Monday, 21 September, 2020
Constitutional rights to be extended to people of GB

Constitutional rights to be extended to people of GB

The Supreme Court on Friday constituted a committee of legal experts to fine-tune the nitty-gritty of a bill aimed at ensuring all fundamental rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).

The committee comprises Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan, amicus curiae Aitzaz Ahsan, lawyers Salman Akram Raja and Chaudhry Afrasiab, Gilgit-Baltistan law minister, Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs secretary and others.

The committee was formed during a hearing of a petition about the fundamental rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by a seven member larger bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

The chief justice asked the committee members to sift through the proposed draft and give their inputs and suggestions for adjustments to the law to make sure that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan get maximum administrative, financial and legislative powers.

The chief justice made it clear that a blanket order regarding the status of Gilgit [as the fifth province] could not be issued because it was the parliament’s domain. Therefore, the new committee should suggest how to give maximum rights to the people.

He said that the committee must focus and find a solution that is “above the GB Order 2018 and below the Constitution” regarding Gilgit-Baltistan’s status. “Gilgit-Baltistan should be brought at par with other provinces of Pakistan,” the chief justice observed.

He said that if the region got the provisional status of a province with people having all rights and powers at par with the people of other provinces, it could not be called a bad transaction in the current domestic and international scenario in view of Pakistan’s position on the Kashmir issue and its final settlement, and until a constitutional amendment is passed by the parliament.

The chief justice said that the preamble of the proposed draft was impressive but the people of Gilgit-Baltistan were complaining that they were not being given the political and constitutional status and rights.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan argued that in the proposed draft, “we have taken into account everything and anything possible to give maximum judicial, legislative, executive and fundamental rights to the Gilgit-Baltistan people as enshrined in the Constitution”. He said: “We cannot make Gilgit-Baltistan a separate province but we are in a position to extend basic rights as available to the subjects of other provinces.”

When the chief justice sought opinion of the Gilgit-Baltistan deputy advocate general on the new draft, he said: “We have received the proposed draft and allow us to give out input and recommendations.”

The chief justice said that the Supreme Court would be the guarantor of the proposed draft and no changes could be made in it by the government or the bureaucracy without the prior approval of the Supreme Court.

The hearing  of case is adjourned till December 24. The newly-formed committee will hold its first meeting on Thursday.

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