Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Saturday, August 16—-August 22, 2008
Provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan
National Assembly rejects opposition members bill
By Jameel Nagri
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly has rejected by an overwhelming majority a bill seeking provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan and measures to bring the region into the constitutional ambit of Pakistan.
The bill was tabled by opposition PML-Q MNA Marvi Memon. Speaking on the occasion, Ms Memon said people of the region are still deprived of their birth rights. The area faces unemployment, illiteracy and backwardness; therefore, steps should be taken to bring the region into the mainstream. For this, she said, it was necessary that the region should be declared the fifth province of Pakistan, and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan should be given representation in the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan. Besides, a special package should be announced for the development of the region.
However, speaking on the occasion in the house on Tuesday, PPP leader and Federal Minister for Northern Areas Qamar Zaman Kaira said there were international obstacles in giving rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan equal to those in other parts of Pakistan. He said due to the lingering dispute of Kashmir, the region cannot even be made a province of Pakistan. He advised the mover of the bill not to play politics on a sensitive matter. He said for the development of the region and provide its people with equall facilities the annual funds for the region had been increased to Rs5 billion.
The Northern Areas Legislative Council has been given the status of an assembly and more powers are been delegated to the house. He said the judiciary of the region would also be given powers equal to that of the high court of Azad Kashmir.
Marvi Memon expressed shock over rejection of the bill and said for the first time a bill seeking rights for the area had been tabled in the house but unfortunately it was turned down. She said irrespective of the dispute of Kashmir, the bill should not have been thrown away and should at least have been referred to the standing committee. She said the region was being ignored even in the 21st century. The PML-Q government had given assembly status to the legislative council of the area but the PPP government was not concerned about the welfare of the people of the region.
Addressing the prime minister, Marvi Memon said what the government is ignoring the patriotic people of Northern Areas. On this the Speaker told her that she had no authority to directly address the prime minister and should point it out to the minister concerned.
Later, when media persons told Mr Kaira that due to the policy of ignoring the Northern Areas, a wave of frustration had hit the workers and activists of the region and local PPP general secretary Mehdi Shah had threatened to resign, he said he had no knowledge of any such report.