Mr. Inam ul Haq, former Foreign Minister, while commenting on the topic said that it is only in the ambit of the UN Security Council that Pakistan can stand internationally on Kashmir, although he believed giving greater autonomy does not weaken Pakistan's case internationally. He said that there is a need to encourage a wider debate on the constitutional arrangements regarding AJK and GB.
Mr. Ghulam Abbas, Editor Daily K2, said that UN Security Council doesn’t deny fundamental rights to the people of AJK and GB therefore these constitutional amendments should be considered. Federal Government needs to be shaken out of its apathy towards current insufficient constitutional status of AJK and GB and carry out reforms for enhancing citizens rights and representation within federal structure.
Ms. Amina Ansari, member Gilgil Baltistan Legislative Assembly, said that people of G-B are part of Pakistan who voluntarily joined Pakistan after liberating it. GB has its own distinct identity which should be recognised and respected.
Sardar Mohammad Anwar, former President of AJK, was of the view that Gilgit Baltistan is a part of the larger Kashmir under UN resolution. GB has never had a political system in place. Our contention was that giving provincial status to GB would lead to complications. He said that people of AJK voluntarily declared themselves to be a disputed territory so as to keep the claim alive on the Indian held Kashmir.
Mr. Haroon Khalid, politician from GB, commented that Gilgilt Baltistan is strategically most important part of Pakistan; therefore this region should be given its due importance.
Dr. Riffat Hussain, chairman Defence and Strategic Studies Dept. QAU, was of the view that any effort to empower people of AJK and GB would undermine India’s stance against us of not giving rights to those areas. He said that autonomy to these areas can not be achieved unless constitutional provisions are enforced in letter and spirit.
Mr. Khalid Sultan, former Chief Secretary AJK, said that the only way to protect the rights of AJK and GB is through amendments in the constitution.
Most of the grievances of AJK emanate from the role of AJK Council which needs to be reviewed, said Ms. Nasim Zehra, analyst. She welcomed the deliberations facilitated by PILDAT and believed greater public discourse is needed before introducing reforms.
Sardar Khalid Ibrahim, politician, was of the view that the spirit of the proposed amendments is not questioned but its timing is not appropriate and it will be harmful for Kashmir cause internationally.
Earlier, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director PILDAT, while introducing the forum, said that there is a need to discuss constitutional status of AJ&K and G-B region before it explodes into a crisis. PILDAT's objective behind facilitating this discussion is to initiate a much-needed informed discourse on the need for reforms in the constitutional arrangement for AJK and GB.
A PILDAT Discussion Paper on the Proposed Constitutional Amendments in the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 for Empowerment as Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan authored by Justice (Retd.) Manzoor Hussain Gillani was circulated to participants ahead of the legislative forum and can be accessed here.
The PILDAT Legislative Forum has been organized under project titled Electoral and Parliamentary Process and Civil Society in Pakistan, in partnership with the East-West Centre, Hawaii and supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund.