New wine in old bottle is one of Jesus’s parables but the message it conveys is deep with reference to Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 proposed by the outgoing government of PML(N) in the name of so-called political empowerment and good governance in GB. If this order gets passed in the current shape, it is expected to have severe consequences for both the state, government and the citizens of GB because nobody in GB ready to accept it except some poodles and stooges of the current ruling party. The Speaker of GBLA has repeatedly issued statements that the unanimously passed resolutions by the GBLA be honored which have no effect or reflection on the proposed new order. The provincial president of PPP Amjad Hussain Advocate along with other opposition leaders from religo-political background have rejected and rubbished the proposed order.
Apparently, GB Order 2018 looks like a hurriedly done cut and paste bureaucratic assignment from Constitution of Pakistan and Governance Order 2009. What is new in the ipso facto provisions are such that it has an additional definition of citizen from GB domicile holders as well as those who hold citizenship under Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 (II of 1951) which makes every citizen of Pakistan a citizen of GB. Article 5 of the Order requires inviolable obligation of every citizen to remain obedient to the order contrary to Article 5(1) of the CoP which requires the loyalty with the state. The definition of State under Article 7 of the CoP has been changed as to definition of the Government in the new order. Similarly, the powers of State under Article 8(2) of the CoP are transferred to Government under Article 7(2) of the order. In both Articles, the Powers and Provisions granted to “State” under CoP are placed under the “Government” in the new order which also reads the mind of the drafting machinery. One can deduce to the fact that the constitutional obligations and responsibilities of state in four provinces of Pakistan are to be performed by the government in GB and citizens of GB are to remain loyal with Government instead of State.
Freedom of association cherished in Article 17 of new order contains an additional clause which is not obligatory for the citizens of Pakistan under Article 17 of CoP whereby the persons or political parties of Gilgit-Baltistan are restrained to take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of Pakistan. Once CoP is silent about such a clause, makes it clear to the people of GB that even the fundamental rights granted in the new order are not in consistent with the persons or political parties in other provinces. Article 19 of the CoP deals with the freedom of speech and freedom of press whereas from Article 19 of new order, the phrase “there shall be freedom of press” has been dropped. However, Principles of Policy set out in Chapter 2 of the Part II of CoP are pari passu extended to GB.
What is totally contrary and altra-constitutional is the extent of executive authority of Government in any matter with respect to Prime Minister who has been given powers to make laws whereby the executive authority of the government shall be subject to, and limited by, the executive authority expressly conferred by this Order or by law made by the Prime Minister. Under such imperial provisions, the position of Prime Minister for the people of GB gains similar status to the British Crown for their colonial subjects because under the disempowerment Articles 41, 46, 60, 61, 62, 99 and 105 the position of the Prime Minister gains the final authority over the legislative and administrative matters having the Governor, Chief Minister and GB Assembly be subservient to him.
Other burning issues of GB in the recent times are the acquisition of land and imposition of taxes against which massive and unprecedented protests were observed in GB and across Pakistan due to which the government was forced to retreat. Under the articles 60(2) and 65, the PM is empowered to levy all taxes in the region as prescribed the third schedule. These clauses are inviting the readymade sentiments to be flare-up once again. The custodians of state must take precautionary notices because the new imperial order adds deprivation to already deprived. The legislative list under Part-I of the third schedule enlists 62 subjects out of which most of the subjects are beyond capacity and capability of legislation of GB Assembly and federal ones.
Whereas, Part-II of the legislative list comprised of 5 provisions for the PM to impose taxes in consultation with the Governor and CM of GB. In a nutshell, this order has neither honoured the unanimous resolutions passed by Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly nor acknowledged the aspirations and sacrifices of the people of GB. The inhabitants of GB accept nothing less than full integration with Pakistan and if the full integration otherwise harms the Pakistani stance on Kashmir issue, the people of GB demands nothing less than what India has given to the people of IoK and what Pakistan has given to the People of AJK.
— The writer is Assistant Professor at Karakoram International University, Gilgit.