By Sajjad Hussain
Islamabad, May 17 (PTI) Pakistani President Arif Alvi has announced an order to form an interim government and also to hold elections in Gilgit-Baltistan province, a move strongly opposed by India.
The presidential invitation comes days after the Pakistani Supreme Court on April 30 permits the federal government to change the 2018 administrative order to hold elections in the region.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Order in 2018 provided administrative changes, including authorizing the Prime Minister of Pakistan to make laws on various matters.
India has expressed its strong protest to Islamabad over its efforts to bring “material changes” to the territories under its “illegal and forced” occupation after the top court allowed elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in Delhi said the demarcation was issued to a senior Pakistani diplomat who lodged strong protests over the court’s ruling and clearly stated that the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the Gilgit and Baltistan areas, was an integral part from India.
According to a notice issued by the Federal Ministry of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs on Saturday, President Alvi announced the “Gilgit-Baltistan Election and Management Changes Affairs, 2020” to hold transparent elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly will complete a five-year term on June 24.
The presidential order said it was necessary to provide for the adoption of a law to install an interim government in Gilgit-Baltistan to conduct fair and transparent elections.
According to the newspaper report Dawn, the president of Pakistan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party in power for Gilgit-Baltistan, Syed Jaffar Shah, said there were no provisions for forming a provisional government in the region and this difficulty had been removed after the president’s order.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly poll will be carried out on time and the caretaker government will arrange elections within two months, he said, adding that there are laws to extend the term of office of the interim government in special situations.
In answering the question, Shah said the situation of COVID-19 would not be an obstacle in the selection process. However, special arrangements will be made to make the election under these circumstances.
The Pakistani government this week also signed a contract valued at Rs 442 billion with a joint venture of a Chinese state-run company and a powerful Pakistani commercial arm for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam in Gilgit-Baltistan.
India on Thursday strongly noted that Pakistan gave large contracts to build dams, saying carrying out such projects in areas under Pakistan’s illegal occupation was inappropriate. PTI SH SCY SCY
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