Islamabad: The residents of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) are excited about the upcoming polls to be held on November 15 after the approval by President Dr. Arif Alvi.
Over a dozen political parties, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), will contest for 33 seats in the GB general elections. The polls were pending after the assembly completed its five-year tenure in June after which a caretaker government was formed. The political parties have demanded “free, fair and transparent elections in GB”.
The region is all geared up for elections in which more than 700,000 people are expected to cast votes. “The excitement is evident from the political activities and mass mobilization in the region by all mainstream political parties as well as independent candidates,” Yasir Hussain, a student of International Affairs and a GB resident, told Gulf News.
GB’s provincial status might be finally restored
Recently, the Pakistan government and the opposition reached a consensus on granting “provisional provincial status” to GB and agreed to deliberate on constitutional aspects after the GB elections. Minister Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs Ali Amin Gandapur shared with media that the prime minister is expected to soon visit the region and make the formal announcement in this regard after consultation with stakeholders. The provincial status with all constitutional rights would put an end to the decades-long deprivation and open up new avenues of development, he said.
Locals welcome the possible move
The significant step would fulfill the “long-standing demand of the people of GB”, locals said. “If PTI government accords GB the provincial status, it will be momentous for the people and the region that has been in constitutional limbo for more than 70 years”, said Yasir Hussain, former fellow at Stimson Center Washington DC. “The decision to make the strategic region fifth province of Pakistan at this crucial time appears to be a thoughtful step in the right direction. A de jure provincial status would offer people of GB representation in National Assembly and Senate. Such a move will address the political grievances.”
Altaf Ahmed, a resident of Gilgit city and head of a tour company, says the “full provincial status of GB would offer more job opportunities for the youth and pave the way for development under CPEC projects and business initiatives in the region.”
Current status of GB
The federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan currently holds much of the administrative power in the region. GB was granted a status similar to provinces and created its own provincial assembly with offices of governor and chief minister after 2009 Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order.
Significance of the region
The scenic region surrounded by snow-clad mountains is Pakistan’s key tourist destination that receives most foreign visitors than other parts of the country. The region’s significance has further elevated as $64 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a network of roads, railways, and pipelines, runs through the GB region in northern Pakistan.