ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday permitted the federal government to issue a presidential order for appointing the interim Chief Minister in order to hold elections in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).

A seven-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed, conducted the hearing of the federation’s petition to allow it to make necessary amendments in the Government of GB Order, 2018 to establish a caretaker setup in the region and conduct the provincial assembly elections.

During the hearing Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed informed the court that as of today the prevalent law in the province is GB Order 2018, adding however, there is no provision in the Order for holding GB Assembly election and appointment of an interim setup. He said that the last elections of Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly were held in 2015 under GB Order, 2009.

Advocate General GB Muhammad Iqbal appeared before the bench and argued that the terms of the GB Assembly are expiring on June 24, 2020. Hence there is urgency to provide a legal mechanism for holding elections, including setting up the caretaker government.

Salman Akram Raja, representing Dr Ghulam Abbas, who in 2018 had filed the petition before the apex court against the Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan, said that Article 54(5) of Proposed Order, 2019, caters to the present situation (GB elections and interim chief minister).

He stated that despite 15 months the federal government has not implemented the judgment which had directed it to promulgate the Proposed Order.

The Supreme Court on January 17, 2019 had passed a judgment directing the federal government to promulgate the Proposed Order pertaining to the status, authority and powers of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). However, the PTI despite the lapse of one year and three months have not implemented the Proposed Order, 2019.

 

Article 56(5) of the Proposed Order, 2019 states; on dissolution of Assembly on completion of its term, or in case it was dissolved under Article 62 of Proposed Order 2019, the Chairman of the GB Council shall appoint a caretaker cabinet. The caretaker Chief Minister shall be selected by the Chairman of the Council in consultation with the Chief Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing Assembly and the Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan. In case the Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition and the Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan do not agree on any person to be appointed interim Chief Minister, then the Chairman of the Council may appoint on his discretion caretaker chief minister.

 

The Chief Justice observed that without addition or subtraction if the federal government holds the election under the relevant provision of the Proposed Order, 2019 then it will cater the present situation [GB election]. The bench allowing the federation petition said that the Presidential Order could be issued for holding of elections and the interim setup, while the other issues of the petition will be heard at the later stage.