ISLAMABAD, Aug 29: The Pakistan Cabinet on Saturday approved a self?governance reforms package for the country’s Northern Areas aimed at giving it full internal autonomy besides changing its nomenclature to Gilgit Baltistan.
Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani while addressing a press conference here announced the Cabinet?s decision of ?Gilgit?Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009? that will replace the earlier “Northern Areas’ Legal Framework Order 1994”.
The specially convened meeting of the Cabinet unanimously approved the Order?s draft after being discussed with all the stake holders.
The Prime Minister said a high powered Committee under the chairmanship of Minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas (KANA) prepared the reforms package to provide autonomy to the area.
He mentioned that all major improvements for Northern Areas were made during the period of Pakistan Peoples Party including the first Northern Areas Council Legal Framework Order 1974?75 by Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and further democratization through Northern Areas Legal Framework Order 1994 by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Giving details of the Order’s salient features, Gilani said the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly will formulate its own Rules of Procedures, while legislation on various subjects pertinent to governance will be done by the Council and Assembly in their respective jurisdiction.
Prime Minister said the area would be given full rights as Azad Jammu and Kashmir, however it could not be given provincial status as per the Constitution.
Regarding any impact on the UN document about on Northern Areas, Gilani said both Foreign Office and the AJK President had been taken onboard before the decision.
To a question, he said the Council did not need parliament?s shelter as it had its own Rules of Business, while Boundary Commission had already been constituted. He said election of Chief Minister will be held in mid November.
Qamar Zaman Kaira, Minister for KANA said the approved Order will be sent to President Asif Ali Zardari for final consent.
The Prime Minister said the New Order has fifteen major parts, while the new name of Northern Areas of Pakistan shall be Gilgit?Baltistan as proposed under Article 2(f).
He said there shall be a Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan as proposed under Article?20 and shall be appointed by the President of Pakistan. Till the election of the new legislative Assembly, Federal Minister for KANA will act as Governor.
He said the Chief Minister will be elected by the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly, who will be assisted by six ministers. There shall be a provision of two advisors to the Chief Minister.
Gilani said the Legislative assembly will have directly elected 24 members, besides six women and three technocrats seats.
He said the decision will empower the Gilgit?Baltistan Council and Assembly to make laws. The subject under which the Assembly shall now have power to make law has increased from 49 to 61 while the Council shall have 55 subjects.
The Prime Minister said in order to empower the Council and the Assembly on financial matters, there shall be a Council Consolidated Fund under article 54, and Gilgit-Baltistan Consolidated Fund under article 55.
Regarding annual budget, he said a detailed item?wise budget shall be presented before the Gilgit?Baltistan Assembly as being practiced in Pakistan and shall be accordingly voted upon as suggested in article 56.
The Chief Judge of Supreme Appellate Court shall be appointed by the Chairman of the Council on the Advice of the Governor and other Judges shall be appointed by the Chairman on the Advice of Governor after seeking views of the Chief Judge, he added.
He said the Chief Judge and Judges of the Chief Court shall be appointed by the Chairman of the Council on the advice of the Governor on the same pattern as it is being practiced in AJK.
He mentioned that number of judges had been increased from three to five. The tenure of the present judges of the Supreme Judiciary has been protected in the draft.
Another step forward to empower the people of the areas, the Prime Minister said is the establishment of Gilgit?Baltistan Public Service Commission and Gilgit?Baltistan Services under Article?80 and 81.
He said Auditor General Gilgit?Baltistan will be appointed by the Governor on the advice of Council as the case in AJK.
He said there shall be a Chief Election Commissioner under Article?82 as well as Auditor General besides emergency provisions under article 83 and 87 respectively.