India has rejected Pakistan's move of granting provincial status to what the latter recognises as Gilgit Baltistan on an interim basis. Currently, the administration of Gilgit Baltistan is an autonomous territory, governed mostly through capital Islamabad. India claims these territories as a part of a Union Territory of Ladakh and formerly a part of Jammu and Kashmir when it was a state.
"The Government of Pakistan has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it. Such attempts by Pakistan, intended to camouflage its illegal occupation, cannot hide the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom for over seven decades to the people residing in these Pakistan occupied territories", said the Ministry of External Affairs through its spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.
On Sunday, in a rally in the city of Gilgit, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that he would be grant provincial status to the region, keeping various United Nations Security Council resolutions into account.This would make Gilgit Baltistan the fifth province of Pakistan after Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Punkhtunkhwa and Balochistan. It would no longer be autonomous territory, leaving only a small enclave - what it calls Azad Kashmir - with this status. India claims this too as a part of Jammu and Kashmir.
As a full province, Gilgit Baltistan would be able send representatives to Pakistan's National Assembly (lower house of Parliament) and the Senate (upper House of Parliament). It would also gain federal powers enjoyed by a province.There is no time frame for the implementation of this announcement, which would require an amendment to the Pakistani Constitution.
This move, according to Khan, is a response to demands for provincial status for the region. This reorganization follows the abrogation of article 370 on the Indian side, that converted the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. Incidentally, this move also follows how Saudi Arabia depicted the region on a 20 riyal banknote put into circulation on October 25, showing it as an independent region.
This announcement, however, is not without opposition. Protests have erupted across Pakistan in the run up to this announcement as opponents to the move accuse Pakistan of alienation and exploiting the region for its resources. They also demanded the release of political prisoners.
The province of Gilgit Baltistan will be a geographical conduit to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that starts from the Chinese city of Kashgar to the Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. Announced in 2014, the CPEC would be a gateway to $62 billion worth of projects valued as of this year. Protestors also accuse the government of changing Gilgit Baltistan's status to facilitate Chinese strategic interests in the region. In the first half of October, protestors against this move blocked the Karakoram Highway connecting Pakistan and China.
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