Gilgit-Batistan previously known as the Northern Areas is a region governed by Pakistan as an administrative territory. This has been the subject of a dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947 and between India and China from somewhat later. It is the northernmost territory controlled by Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is part of the greater Kashmir region, which is the subject of a long-running altercation between Pakistan and India. Gilgit-Baltistan is six times the extent of Azad Kashmir. The territory also borders Indian-controlled union territories Jammu and Kashmir union territory and Ladakh to the south and is disconnected from it by the Line of Control.
The territory of present-day Gilgit-Baltistan became a separate controlled unit in 1970 under the name “Northern Areas”. It was established by the combination of the past Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan district and several small former princely states, the larger of which being Hunza and Nagar. In 2009, it was granted restricted autonomy and renamed to Gilgit-Baltistan via the Self-Governance Order. A large number of the population of Gilgit-Baltistan wants to be merged into Pakistan as a separate fifth province. Gilgit-Baltistan capital city is Gilgit. Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the Polar Regions are in Gilgit-Baltistan. The tourism activities are trekking and mountaineering, and this industry is growing substantially.
The benefit of Pakistan lies in free, fair and honest elections in Gilgit Baltistan. Pakistan cannot afford to have any political confusion dispute in Gilgit Baltistan which has already become a turning point in the region and many countries are seeing it to get benefit. Gilgit Baltistan acquired great significance in the region owing to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for the country. Gilgit Baltistan was a tender area and a breaking point in the region as the enemies were looking for excuses to spoil the law and order situation. Earlier the Pakistan Peoples Party had assured Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in a recent meeting that they would support the move to grant temporary provincial position to Gilgit-Baltistan, the leaders of both the opposition parties said that an understanding had been reached at the meeting that the issue would be taken up and discussed after the elections in Gilgit Baltistan. Gen Bajwa had left it on the country’s political leadership to decide the timing of the execution of the decision about change in the GB’s constitutional position. On the request of the opposition parties that the government had agreed to start the process of consultations on the suggestion to convert the Gilgit Baltistan into a province after the elections in the area, as the opposition think that if such a move was started now then the PTI could take political benefit of it in the approaching elections.
It is observed that the government and the opposition have reached a scarce agreement the question of Gilgit-Baltistan’s status. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have long demanded they be taken out of trouble in which they have been caught since 1947 because of the Kashmir dispute. Since Gilgit-Baltistan was part of the historical state of Jammu and Kashmir, the region remained captive to the trouble of the Kashmir dispute pending a resolution of the quarrel. This state of trouble had long made poor the people of Gilgit-Baltistan of any of the rights normally anticipated for the citizens of a modern state. Of late, the issue has assumed greater importance because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the geopolitics surrounding the project, given that Gilgit-Baltistan lies in the path of CPEC. It would therefore be a matter of comfortable action for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan that the government and opposition have assembled on the issue of making Gilgit-Baltistan the fifth province of Pakistan, a long demand of the people of the region.
The agreement still displays differences on the timing and method to be pursued for translating this aspiration into reality. For one, the five-year term of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly and with it the tenure of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government ended on June 24, 2020. Elections to 24 general seats of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly were to be held on August 18, 2020, but had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now that the elections are planned for later this year, the meeting between a government and opposition team some weeks ago in Islamabad attained a ‘near-consensus’ on granting a provisional provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan while agreeing to hold more consultations on the issue after the Legislative Assembly elections. This was pressure on by the opposition because any move to change the position of Gilgit-Baltistan before the elections would be read as pre-poll rigging. It should be mentioned that the confusing manner in which India has annexed Indian Held Kashmir last year was a trouble to a peaceful solution to the dispute
The close – agreement of the government and opposition was taken to a following meeting with COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, where he last threw the blame into the politicians’ court and told them to sort out between themselves the matter of making Gilgit-Baltistan the fifth Pakistani province either before or after the Legislative Assembly elections. On the other hand the military desires the politicians from both sides of the political divide to take responsibility for the fate of Gilgit-Baltistan; one cannot help astonishing whether such a happy outcome is possible in the anger atmosphere between the government and the opposition. Pakistan People’s Party’s Senator has delivered a timely reminder of the fact that any such change of status for Gilgit-Baltistan to the fifth province of Pakistan would require a constitutional amendment that cannot be done without a sixty six percent majority in parliament.