Gandapur says by making GB a province, it would not hurt Pakistan's struggle for Kashmir
The government, following the aspirations of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, have decided to provide the area with a provisional provincial status, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur said Monday, a couple of weeks before the region's elections are held, Radio Pakistan reported.
Addressing a press conference alongside information minister Shibli Faraz and Majlis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen (MWM) leaders, he said the provincial status had been a longstanding demand of the region's people.
Gandapur said by making GB a province, it would not hurt Pakistan's struggle for Kashmir as the decision had been taken after consultations and deliberations from the foreign office, Azad Kashmir, and international experts.
Gandapur said that the opposition was politicking over the matter as it will require a constitutional amendment which will need the two-third support of the parliament and the amendment will not be possible without their cooperation.
"On November 15, free and fair elections will take place in GB," he said.
The minister said that the government had contacted the opposition for their input on electoral reforms. However, he termed their rejection of participating in the meeting as unfortunate.
"But, I feel like the reason that they are not part of the talks on election reforms is that they will cause a ruckus and claim that elections had been rigged," Gandapur said.
The minister said the GB assembly had ratified a bill in 2017 that unanimously called for giving GB a provisional provincial status.
Talking about the government's efforts in the region, he said that they were about to distribute health cards to the region's people through which they will be able to get treatment worth Rs1 million for free.
Talking about the road infrastructure, Gandapur said a tunnel at Babusar Top will be constructed, while a road to connect Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and GB has already been approved.
The minister said the government has approved setting up of a Special Economic Zone under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and an industrial zone to create job opportunities for the youth of the area.
Meanwhile, taking over the presser, Faraz said that GB was economically crucial for Pakistan. "GB, in the future, will prove to be the economic base camp of Pakistan." he said.
"In GB and AJK, the last government was PML-N's," Faraz said.
"We, in our two years, have never tried to destabilise the governments in either of the regions, neither did we run any campaign against them," he said.
Faraz said that the incumbent government believes that the governments that have been established with the people's mandate should complete their tenure.
"Despite financial constraints, we made a record hike in GB's budget, when we decreased the budget of every other area," he said.