By Sajjad Hussain
Islamabad, May 17 (PTI) Pakistan President Arif Alvi has promulgated an order to form a caretaker government as well as to conduct elections in Gilgit-Baltistan province, a move strongly opposed by India.
The presidential promulgation came days after the Pakistan Supreme Court on April 30 allowed the federal government to amend a 2018 administrative order to conduct general elections in the region.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018 provided for administrative changes, including authorising the Prime Minister of Pakistan to legislate on an array of subjects.
India has conveyed its strong protest to Islamabad for its efforts to bring "material change" to territories under its "illegal and forcible" occupation after the apex court allowed holding of elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in Delhi said a demarche was issued to a senior Pakistani diplomat lodging a strong protest over the court ruling and clearly conveying that the entire union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of India.
According to a notification issued by the federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan on Saturday, President Alvi promulgated the "Gilgit-Baltistan Election and Caretaker Amendment Order, 2020" to conduct transparent elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly will complete its five-year tenure on June 24.
The presidential order said it was necessary to provide for the adoption of laws to install a caretaker government in Gilgit-Baltistan for conducting a fair and transparent election.
According to a Dawn newspaper report, president of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party president for Gilgit-Baltistan, Syed Jaffar Shah, said there was no provision for forming a caretaker government in the region and this difficulty has been removed after the presidential order.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly polls would be conducted on time and the caretaker government would arrange elections within two months, he said, adding that there is a law to extend the tenure of the caretaker government in special circumstances.
In reply to a question, Shah said the COVID-19 situation would not be a hurdle in the election process. However, special arrangements would be made to conduct elections in these circumstances.
The Pakistan government this week also signed a whopping Rs 442 billion contract with a joint venture of a Chinese state-run firm and a commercial arm of Pakistan's powerful military for construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam in Gilgit-Baltistan.
India on Thursday took strong note of Pakistan awarding the mega contract to build the dam, saying carrying out of such projects in territories under Pakistan's illegal occupation was not proper. PTI SH SCY SCY