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Separate constitutional status: G-B lawyers to garner support from counterparts in AJK

By Shabbir Mir

GILGIT: Lawyers in Gilgit-Baltistan plan to seek the support of their counterparts in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) for a separate constitutional status for the region.

Lawyers and politicians in AJK have vehemently opposed a separate constitutional status for G-B. They believe the move can weaken support for the Kashmir issue. On November 16, AJK former prime minister Sardar Attiq Ahmad Khan said making G-B the fifth province of Pakistan will dent the Kashmir cause.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, G-B Bar Council Vice Chairman Shehbaz Khan said a delegation will be sent to AJK to rally support for G-B’s cause.

“We will request AJK lawyers not to raise objection if G-B is accorded a separate constitutional status,” said Shehbaz. The decision comes a day after the bar council’s annual general meeting in Gilgit.

In addition, lawyers also plan to organise a convention this month in Islamabad. A large number of lawyers from AJK and G-B will participate in the convention.

Disputed status

On December 21, a committee will hold a meeting in Islamabad with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to present a draft document regarding amendments to the G-B Empowerment and Self-Rule Order 2009. The committee – led by Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz – has held two meetings so far.

The third meeting will determine the region’s constitutional status.

Lack of representation

About the bar council’s general meeting, Shehbaz said members voiced concerns over the lack of representation of lawyers in the apex reforms committee.

“Lawyers hailed the inclusion of Justice Manzur Gilani in the committee as a legal expert from AJK,” he said. “However, they urged the federal government to give representation to a lawyer from G-B.”

The bar council also insisted economic rights should be provided to G-B and insisted a governing system without financial autonomy is meaningless.

“The region is endowed with natural resources and locals should have the authority to decide how they are used.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2015.

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