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Gilgit-Baltistan

Administrative Territory of Pakistan

Gilgit Baltistan, (formerly known as the Northern Areas), (Urdu: گلگت بلتستان‎) is the northern-most autonomous territory of Pakistan. In terms of land area it is bigger than Sierra Leone but smaller than Panama. It was part of the former Princely state of Kashmir and Jammu in 1800s[4] and later leased to British[5] eventually liberated after a planned liberation movement led by Gilgit Scouts.[6] It borders Azad Jammu and Kashmir in the south Indian-administered Kashmir in southeast where KPK province of Pakistan to the west, and internationally borders Afghanistan to the north, although Tajikistan is separated by fourteen kilometres via Wakhan Corridor, the People's Republic of China to the northeast. Gilgit Baltistan, which became a single administrative unit in 1970, was formed from the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar. Gilgit Baltistan remains part of the Kashmir dispute. The Government of Pakistan since Independence regards the entire area of Jammu and Kashmir as "territory in dispute" to be resolved by a plebiscite to be held throughout the former state in order to determine the area's final accession to either India or merger with Pakistan. Gilgit Baltistan is governed by a Governor and a Chief minister, the latter elected by a legislative assembly. Gilgit Baltistan covers 72,971/64,817 km² (28,174 mi²).

Gilgit-Baltistan

گلگت - بلتستان
Gilgit-Baltistān
Biafo Glacier, Gilgit, Pakistan.
Biafo Glacier, Gilgit, Pakistan.
Flag of Gilgit-Baltistan
Flag
Official seal of Gilgit-Baltistan
Seal
Location of Gilgit-Baltistan, disputed (red) and (white), with Siachen Glacier (1949-1984)
Location of Gilgit-Baltistan, disputed (red) and (white), with Siachen Glacier (1949-1984)
Location of Gilgit-Baltistan
CountryPakistan
Established1 July 1970
CapitalGilgit
Largest cityGilgit
Government
 • TypeSelf-governing territory of Pakistan
 • BodyLegislative Assembly
 • GovernorMir Gazanfar Ali[1]
 • Chief MinisterHafiz Hafeezur Rehman[2]
Area
 • Total72,971 / 64,817 km2 (0.43466991684284 sq mi)
Population
 (2008; est.)
 • Total1,800,000
 • Density0.00038/km2 (0.00099/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+5 (PKT)
ISO 3166 codePK-NA
Main Language(s)
Assembly seats33[3]
Districts10
Websitegilgitbaltistan.gov.pk

Contents

BaltistanEdit

The regions of Baltistan, and Ladakh (including Kargil) and Chitral are also considered to be a part of Balawaristan by nationalist parties of Gilgit. The peoples' do not consider areas of Gilgit and Baltistan to be legally or constitutionally part of Pakistan or India. Nor do they regard neighboring regions of Ladakh wazarat to be legitimately part of India or Pakistan. They demand freedom not just for regions within Pakistan, but also Indian held areas.[7] They also assert that as per UNCIP resolutions, (Pakistan and India) must withdraw their occupational armed forces and handover the control of the disputed region to the people of Gilgit Baltistan, under the supervision of the United Nations, until a final settlement of the whole Jammu and Kashmir issue is reached, as per a United Nations sponsored plebiscite that would be held in both Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir."[8]

Semi-autonomous status and present-day Gilgit-BaltistanEdit

On 29 August 2009, the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, was passed by the Pakistani cabinet and later signed by the country's President. The order granted self-rule to the people of the former Northern Areas, now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan, by creating, among other things, an elected legislative assembly. There has been criticism and opposition to this move in Pakistan, India, and Gilgit-Baltistan.[9][10]

Gilgit Baltistan United Movement—while rejecting the new package—demanded that an independent and autonomous legislative assembly for Gilgit-Baltistan should be formed with the installation of local authoritative government as per the UNCIP resolutions, where the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will elect their president and the prime minister.[11]

In early September 2009, Pakistan signed an agreement with the People's Republic of China for a mega energy project in Gilgit-Baltistan which includes the construction of a 7,000-megawatt dam at Bunji in the Astore District.[12] This also resulted in protest from India, although Indian concerns were immediately rejected by Pakistan, which claimed that the Government of India has no locus standi in the matter.[13]

On 29 September 2009, the Pakistani Prime Minister, while addressing a huge gathering in Gilgit-Baltistan, announced a multi-billion rupee development package aimed at the socio-economic uplifting of people in the area. Development projects will include the areas of education, health, agriculture, tourism and the basic needs of life.[14][15][16] The Prime Minister further went on to say:

"You are getting your identity today. It is your right and has been your demand, and today we are fulfilling it."[17] Gilgit–Baltistan thus gained de facto province-like status without constitutionally becoming part of Pakistan.[18][19] The official poistion of Pakistan has rejected Gilgit–Baltistani calls for integration with Pakistan on the grounds that it would prejudice its international obligations with regard to the Kashmir dispute.

In 1982 the Pakistani President General Zia ul Haq proclaimed that the people of the Northern Areas were Pakistanis and had nothing to do with the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

An attempt in 1993 by the High Court of Azad Kashmir to annex Gilgit–Baltistan was quashed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, after protests by the predominantly Shia population of Gilgit–Baltistan, who feared domination by the Sunni Kashmiris.[20]

Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018Edit

The Federal government of Pakistan was to announce the new reforms within a week of its announcement; however, it took considerable time to do so. The delay indeed created rumors and confusion which resulted into the passing of a unanimous resolution by Gilgit Baltistan Assembly for sharing the recommendations of Sartaj Aziz Committee which was formed on 29 October 2015 to recommend new political and administrative reforms for Gilgit Baltistan. The Committee took three years for formulation and the new order was decided in 27 meetings. The draft was also debated in all parties’ conference held in Gilgit on 20 November 2017 as claimed by the government spokesman.

The positive points of new order are that it has repealed 2009 order and annulled powerful Gilgit Baltistan Council and powers shifted to Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly. Apparently, there is no role of Kashmir Affairs ministry as it is Gilgit Baltistan Assembly with the powers of legislation. Chief Court will be renamed as High Court comprising of 7 Judges. Appointments of Judges will be made at Gilgit Baltistan level. There will be Gilgit Baltistan provincial service commission and a provincial Auditor General.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 was promulgated by the former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on May 21, 2018, and replaced the Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009, with the ostensible aim of providing the “same rights enjoyed by the other citizens of Pakistan to people of Gilgit Baltistan.” The August 8, 2018, order purportedly provided political, administrative, financial and judicial powers to people in the region. In actual fact, however, the order shifted powers from the Gilgit Baltistan Council — including those related to passing laws relating to minerals and tourism — to the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly. A comparative analysis of the 2009 ad 2018 Orders indicates that the ‘special rights’ the people of Gilgit Baltistan enjoyed have been curtailed further. For instance, the Legislative Power, according to the 2009 Order, was vested in the Gilgit Baltistan Council (though this was led by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, but also had representatives from Gilgit Baltistan) and the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly. As per the 2018 Order, this power lies with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly, which comprises 33 members of which 24 members were Elected through direct Election. The Prime Minister seems to hold final authority in terms of legislative powers, as the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 reads,

"If any provision of an Act of Assembly is repugnant to any provision of any law which the Prime Minister is competent to enact, then the law made by the Prime Minister, whether passed before or after the Act of the Assembly, shall prevail and the Act of the Assembly shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void.".

The order also defines the ambit of discussions in the assembly; with Article 57 restricting it from even discussing “matters relating to foreign affairs, defense [and] internal security”, which is highly unlikely given the region’s borders with China, Occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan. Moreover, civil society activists have demanded a share in income from the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), citing Pakistan’s dependence on a Disputed territory for directly connecting it with China. For these voices, Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir Region has also been subject to criticism as Islamabad has failed to address GB’s grievances while at the same time criticizing India’s so-called Kashmir policy. While the order, in theory may not be closer to addressing these grievances, hope rests on whether Islamabad’s promise of the greater power Devolution is able to tackle the growing alienation.

DemographyEdit

Main languages are Balti, Shina Burushaski, Wakhi and Khowar.

GovernmentEdit

The Government of Gilgit Baltistan also known as the State Government of the Northern Areas, is the highest governing authority of the territory and its 10 districts. It consists of an executive, led by the Governor of Gilgit Baltistan, a judiciary and a legislative branch.

Like other states in India, the head of state of Gilgit Baltistan is the governor. The governor is chosen by the President of Pakistan on the advice of the central government. The governor's post is largely ceremonial. It does not have much power. The Chief Minister is the head of government and is holds most of the executive powers.

The Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly is a 33-seat unicameral legislative body. It was formed as part of the Gilgit–Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009. This order gave the region self-rule and an elected legislative assembly.[21][22] Before this, the region had been directly ruled from Islamabad.

Districts of Gilgit BaltistanEdit

Geography and climateEdit

 
K2 as seen from Concordia

Gilgit–Baltistan borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west.

Gilgi-Baltistan is home to five of the "eight-thousanders" and to more than fifty peaks above 7000 meters. Gilgit and Skardu are the two main hubs for expeditions to those mountains. The region is home to some of the world's highest mountain ranges—the main ranges are the Karakoram Mountains and the western Himalayas. The Pamir mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat, the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world.

The Deosai Plains are located above the tree line, and constitute the second-highest plateau in the world at 4,115 meters (14,500 feet) after the Chinese region of Tibet. The plateau lies east of Astore, south of Skardu and west of Ladakh. The area was declared as a national park in 1993. The Deosai Plains cover an area of almost 5,000 square kilometres. For over half the year (between September and May), Deosai is snow-bound and cut off from rest of Astore & Baltistan in winters. The village of Deosai lies close to Chilum chokki and is connected with the Kargil District of Ladakh in the Kashmir disputed region through an all-weather road.

ReferencesEdit

  1. http://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/309838-Mir-Ghazanfar-Ali-sworn-in-as-Governor-GilgitBalt. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. Khan, M. I. (28 June 2015). "Profile: The new GB chief". Dawn. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  3. Legislative Assembly will have directly elected 24 members, besides six women and three technocrats. "Gilgit Baltistan: New Pakistani Package or Governor Rule" 3 September 2009, The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)
  4. Dani, Ahmad H; Mikhaĭlovich Masson, Vadim (2003). History of Civilizations of Central Asia. UNESCO.
  5. Haines, Chad. Nation, Territory, and Globalization in Pakistan: Traversing the Margins. 2013.
  6. Nosheen, K. Ali (January). Seeing through the state: Representation and rule in the northern areas of Pakistan. Cornell University. p. 56. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  7. Naxal Watch (2008-06-10). "IntelliBriefs: Balawaristan: BNF Chief Abdul Hamid Speech to a Historic Gathering". Intellibriefs.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  8. "Pakistan has no right to discuss Gilgit-Baltistan in its parliament: BNF chief". Sify.com. 23 February 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  9. "The Gilgit-Baltistan bungle". Thenews.jang.com.pk. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
  10. Gilgit-Baltistan package termed an eyewash, Dawn, 2009-08-30
  11. "Gilgit-Baltistan: GBUM Calls for Self-Rule Under UN Resolutions". UNPO. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
  12. "Pakistan | Gilgit-Baltistan autonomy". Dawn.Com. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
  13. Mumtaz Hamid Rao (2009). "Pakistan rejects Indian protest on Gilgit-Baltistan, Bunji dam". Pakistan Times. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  14. "Gilani announces development package for Gilgit Baltistan". Associated Press of Pakistan. 29 September 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  15. Manzar Shigri (2009-11-12). "Pakistan's disputed Northern Areas go to polls". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
  16. "Pakistani president signs Gilgit-Baltistan autonomy order _English_Xinhua". News.xinhuanet.com. 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
  17. "Gilani announces development package for Gilgit Baltistan". GEO.tv. 2009-09-29. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
  18. Nadeem (2009-09-21). "Gilgit-Baltistan: A question of autonomy". Indian Express. Retrieved 2013-02-23.
  19. "DAWN: Gilgit-Baltistan autonomy". Archives.dawn.com. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2013-02-23.
  20. Schofield, Victoria (2000). Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan, and the Unending War. I.B. Tauris. pp. 180–181.
  21. Shigri, Manzar. "Pakistan's disputed Northern Areas go to polls". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  22. "Gilgit-Baltistan Council". Gilgit-Baltistan Council. Retrieved 20 July 2013.