Deprived NAs remember ‘freedom day’
* People denied basic rights for 57 years
GILGIT: The fundamental rights of people in the Northern Areas (NA) have been flouted from the past 57 years.
The Northern Areas consist of six districts and has a population of more than two million with the area spreading over up to 28,000 square miles bordering China, the former USSR, Afghanistan and India. The people of this remote region won freedom from the Dogra regime of Jammu and Kashmir on November 1, 1947 without any external support and named this tiny sovereign state the Islamic Republic of Gilgit.
Later, on November 16, 1947, the state government asked its Pakistani counterpart to provide assistance in running the state affairs. Sardar Muhammad Alam Khan, a revenue officer, was sent to take the charge as a political agent and since then the area has been governed by Pakistan through the Kashmir and Northern Affair Ministry in Islamabad.
An Advisory Council for Gilgit Baltistan was created with 14 elected members in 1970 to instil the sense of participation in the affairs among the people and later in 1975 it was re-named as the Northern Area Council and again in 1999 renamed as the Northern Areas Legislative Council consisting of 24 elected members with five reserved seats for women, with limited powers to legislate only 49 subjects.
The existing administrative-legislative and the judicial set-up in the region lacks complete autonomy and the state has never been inducted as an integral part of Pakistan. The Pakistani Constitution does not categorically mention the relationship between the Pakistan government and Northern Areas in its Northern Areas Legal Frame Work Order 1994 and the key bureaucratic positions are held by the Pakistanis under the direct control of the Kashmir and Northern Affairs Ministry.
The people criticised the force commander of the Northern Areas, a major general of the Pakistani Army, for his involvement in the affairs of the region.
The region has no popular assembly but was ruled through the federal ministry, and for this reason the people feel deprived of their basic rights, especially because they cannot choose their representatives.
The people were also not even given their fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and association.
The accountability laws made by the Pakistan government were applicable in the region but a proper judicial system was missing.
Law and order in the region is lamentable. Criminals take refuge in the area and the government can do too little to catch those who harbour them. In the recent past, an alleged killer of Mulana Azam Tariq was arrested in Gilgit.