Empowering Gilgit-Baltistan or the Chinese bulwark

By Mazhar Iqbal

 What necessitated Pakistan to give ‘greater political autonomy’ to Northern Areas, when such a move was urgently needed in Balochistan, where normal life is almost paralyzed after recent surge in violence and instability?

Islamabad’s recent maneuver to give “greater political autonomy” to the Northern Areas may aptly be considered a strategic move as it has been mentioned by daily Dawn in its recent publication.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order-2009 is aimed at introducing administrative, political, economic and judicial reforms in the Northern Areas. According to this order, the Northern Areas would now have an elected legislative assembly, which would elect a chief minister, while a governor would be there to ensure the federal government’s control over the area. Gilgit-Baltistan would also have its own public service commission, a chief election commissioner and an auditor general. The chief minister would be assisted by six ministers and two advisers. The legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan would have a total of 33 members, including six reserved seats for women and three for technocrats.

 

The package also validates a legislative council. The council shall enjoy the legislative powers over 60 odd subjects identified with municipal powers. The council shall have 15 members which shall be presided over by the prime minister of Pakistan. The acting governor is a sitting minister in the federal government. There would be a consolidated fund and the annual budget would be presented to the assembly and voted upon. Interestingly, the Gilgit-Baltistan empowerment package has no constitutional or parliamentary backing.

Without mentioning the Constitution of Pakistan, which is the foremost authority to deal with the political and administrative changes in the map of the country, the Gilgit-Baltistan package says the chief judge of the supreme appellate court would be appointed by the chairman of the council on the governor’s advice and other judges would also be appointed on the governor‘s advice in consultation with the chief judge. The number of judges would be increased to five.

 

Until recent, judicial activism was not active in the case of Gilgit-Baltistan. Similarly, there is also a very competent parliament working in the country, which is all set to discuss matters like Kerry-Lugar Bill or Musharraf’s treason case, because these are the hot-selling issues to knock out political rivals. But almost all of the political parties representing 17 crore population of Pakistan have shown no significant concern over hastily passed Gilgit-Baltistan empowerment order.

 

For mainstream political parties of Pakistan the Northern Areas, now called Gilgit-Baltistan, is no more than another pitch to prove their political muscles. The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and Muslim League-Quaid, which is the brainchild of former president Pervez Musharraf, have already announced their candidates for polls to be held under Gilgit-Baltistan empowerment order. It means they have no concern about its legal and constitutional status.

 

The Muslim League of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) have also announced to take part in polls, giving mandate to the legal status of the newly adopted position of the Northern Areas.  Ismail Khan, one of the well-informed journalists of a well-regarded English daily of Pakistan, who hails from Skardu in Northern Areas, has said in a recent article that there was no Karakoram Highway in 1947 and the water and power crises in Pakistan had never been so acute as now. Thus, he says, policy circles in Pakistan realise that in a region beset with conflict and intense competition, Gilgit-Baltistan is crucial as a trade, water and oil corridor for South, West and Central Asia.

Similarly, a number of political and strategic analysts have indicated that China has started exploring options for energy supplies from all over the world through easily accessible transportation routes. The historic Silk Route could yet again be the easiest accessible route for trade and energy supplies to and fro China. So, one of the options being considered by China is to move energy supplies from Central Asia and Middle East to Xinjiang through Pakistan.

 

In the meantime, President Zardari’s foreign tours have been widely criticized by his political rivals, but his supporters say he is actually exploring ways and means for Pakistan’s survival in the next century. He is particularly interested in energy supplies to Pakistan from some permanent sources. Recently, Italy’s ENI has expanded its operations in Pakistan with a new onshore gas concession and is in longer-term talks to bring gas from the Caspian Sea region to Pakistan, India and China. The ENI currently holds 22 exploration and production licenses in Pakistan including 15 exploration licences, 3 offshore and 12 onshore. President Asif Ali Zardari recently met with the management of the ENI in Italy to finalise the details of the joint venture.

Pakistan expects that the ENI would double its investment in the country to around $3 billion by as early as next year. The ENI is looking for gas and possibly oil off Karachi’s shores, and longer term aimed to bring gas from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and possibly Iran to Pakistan, India and China.

 

In a recent interview with Guangming Daily, one of the largely circulated newspapers in China, President Zardari, who is also co-chairman of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, has said that during last one year Pakistan and China have identified more than 50 new initiatives for joint collaboration and signed more than three dozen MoUs. Of lately, President Zardari while addressing a business forum in Zhejiang, offered transit facility to Chinese companies, saying Pakistan’s ports would benefit Chinese firms by giving them easy access.Pakistan-China cooperation in hydel power generation has been on agenda of two countries since last many years. Chinese companies are already working on a number of hydel projects in Pakistan, including Neelum-Jhelum, Gomal Zam and Mangla dam raising project.

President Zardari also addressed representatives of Zhejiang’s 16 top business houses who earn a combined annual turnover of billions of dollars. He said it is his dream that Pakistan should become a gateway for Chinese exports to world markets because his country’s ports are nearer than China’s own water fronts. He was also quoted as saying that from some of the Chinese cities it took about three weeks for the export material to reach the nearest port. The latest developments on world energy scene are very interesting.

 

According to fresh estimates, landlocked Turkmenistan, holder of the world’s fourth- largest gas reserves, may become a key supplier to Europe. Similarly, a pipeline to China is nearly complete and a link to India through Pakistan and Afghanistan is planned.Turkmenistan now produces 40 billion cubic meters of gas a year. Yet, another interesting turn of the twenty first century global economy is placing China on forefront of the world economic matters. The future links of consumer markets and energy producing countries are now hot topics of defense and economic strategists of the world.

Peter Tertzakian, in Calgary Herald says that growth of natural gas in emerging transportation markets is intriguing and should even make oil guys wake up.  For example, the growth rate of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in Asia is quite remarkable and on an exponential up trend. “Also consider Pakistan where two million NGVs now compose a third of that country’s vehicle fleet.  Of course, few are interested in Pakistan, because it’s ONLY 175 million people. Sure, China and India are the big markets to watch. The growth of NGVs is far faster than petroleum power, and is accelerating.” It shows that not only the Chinese economy is eying the world markets, but also the world markets are lying face down to benefit from Chinese wealth.

“The pace at which China is locking in energy supply deals seems to only be increasing. And it is effectively doing it without a single handshake taking place on US soil and without US oil,” says 24/7 Wall St, which keeps a vigilant eye on international investment horizon. “After reviewing some of the public deals that China has been making, it is rather obvious that its appetite to buy and secure more sources of oil and gas is not ending whether China is technically in the 2007 to 2009 recession or not.” The website, which gives updates on world economy on twenty four hours basis, further says that China has done all of this without launching a single air strike and without the use of military force.

(The writer is associated with Press For Peace (PFP) as Researcher. He could be reached at: mazharimazhar@gmail.com )

One Comment

  1. Nadeem

    Kashmiries Campaign Against Pakistan`s Defacto Annexation of Gilgit Baltistan (GB)

    TO,
    The President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari
    The Prime Minister Sayed Yousaf Raza Gilani
    Via
    Mr. Wajid Shamsul Hasan High Commissioner for Pakistan in United Kingdom

    Recent Pakistani constitutional colonial aggression on Gilgit Baltistan via Empowerment and Self-governance Order, 2009 passed by the prime minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gilani and federal cabinet ,and federal minister Qumar Zaman Kiara be the first Governor of the fifth Pakistani Defacto province of Gilgit Baltistan and the president of Islamic Republic of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari singed and endorsed it to their slave territory of Pakistan Occupied Gilgit Baltistan (POGB).

    Majority of the Kashmiries living abroad,especially in United Kingdom out-rightly rejected this colonial Empowerment and Self-governance Order, 2009 passed by Pakistani Federal Cabinet and Empowered a Punjabi Governor (MNA from Lalamusa Punjab). These are indications of rigging in coming elections in GB will be held on November 12, 2009.

    Historical Facts

    1-On 15th August 1947 the British paramountcy ceased to exist, and the sovereignty of the princely state Jammu Kashmir was legally reverted to the people of the Jammu Kashmir automatically. The reversion of sovereignty to people of Jammu Kashmir was in the consequence of the provision 7B of the Indian Independence Act 1947.The people of the Jammu Kashmir had a legal right of Self-Determination to shape their own future by forming their own government.

    2-The Govt.of Pakistan was endorsed that through, Kashmir-Pakitan Standstill Agreement. Telegram from Prime Minister, Kashmir State, to Sardar Abdur Rob Nishtor, States Relations Department, Karachi 12th August, 1947.Telegram from Foreign Secretary,Governmen t of Pakistan, Karachi, to Prime Minister (Ram Chand) of Jammu and Kashmir15th August,1947.

    3-The Govt.of Pakistan unilaterally withdrawn form the international commitments that she made in The UNCIP unanimously adopted this Resolution on 13-8-1948.
    PART III
    The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan reaffirm their wish that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people and to that end, upon acceptance of the Truce Agreement both Governments agree to enter into consultations with the Commission to determine fair and equitable conditions whereby such free expression will be assured.

    4-The constitutional source to creating that set up on GB via ordinance 2009.Whereas the article 2(f) is not a part of the Constitution of 1973 Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and other articles ,54,55,56,80, 81,82,83, 87are contradicted with Article-257.
    Article-257 Provision relating to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
    When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State.

    5-The appointment of a Pakistan`s Punjabi Governor Qumar Zamn Kiara which was against the State Subject Definition Notification 20th April, 1927.Whereas for such kind of posts he/she must be the first class citizen and resident of the state of Jammu Kashmir.

    OUR PROTEST AND DEMANDS

    On the basis of these historical,legal and constitutional facts we out-rightly rejected Pakistani constitutional colonial aggression on Gilgit Baltistan via Empowerment and Self-governance Order, 2009.
    Stop crating a new fifth Pakistani province which is an act of occupation against the state and the people of Jammu Kashmir.
    Jammu Kashmir National Independence Alliance United Kingdom (JKNIA UK) believe that Gigit Baltistan is an integral part of Jammu Kashmir.Pakistan withdraw its military and civilian setup from all parts of Jammu Kashmir (POK,POGB) and stop exploiting our wealth,natural, water resources and stop building of new dams in the area because of its disputed nature.We also demand for the retrurn of our billions of dollars owing by Kashmiries and handed over by the control of Mangla Dam to us.
    The people of Jammu Kashmir won`t accept anymore forcibly geographical division of the state.Only Unified Independent Kashmir is a way forward for the millions of the peoples of South East Asia, those are looking for the regional peace,security and progress.The JKNSF and other students leaders were arrested on the arrival of Pakistani Prime Minister Y.R.Gilani on Oct.8,2009 during the protest over POGB, must be released unconditionaly.

    Alliance Member Organisations

    1) Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party UK

    2) Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front

    3) JK Peoples National Party

    4) Kashmir Freedom Movement

    5)Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front

    6) Jammu Kashmir Plebiscite Front

    7) Kashmir Liberation Organisation

    8)Association of British Kashmiries

    JAMMU KASHMIR NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE ALLIANCE UK (JKNIA UK)

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