According to reports, six local members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council have conditioned the release of development funds to the region from the ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan with the imposition of taxes in this disputed region. They have asked the governor and chief minister to levy taxes in the region before the release of the funds.
This has sent shockwave not only among the members of the council but also among the general public of the region. The conspiracy behind all this seems to be originating from the ministry of Kashmir affairs, which earlier kept in the doldrums the hiring of employees in the newly-created Gilgit-Baltistan Secretariat in Islamabad in order to induct outsiders. Not only this, the federal minister concerned, Manzoor Watto is also said to be influencing the appointment of three advisers for the region. The interference of the federal minister in the affairs of the GB Council is being termed an unjustified and illegal act which will be highly detrimental for the working of the government in Gilgit-Baltistan. It may be noted here that under the self-governance and autonomy order of 2009, the federal minister has no major role to play in the administrative affairs of the region and is kept almost at a par with the governor and chief minister of the region.
But unfortunately, the governor and chief minister have abdicated all their powers to the minister and work as his subordinates and yes men giving a free hand to Mr Watto to manipulate and interfere in the affairs of the region without any check and hindrance. Mr Watto has made the council hostage and the KANA division is still calling the shots in the region through him. The ministry seems hell-bent on linking the release of development funds to Gilgit-Baltistan with imposition of taxes in the region though this was never even mentioned in the meeting held under the chair of the prime minister of Pakistan. The move orchestrated by Mr Watto seems to be the result of the mentality of the minister who considers and treat Gilgit-Baltistan as his personal fief. Among the other possible repercussions, this highhanded move has also forced the Gilgit-Baltistan Council to pause for a moment and in collaboration with the legislative assembly work for regaining all those which have been grabbed by the federal government. On the repeated demands of the GB government, the Presidency in Islamabad has formed a committee to prepare recommendations to give the power of amending the self-governance and autonomy order of 2009 to the Gilgit-Baltistan Council and the legislative assembly. Under the current situation, this committee holds the key to the future political and administrative dispensation of the region. But as the committee is headed by the federal minister Manzoor Watto, there is little hope that it will come out with recommendations meeting the aspirations of the people of the region. Even if the recommendations are in the best interest of the region there is no guarantee that it would be implemented in letter and spirit. But even the GB Council is of the view that all powers should be rested with the legislative assembly of the region instead of the federal minister in order to lessen the role of the federal government in running the affairs of the region. It is unfortunate that those who had been voted by the local people are singing to the tune of the Islamabad-based rulers. If the assembly along with the governor and the chief minister develop unity and struggle for getting all the powers and get rid of the slavery, there is no way that Islamabad can refuse to transfer them to the region. It is also a fact that for the last over three years the GB council and assembly have been at loggerheads over various issues with the latter having contemptuous view of the council members. If we look at the situation, there seems no fault of the council members because if they have been given more powers it is the federal government which is responsible for it. It would have been in the best interest of the people of the region had the two houses got united and worked for getting more and more powers. But this could not happen so far as these two houses have been at a war against each other. But as better late than never, these two bodies have at last realized their responsibilities and finally agreed to work together and get their powers which is a good omen for the future of the region. The federal minister has also said that Gilgit-Baltistan has a special status and till the resolution of the Kashmir issue, this status cannot be changed. After this statement of Mr Watto, the cat has come out of the bag: on the one hand the federal government ahs been exerting all pressure to impose taxes in the region and on the other it continues considering the region a disputed one. Not only this, the federal government is also continuing plundering the resources and running the affairs of the region on its own. This also necessitates that working relations between Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan should be reevaluated in order to have a smooth sailing in the future. If all the powers are still to be used by a single individual - the federal minister - there was no need at all to stage the drama of establishing the provincial government in the region. With the introduction of the latest package, the people of the region had also realized that the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan would continue to linger as long as it was not resolved under the UN resolutions. It is time the people stage a final struggle to get their rights which have been usurped by Pakistan for the last over six decades.
About Author: Dj Mathal is from Gilgit Baltistan (Yasin) and is Editor at Baang Sahar News .He/She can be reached through email@example.com