ISLAMABAD: The Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Khalid Khurshid, has circulated among members of the GB Legislative Assembly and his cabinet a bill to amend the Constitution of Pakistan to grant “status of provisional province” to the strategically located region, asking them to submit their “feedback and views”, Dawn has learned.
The Chief Minister wants comments from UK lawmakers ‘as soon as possible’, according to the cover letter entitled ‘Draft UK Constitutional Reforms’ attached to the Bill, a copy of which is available with Dawn.
The bill suggested a number of key amendments to the 1973 Constitution aimed at UK representation in the country’s National Assembly and Senate, in addition to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Through an amendment to Article 51 of the Constitution, the bill suggested that there should be four seats, including one reserved for a woman, from the UK to the National Assembly of Pakistan.
Government and opposition almost reached consensus in August last year
Another amendment suggested that there should be two members representing the GB on the general seats in the Senate of Pakistan who will be elected by the members of the GB provincial assembly.
The bill did not mention the number of seats for technocrats, women and minorities in the Senate, saying these still “have to be decided”.
The bill also suggested the conversion of the Supreme Court of Britain into the “High Court of Britain”, in addition to seeking the extension of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to the region.
“The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan shall extend to the Provisional Province of GB, the Supreme Court of Appeal of GB shall cease to function and the Main Court of GB shall be called the High Court of GB, which shall be deemed to have been established by the order of the President,” reads the bill, which further suggests that “the High Court of GB will have its principal seat in Gilgit.”
The bill also suggested the inclusion of a GB member in the ECP. At present, besides the Chief Electoral Commissioner, there are four members, one from each province, in the ECP and the Bill has suggested that there will be “five” members of the ECP after the inclusion of one from GB.
In the “explanation”, the bill suggests that “provided the Chief Electoral Commissioner of GB shall be deemed to be appointed as a member of the ECP by the President of Pakistan until the completion of the remainder of his term of Chief Electoral Commissioner of Go”.
The bill suggested that “until the establishment of the British Civil Service Commission, the Federal Civil Service Commission (of Pakistan) shall function as the Civil Service Commission for Great Britain”.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Law and Justice reportedly finalized the draft bill to grant interim provincial status to GB and submitted it to Prime Minister Imran Khan for approval in July last year. Despite heightened political tensions in the country, the government and opposition had come close to reaching a consensus on granting Britain interim provincial status in secret meetings ahead of Britain’s elections, which were held in August of last year.
Posted in Dawn, February 6, 2022