Kashmir: Centre to rejig rights panel for GB, AJK

Kashmir: Centre to rejig rights panel for GB, AJK

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ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to re-constitute the panel for granting rights to Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir as the previous panel headed by Sartaj Aziz ceased to function after his portfolio was changed, the ministry for Kashmir Affairs informed the Senate on Monday.

A number of bills were tabled as private member bills, including one that proposed changes in Article 63A to delete a clause inserted in the 18th Amendment in the Constitution which empowered party leaders to de-seat any legislator who votes against the policy of the party head.

Most items on the day’s heavy agenda, 88 in all, were disposed of, except for a motion moved by members of the opposition for removing SECP chairman Zafar Hijazi from service who is facing court cases for allegedly fudging documents.

There was a discord between chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani and leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan, on certain legal points. The two agreed to defer it for a day.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, through a motion, broached the subject of the legal status of Gilgit-Baltistan and said that keeping the status quo in Gilgit-Baltistan was no longer in the national interest and proposed that its people be given representation in the Senate and the National Assembly, as available to FATA, as well as a share in the NFC Award.

If coercive laws – such as military courts and anti-terror laws – could be extended by Islamabad with the stroke of a pen, there was no reason why laws relating to human rights could not be extended to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, he added.

He said that objection that reforms in Gilgit-Baltistan would undermine the state’s position on the Kashmir dispute was spurious. If the territory was really disputed, how could CPEC projects pass through there and how the Bhasha dam project could be planned.

Barjis Tahir, the minister for Kashmir and GB, said a panel headed by Sartaj Aziz was working on legal and constitutional reforms for the area. It had completed work for GB and submitted its report to the former prime minister last month.

But, the former premier wanted to give same rights to the people of Azad Kashmir as well. A meeting with relevant stakeholders, including the AJK Prime Minister and GB chief minister, was due to be held on July 28, the day Sharif got disqualified.

After the new Prime Minister was elected, portfolios of some ministers were changed, including the one held by Sartaj Aziz. He said that the new panel would soon be constituted which would resume work where it was left off. However, he did not give a specific timeframe in this regard.

Senators from both sides of the political divide appreciated Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for attending the session. Abbasi offered his help to improve coordination between the Senate and the government.

Citing rule 61 of Senate rules, the Senate chairman said that Prime Minister should attend Senate sessions at least once a week.

The Senate also held a discussion on a motion on position of hunger in Pakistan with particular reference to recently issued Global Hunger Index, which ranked Pakistan amongst 11 most hunger-stricken countries in the world.

Senator Sherry Rehman regretted that the government did not intend to provide relief to the public or pay attention to real issues of the people, including power outages, water security or the entitlement to food.

The Senator said: “It is shocking that no funds have so far been released for ‘Energy for All’ and ‘Clean Drinking Water for All’ initiatives.

“It is tragic that we (the PPP government) left a wheat secure country in 2013, and that too has been allowed to slide.”__Tribune.com

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