Gilgit-Baltistan is treated as a separate administrative unit, yet it does not enjoy the same constitutional rights as granted to the other provinces.
Last Updated: 27 Nov. 2014
Along with Azad Kashmir and the State of Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly known as the Northern Areas), is considered to be a part of the disputed Kashmir region. Due to this territorial conflict between India and Pakistan and pendency of the UN resolution on the matter, Gilgit-Baltistan has not been formally incorporated into the federation. This is despite that fact that since partition the area has been administered by the Ministry of Northern Areas and Kashmir Affairs (KANA) in Islamabad.
In Pakistan the 1973 Constitution, as well the two preceding ones, did not expressly declare Gilgit-Baltistan as a part of Pakistan. However, according to the Constitution, it is considered to be a part of the Pakistani territory for all practical purposes e.g. administration. No seats are reserved for the region in the Pakistani Parliament.
In India the Indian Constitution, on the other hand, includes Azad Kashmir and the Gilgit-Baltistan region in the Indian Union and reserves seats for it in both of its Houses of Parliament.
Interestingly, despite this lack of recognition, successive governments in Pakistan(both democratic and military-led ones) have subjected the area to control through several reforms. The latest one is known as the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order of 2009. Key features of the order include:
- Changes in the nomenclature of the region from Northern Areas to Gilgit-Baltistan
- Provisions for its own Governor, Chief Minister, Ministers, Auditor General, Chief Election Commissioner and Chairman of the Public Service Commission
Restriction on discussion in Assembly, etc. – No discussion shall take place in the Assembly or the Council or the joint sitting with respect to matters relating to Foreign Affairs, Defence, Internal Security and Fiscal Plans of Government of Pakistan and the conduct of the any Judge of the Gilgit-Balistan Supreme Appellate Court or the Gilgit-Balistan Chief Court in the discharge of his duties.
Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance Order), 2009.
- Clarifies that Gilgit-Baltistan is not a part of Pakistan according to Article 1 of the Constitution, the status awarded to the region is only province-like and not similar to that enjoyed by other provinces
- No provision for seats in the Parliament or in other chief forums, such as the National Finance Commission, that allow participation in matters of national concern
- Allotting a range of powers to the Gilgit-Baltistan Council (the Upper House) and Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly (the Lower House) to legislate in their own respective spheres
The territories of Pakistan shall comprise
Excerpt from Article 2 of the Pakistan Constitution, 2010
Despite Gilgit-Baltistan being treated as a separate administrative unit, it does not enjoy the same constitutional rights as those granted to the other provinces. Important differences are as follows:
- No seats are allowed in the National Assembly or the Senate.
- Gilgit-Baltistan Council is chaired by the Prime Minster of Pakistan and not by a local representative. Therefore, real authority still lies with the Council rather than the elected representatives in the Assembly.
- Similarly, the Governor is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
- No seats are allowed in the institutions that contribute towards effective coordination and cooperation between the federation and provinces/other units e.g. National Economic Council, National Finance Commission and Council of Common Interests.
- No representation is given in the Indus River System Authority (IRSA).
- No share of profits, from the income of hydro-electric power stations located in Gilgit-Baltistan, is granted to the region itself.
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) sends its own representatives to both the Senate and the National Assembly, where special seats are reserved for them. In fact, the number of seats FATA is allowed in the Parliament is much higher than any other parts of Pakistan, when compared in terms of population size.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) has an autonomous government with its own temporary constitution enacted by its Legislative Assembly in 1974, a legislature and even a Supreme Court. This system is expected to last until a decision is reached by the UN regarding a resolution to the Kashmir dispute.
The Order shows that the administrative approach adopted towards Gilgit-Baltistan is not only different from the four directly ruled provinces, but that it is also different from other indirectly- ruled areas such as FATA and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Northern Areas of Pakistan: A Strong Yearning for Autonomy. Lahore: HRCP, 2006.