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Ups and Downs of Supreme Court’s Decision about Gilgit-Baltistan

Justice Retired Muzaffar Ali

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Supreme Court's Decision about Gilgit-Baltistan

The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s judgment about the constitutional rights of Gilgit-Baltistan was enthusiastically awaited by its people, the Federal Government, the people of Azad Kashmir and even the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Obviously, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan were considering the Supreme Court of Pakistan as their last hope to determine their constitutional status which was pending for more than seven decades on the pretext of Kashmir issue. The judgment by the Supreme Court of Pakistan finally came on 17th January 2009 which is now publicly available.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan, since their independence, are ruled by the Federal Government either by imposing Frontier Crimes Regulation – FCR or through “administrative orders”. Persistent denial of granting fundamental rights and constitutional status to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, in fact, tantamounts to denial of aspirations of people towards Pakistan. The prejudicial attitude of Federal governments compelled people to invoke the constitutional jurisdiction of Supreme Court as last resort to address their basic grievances.

Eventually, they knocked the doors of Supreme Court and the Supreme Court, for the first time, delivered a judgment in this regard in the year 1999. Whereby, the august Supreme Court recognized the fundamental rights of GB as citizens of Pakistan and directed the federation to initiate appropriate administrative/legislative measures, even federation was directed to make necessary constitutional enactments.

Eventually, they knocked the doors of Supreme Court and the Supreme Court, for the first time, delivered a judgment in this regard in the year 1999. Whereby, the august Supreme Court recognized the fundamental rights of GB as citizens of Pakistan and directed the federation to initiate appropriate administrative/legislative measures, even federation was directed to make necessary constitutional enactments.

Also on GBee: Watch Justice (R) Muzaffar Ali’s take on Supreme of Court Pakistan’s verdict on the Constitutional Rights of Gilgit-Baltistan

The Federal Government ignored the above cited judgment and continued “administrative orders” time and again. This worse situation was enough to awake Gbians to protest against. People raised strong protest resultantly, Nawaz government constituted a facts finding committee headed by Mr. Sartaj Aziz, the former foreign minister, to submit its recommendations about constitutional status of GB. The recommendations were submitted to the government but all in vein. The government instead again framed an executive order called The Government of Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018. The people lodged a strong protest against but it was imposed anyway.

When Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf established Federal Government after the General Elections of 2018, the hopes of the people of Gilgit Baltistan were extended with an express impression, to table the point of “provisional provincial status” before the cabinet meeting in pursuance of recommendations made by Sartaj Aziz Committee.

The point was tabled twice before the cabinet meeting but turned down. Khan’s cabinet apparently surrendered before an effective protest launched by the AJK leaders and to cover this U-turn, the government introduced a new “Executive Order”. The Supreme Court attached the new order with the instant judgment calling it as “Proposed Order”.

Read: Interview with Afzal Shigri – Why do the people of Gilgit-Baltistan oppose GB Order 2018?

The “Proposed Order” attached with the instant judgment seems far better than that of previous orders, for its salient features i.e. (a) its preamble speaks about intention of federal government to make GB a “provisional province” till pending disposal of Kashmir issue. (b) It admits the new “order” to be a temporary arrangement till the time constitutional amendments are sought. Despite of above narrated good features in the order, it is again an executive one having discriminatory provisions contradictory to full fundamental rights which can be provided to the people of Gigit Baltistan under the constitution.

The petitioners almost in all petitions have assailed the vires of executive orders including the “Proposed Order” attached with judgment, with the plea that, the executive authorities including the president having no sanction of constitution to frame such orders as no article including article 157 of the constitution empowers them to frame and approve such orders in respect of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The bench while framing questions for their answer in the judgment, totally ignored this crucial issue to frame and to answer. Instead, the honorable bench went to rationalize the “Proposed Order” without going into its vires and constitutional sanction behind it. In my opinion, the honorable bench has exercised dictum of necessity once again to meet the prevailing situation rather go into the issue of vires of the order under articles of the constitution.  The honorable bench provided its auspices to it and bestowed with judicial imprimatur and permanence. The verdict in favor of “Proposed Order” would encourage the executive authorities to resile from their promise to bring a bill before the parliament in respect of a provisional province for Gilgit-Baltistan.

The advantageous aspect of the instant verdict is that, the Supreme Court categorically rejected the propaganda raised by the AJK political leadership holding that, quoted; “that is why we hold that the committee’s recommendations relating to the provision and enforcement of fundamental rights provided by the constitution must be implemented immediately and with full force and effect. As a matter of law as well as morality”. Unquoted, the supreme court is in full agreement with the recommendations made by the Sartaj Aziz committee and it transpires from the judgment, while reading paras 21, 22 and 23 that, a status of provisional province of GB pending disposal of the Kashmir issue is not fatal and injurious to the Kashmir issue, even after introducing amendments into the constitution.

Last but not least, the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s verdict has thrown the ball into the court of leadership in Gilgit-Baltistan who belong to national parties i.e. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League. It is of their task, how they play their influence before their central leadership to motivate them to table a bill before the parliament and to seek amendments in the constitution to award a provisional provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan.  

Justice Retired Muzaffar Ali has served as the former judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan. After his retirement, he regularly writes about the legal aspects of the constitutional rights of Gilgit-Baltistan.

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Campaigning in schools for better hygiene on Global Handwashing Day

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Kids perform at Global Handwashing Day 2019 in Gilgit

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), in collaboration with other agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), government agencies and voluntary bodies, facilitated events in schools across Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan to celebrate Global Handwashing Day. These activities aimed at raising awareness about healthy and hygienic practices including the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. 

The theme for Global Handwashing Day 2019 is “Clean Hands for All,” reminding us that the simple message of proper handwashing for better health has yet to be spread to all. In local schools and communities awareness-raising sessions, handwashing demonstrations and school plays have reached around 5,000 students, parents, and school faculty.

Children and schools play a key role in spreading greater awareness about health and hygiene. In over 600 communities in Pakistan, AKAH has implemented health and hygiene education through its School Health Improvement Programme, benefitting over half a million people.

Nawab Ali Khan, AKAH CEO stated:

“AKAH has reached over half a million people through its health and hygiene education programme focusing on personal, domestic and environmental hygiene and the numbers increase every year. Handwashing is a key component of our health and hygiene programme and this year we are celebrating it as a complement to the prime minister’s vision of clean and green Pakistan.”

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Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Chitral as part of their Royal Tour in Pakistan

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Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Chitral, Pakistan
PHOTO CREDITS: WIREIMAGE

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge flew from Islamabad to Chitral on their third day of Royal tour in Pakistan. This is the first royal tour of Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton to Pakistan.

The two were welcomed with traditional Chitrali Pakol, a traditional Chitrali cap, and Chitrali Chogha, a traditional long coat in often presented to dignitaries, at the Chitral Airport.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Chitral Airport
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Chitral Airport where they were presented with traditional Chitrali cap and Chitrali Chogha. Photo: WireImage

The royal couple had landed in Islamabad on Monday evening as part of a 5-day long royal tour in Pakistan. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had a busy first day in the capital where they had a meeting with Prime  Minister Imran Khan. Earlier, the royal couple visited Islamabad Model College for Girls, a government-run school in the capital city.

Later, the British High Commissioner for Pakistan Thomas Drew hosted a reception for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Pakistan Monument in Islamabad. The royal couple arrived at Pakistan Monument in an auto-rickshaw.

Duchess of Cambridge in Chitrali Cap
The Duchess of Cambridge at Chitral Airport wearing a traditional Chitrali cap and Chitrali Chogha.

The Duke had spoken of the challenges Pakistan faces from climate change at a reception at Pakistan Monument in Islamabad.

“Tomorrow we will be seeing some of these impacts first hand and meeting some of the communities adjusting to the new realities and new challenges that climate change has brought to their towns and villages,” he said.

He further added:

“I hope to learn what more we all can do to help prevent and mitigate this impending global catastrophe.”

William and Kate are also expected to visit Gilgit-Baltistan and the historic city of Lahore as part of their royal tour.

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