Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court has reserved its verdict in a case regarding the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) in Pakistan and the grant of fundamental rights to its residents. A seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar on Monday took up a set of petitions challenging the ‘Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018’, ‘Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009’, as well as the right of the citizens of the area to be governed through their chosen representatives, the Dawn reported. The Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018 was earlier opposed by protesters from the region who demanded that the area should be declared a part of Pakistan instead of being administered through presidential orders.
Pakistan has bifurcated occupied Kashmir into two administrative parts – Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Gilgit-Baltistan was treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan till now. Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh are the four provinces of Pakistan. India has termed as “entirely unacceptable” any possible attempt by Pakistan to declare the Gilgit-Baltistan region as the fifth province. India has also protested to China over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which goes through Gilgit-Baltistan region. It is believed that China’s concerns about the unsettled status of Gilgit-Baltistan prompted Pakistan to change its status. The federal government’s proposed reforms draft states that it intends to grant the region the status of a provisional province, “subject to the decision of the plebiscite to be conducted under the UN resolutions”, with all privileges provided by the Constitution. However, the draft states, the move would require an amendment in the Constitution.