islamabad capital territory

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB An Unconstitutional Province

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By Ejaz Karim

The federation of Pakistan comprises of four provinces and four non-provincial units, namely FATA, Northern areas now Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Islamabad capital territory. The people of GB have been living in a constitutional vacuum for over 64 years; they are neither given representation in the parliament nor a constitutional mandate to the local assembly.

On August 2009, an ad-hoc ordinance was introduced by The Government of Pakistan-named Gilgit-Baltistan empowerment and self-governance order. Pakistan People Party called it a democratic change in Gilgit-Baltistan-I accept that names have been changed: Executive to Governor and Deputy Executive to Chief Minister, Northern Areas to Gilgit-Baltistan, we can’t complain much about that- no doubt Ministers are increased but budget is same.

It was matter of celebration for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan that they are going to have their own Governor and Chief Minister, and the status of so called province. Nothing has been changed at the gross root level, no status of province, no representation either in parliament or senate. We are neither given any administrative setup like Azad Jammu and Kashmir nor facilities which other provinces enjoy. This suspious arrangement on the other hand, increases the prevailing confusion of the local people in order to explain the future status of the area and arises numerous questions: Will a citizen of GB able to be a Chief justice in courts of Pakistan including Supreme Court? Will a citizen of GB able to be chief in Pakistan military forces? Will it be written in syllabus that Pakistan has five provinces? Etc. Three years on- but all the promise seems not more than a betrayal for the people of GB and merely an opportunity of point scoring for Pakistan peoples party. While the area neither get part of NFC award nor separate quota in competitive examinations and seats in various Universities of Pakistan.

Since 1947 the constitutional and administrative status and fundamental human and political rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been discussed between Governments of Pakistan and India. The constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973 of- Pakistan don’t recognize Gilgit-Baltistan as part of Pakistan, It is clearly explained that GB is not part of Pakistan in term of article-1 of the constitution of Pakistan, which spell out territorial limits of the country. But democratic and military dictators introduced various governing reforms in the area under different names in order to align it with the emerging economics and political needs of the country.

Now, it’s the indeed require to clear the stance over GB for both countries- Pakistan and India and give maximum autonomy to the region. Pakistan must change the bureaucratic Government in GB and empower the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) and make its institutional capacity strengthen to work for the people rather than for the bureaucrats and politicians.

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Gilgit-Baltistan: Foreign Funding to Seminaries

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ISLAMABAD (Dawn): Religious institutions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa collected Rs30.46 million from foreign countries/institutions during the last five years, the interior ministry said in a report submitted to the National Assembly on Monday.

Some heads of institutions in Sindh also visited foreign countries and collected funds. On the other hand, the government of Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Islamabad capital territory administration claimed that religious seminaries in their jurisdictions were not getting any foreign funding.

Replying to a question of MNA Qudsia Arshad regarding foreign funding to religious seminaries, the home department of Sindh added that as per report of the police special branch, some heads of institutions visited Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE to collect funds but detail of the funding could not be collected.

The government of KP stated that it had no mechanism to ascertain the details of financial assistance provided by foreign countries to the religious seminaries because there was no restriction on the madresshahs to receive financial assistance from abroad. However, according to the special branch of the police, Madressah Taleemul Quran in Summer Bagh of Dir Lower received Rs10 million from Al Furgan, an NGO of Kuwait. The same NGO also paid Rs8 million, Rs3 million and Rs8 million to Madressah Arf bin Malik in Upper Dir and Madressah Umul Quran and Madressah Al Furqan in Dir Lower.

An institute of Norway gave Rs1.46 million to Madressah Arabia Taleemul Islam, Madressah Abu Bakr Siddiq, Madressah Islamia of Tank, and Madressah Mariful Islamin Bhatyara of KP. The government of Gilgit-Baltistan sent a nil report in respect of their districts of Ghizer and Hunza-Nagar but report about the remaining five districts was awaited.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Powerful National Commission on the Status of Women Formed

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ISLAMABAD (Dawn): In a most significant pro-women move in nearly four years of its life, the National Assembly unanimously passed on Thursday a government bill to create a powerful National Commission on the Status of Women as the fruit of years of efforts of a women’s caucus, overcoming some last-minute hitches that held it up for a day.

The vote came after the adoption of 22 consensus amendments agreed between the treasury and opposition benches following overnight consultations, just before the house was prorogued after an eight-day session.

With a woman of more than 15 years’ experience in working on women’s rights and “committed to the cause of women’s empowerment” as its chairperson, the commission will have two members — at least one of them being a woman — from each province, one woman member each from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, the Islamabad Capital Territory, and minorities, five ex-officio but non-voting members representing ministries of law, finance, foreign affairs, interior and the ministry concerned with women’s rights of not below BPS-20, and chairperson or a designated member of each provincial commission on women’s rights set up under provincial laws. A member must be at least 30 years of age, having experience on women’s rights for more than five years and “committed to the cause of women’s empowerment”.

The bill said chairperson and members, including ex-officio, would be appointed by the prime minister from among names recommended by the parliamentary committee from a list agreed with the leader of opposition in the National Assembly containing three names for each post – or separate lists to be sent by the two in case of difference between them.

The parliamentary committee of up to 12 members will be constituted by the National Assembly speaker with 50 per cent representation each for the treasury and opposition benches based on the strength of parties to be nominated by their respective parliamentary leaders, one-third of them being from the Senate.

FUNCTIONS: A long list of functions of the commission include examining the federal government’s policy and programmes for gender equality, women’s empowerment, political participation, representation, assessing their implementation and making suitable recommendations, reviewing all laws, rules and regulations affecting the status and rights of women and suggesting repeal, amendment or new legislation to eliminate discrimination, safeguarding and promoting the interest of women and achieving gender equality.

Other functions include sponsoring research, maintaining a database on gender issues, interacting with non-governmental organisations, mobilising grants from domestic and international agencies approved by the government, recommending signing or ratification of international instruments, inquiring complaints of violations of women’s rights, and inspecting jails.