Tuesday May 17, 2022

SC extends its powers to GB

January 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled for extending its constitutional powers to Gilgit-Baltistan.

A seven-judge bench headed by Justice Saqib Nisar issued the order after hearing petitions challenging the vires of GB Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009.

The court released its written order regarding the constitutional status of GB as well as the grant of fundamental rights to its citizens and ruled that the powers of the top court also extend to the region. The court ruled that no part of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan can be abolished or amended without proper legislation.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 was earlier opposed by protesters hailing from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who demanded that GB should be declared a part of Pakistan instead of being administered through presidential orders.

The proposed reforms draft states that the federal government intends to grant GB the status of a provisional province, “subject to the decision of the plebiscite to be conducted under the UN resolutions”, with all privileges provided by the Constitution.

The move, however, would require an amendment to the Constitution, which needs a two-thirds majority in the Parliament and “would take time”. Therefore, as an interim measure, the government plans to give such fundamental rights to GB residents as enjoyed by the people of any other province.

On Thursday, the court clarified that no changes will be made to the current state of GB and Kashmir and that the constitutional status of these areas shall be determined through a referendum. It further said that this process should take place within 14 days.

The order said that Pakistan and India are responsible for giving more rights to the people of the areas under their control and until the referendum happens, Pakistan is bound to give GB as many rights as possible.

The court further held that several administrative offices have already been created in the area under the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018.

Gilgit-Baltistan courts hold the right to review the law-making done by the Gilgit-Baltistan Council. However, these courts do not hold constitutional rights within Pakistan.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan will be able to challenge the appellant court’s decisions in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the court also gave suggestions regarding changes to be made in the presidential ordinance and also clarified that the President of Pakistan can enforce the order upon the proposal of the Federation.

The court made it clear that the 2018 Order cannot be amended and ruled that if the Parliament makes any changes to this order they can be “examined on the touchstone of the Constitution.