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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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AKAH jointly with AKU-ISMC and KIU working to scale up and transfer rural water systems to urban settings

Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) jointly with Aga Khan University- Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) and Karakoram International University (KIU) are conducting research on Scaling Up and Transferring community-managed Rural Water Systems to Urban Settings

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AKAH Pakistan

On World Water Day, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) Pakistan shared an important new research project led by AKU-ISMC’s Dr. Jeff Tan with Professor Steve Lyon in partnership with Karakoram International University and the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat.

Generously funded by the British Academy’s “Urban Infrastructures of Well-Being” programme, the £280,000 research grant is for a project titled “Scaling Up and Transferring community-managed Rural Water Systems to Urban Settings”, Many of the problems around access to clean water in the global south are because of poor maintenance and the deterioration of water infrastructure.

The research looks at an existing Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s Water and Sanitation Extension Programme (WASEP) in Gilgit- Baltistan which uses community-managed maintenance to the water infrastructure to help solve this problem.

The research will examine two projects and assess whether the model could be upscaled to be used in other urban settings. Gilgit-Baltistan is geographically isolated and suffers high levels of poverty.

There are currently 400 community-managed water projects in the scheme which cover over 100,000 households. By working collaboratively and bringing together researchers in economics, anthropology and engineering as well as development practitioners and other experts the project aims to identify how social, economic, cultural and technical factors all affect how community-managed water systems work.

Dr. Tan commented: ‘This is an exciting research project that not only seeks to address the pressing issue of access to water as part of the SDGs, but also brings together researchers and development practitioners from across AKU and AKDN, with capacity building and fieldwork opportunities for university students and graduates from Gilgit-Baltistan.”

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Chitral

7 Photo-stories on World Water Day 2020 from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral (GBC)

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AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
AKAH Pakistan

World Water Day is celebrated every year on 22nd March as an observance day to highlight the importance of freshwater. The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

As part of the World Water Day 2020 celebrations, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) shares these stories of people from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral whose lives have been deeply impacted by water and sanitation-related projects in the region.

AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Over half of the people across Pakistan lack access to safe and clean water and have no choice but to consume water from whatever source exists in their villages, regardless of quality. Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, aiming to improve quality of life, is implementing water supply schemes across mountain communities in Pakistan.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
In mountainous parts of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, traditional wells are used as water reservoirs collecting the water coming from streams through canals. This water, coming directly from open sources, is unsafe as it is contaminated due to its exposure to both humans and animals. Without access to another source of water, people use this unsafe water for different purposes including drinking, cooking, and other domestic purposes.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Clean drinking water has always been a huge problem for communities living in mountainous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. Women and children are impacted the most as they must travel long distances to fetch water for cooking, washing, and laundry. AKAH’s work to connect each household to safe and clean with a water tap in their home enables women to keep their children safe from waterborne diseases, spend more quality time with their families, and also reduces time and labor lost to fetching water.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), with the help of communities, identifies water sources in the village, tests the water quality using its technical expertise, develops water infrastructure, constructs water reservoirs, and provides each family with a water tap in their home. More than 500,000 people across Pakistan now have access to safe drinking water in their homes, through AKAH’s efforts.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s WASEP model uses a community-based approach to help mountain communities get year-round all-season access to safe water. AKAH’s approach uses deep digging and other techniques to ensure that water does not freeze in the pipes despite the fact that these villages are covered in snow for more than five months of the year.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
“I enjoy taking freshwater from this tap in my home; you would say I am in love with it that’s why I stand here many times a day”.
AKAH Pakistan World Water Day 2020 Stories
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, with its mandate to improve quality of life, is helping women and young girls across Pakistan enjoy a healthy life, by providing access to safe water in their homes, reducing their exposure to water-borne diseases, allowing them to spend more quality time with families.
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