Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Saturday, August 16—-August 22, 2008
By DJ Mathal
Nations are not given independence through packages. Past experiences show that packages have always been used to appease and hoodwink the people. For a long time people do not understand whether implementation of the package has actually started or not. After a while it comes to the fore that even the original package had been distorted out of shape. The Kashmir and Northern Areas (KANA) Division changed the shape of Musharraf’s package for Gilgit-Baltistan in such a way that soon it became a total farce.
Political situation in Pakistan can take any shape within moments. Since the February 18 elections, the PML-N did not show any flexibility towards President Musharraf and the PPP also surrendered to Nawaz Sharif’s line and finally both the parties announced their plan to impeach Musharraf. According to PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the collation government would go for implementation of the Charter of Democracy soon after impeaching the president.
The CoD was signed by slain PPP co-chairperson and PML-N quaid Nawaz Sharif in London. Under one of the CoD provisions, Gilgit-Baltistan was to be given all constitutional rights and administrative powers at par with the provinces of Pakistan. According to PML-N Northern Areas president Hafiz Hafizur Rehman, Chaudhry Nisar has promised that after rejoining the federal cabinet they would ensure all constitutional rights for the Northern Areas and would prepare a package in consultation with the PPP. The PML-N leader said they want to strengthen democracy and would empower the Northern Areas Legislative Assembly, so that it becomes answerable to no one except the masses, and rule of law prevailed in the region.
The intention of the PML-N seems good. If only the assembly is made powerful all other problems would be resolved gradually. Through this all government officials who have been plundering the resources of the region without any checks can be made accountable for their deeds. Hafizur Rehman has reportedly asked the leadership of his party that only making the assembly was not enough as every department in the region should be given due powers. It is true that if the judiciary, for example, is not powerful and free, an assembly cannot perform its functions in a better way. At present, administratively almost all departments are under the control of KANA division. The authority to make appointments in the judiciary rests with the federal minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas who is also chairman of the assembly. If the federal government does not wish a case to be taken up, the local courts refuse to hear it. Besides, judges for the local courts should be locals. In stead of the chief secretary, local public representatives should have all administrative powers to run the affairs of the area. Resources of the area including income generated from the Sost Dry Port and tourism should not be given to the federal government rather it should be utilized for the development of the region. If any future package is prepared taking into account all these measures, it would not only give a sense of integration to the local people but would also help in ending over 60 years of deprivation and injustice done with the two million people of Gilgit-Baltistan