President signs Gilgit-Baltistan empowerment order
* Local PPP leader says Zardari has instructed administration to accelerate development in the area
ISLAMABAD/SKARDU: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday signed the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, aimed at introducing administrative, political, financial and judicial reforms in the Northern Areas.
Congratulating the people of Gilgit and Baltistan, the president said that it was befitting that a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government was reforming the set up in the Northern Areas, recalling the reforms of 1975 and 1994. Explaining the order to reporters, the president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Gilgit-Baltistan would now have an elected legislative assembly, which would elect a chief minister, while a governor would be appointed by the president on the prime minister’s advice.
“It will also have its own Public Service Commission, a chief election commissioner and an auditor general,” he said. The CM would be assisted by six ministers and two advisers. The legislative assembly would have a total of 33 members, including six reserved seats for women and three for technocrats. This body would have the authority to make laws on 61 subjects. Babar said there would be a Gilgit-Baltistan Consolidated Fund and the annual budget would be presented to the assembly and voted upon.
The order said the name of the Northern Areas of Pakistan would be Gilgit-Baltistan and until the election of the legislative assembly, the minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas would act as the governor. 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.
Development: Also on Monday, PPP Gilgit-Baltistan President Syed Mehdi Shah said President Zardari had instructed the authorities concerned to prepare a comprehensive plan to accelerate development in Gilgit-Baltistan. Addressing a press conference, he said he had recently met President Zardari along with a 20-member delegation at the Presidency, where the president said the government had given internal freedom and all financial, democratic, administrative, judicial, political and developmental powers to the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan. He said the most important step would be the formation of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council, to be headed by the prime minister. Zardari also ordered the early initiation of the Gilgit-Skardu road project, the establishment of regional branches of the National Bank of Pakistan, National Database and Registration Authority and the House Building Finance Corporation. sajjad malik/app