the prime minister, who will not be elected by votes of the people of Gilgit – Baltistan, while an un-elected governor, to be appointed by the president, would act as vice – chairman of the council. This arrangement is being seen as a major ploy to control the elected representatives of Gilgit – Baltistan.

It is for the very first time, in history of the country, that a serving federal minister has been appointed governor of a political entity within Pakistan.

A new designation, called Chief Minister, has been created but the CM would not be authorized to form his cabinet. The governor would form a cabinet, albeit with “advise” of the chief minister. Also, the legislative assembly would not be able to elect the chief minister. He would be selected by the Gilgit – Baltistan Council.  This power mechanism  is also being seen as an explicit example of asserting real power players, in the future setup. It is being strongly felt that a powerful governor and a weak chief minister would overrun expectation of autonomy, at the grass roots, making the entire promise delusional and fraught with contradictions.

The Gilgit – Baltistan Legislative Assembly, not authorized to discuss a large number of vital issues related to governance of the region, would comprise of thirty eight members. Twenty four out of these thirty eight members would be elected directly from the districts, while seven females and an equal number of technocrats would also be part of the assembly. Two new seats have been added, one each for women and technocrats.

Some analysts are terming this a package for the region’s political elite, with no real benefit for the impoverished people of Gilgit – Baltistan. 

The creation of a separate election commission, increasing the number of judges of the Supreme Appellate Court from 3 to 5 and establishment of a separate public service commission, however, offer some promise for the region, which has now been formally named Gilgit – Baltistan. Nevertheless, these institutions will be of no real significance in the absence of broader rights and authorities of real decision making. 

Some quarters are seeing this move to rename a few positions in the region’s poltical setup and further complicate the heirarchies of democratic decision making, an attempt to divert attention from the issues raised over Diamer – Bhasha Dam, Bonji dam and other smaller dam projects that have been planned in the region.

Let’s remind the readers that Gilgit – Baltistan was a name suggested by the NALA, which has, now, been accepted by the federal cabinet.

About the author

Nur momad

Noor is chief editor of Pamir Times (www.pamirtimes.net).
He blogs at www.noorpamiri.com

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