Senior jurists of the country have claimed that there is no harm to Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir if Gilgit-Baltistan is made the fifth province of the country, in an effort to “to comfort people of that part and enable them to appoint their own judges, bureaucracy.” Kashmiri leaders are in an uproar and argue that such a step would amount to bartering the rights of the Kashmiri people. Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has criticised the movement by calling Gilgit-Baltistan an integral part of Jammu and Kashmir and terming the plan a “violation of the UN resolutions” on Kashmir. He also called it a “betrayal” of Kashmir by Pakistan. But, what do the people of Gilgit-Baltistan want? Is it for them to decide, or for the rest of the Kashmiri leadership?

The provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan is not likely to entail any negative implications; rather it will go in favour of the people of the region who are still looking for a legal footing for their identification. We can absorb it through a constitutional amendment to give rights to the people of that part, who hitherto are looking for their identity. But the situation is not as simple. By saying that we have the authority to make GB part of our country, are we giving India the same regarding Kashmir? We have made this a matter of our internal sovereignty, but are not thinking about any boundaries that we might be crossing- especially with a neighbour that vehemently is trying to occupy Kashmir.

But the key here is the idea of a plebiscite to determine the outcome. If we believe in the rights of the Kashmiri people, to self-determination, then there is scope for GB to decide. What is in our favour is that they will not and cannot decide to be a separate nation-state; it is either Pakistan or nothing. For the rest of Kashmir, the choices are not the same. The Hurriyat wants independence for Kashmir, not accession to Pakistan. They only stand to lose territory. The Pakistani state can either maintain status quo, or gain territory at the cost of alienating Kashmiri leadership. But where will those like the Hurriyat go? They have fought a life long struggle against Indian occupation, especially since the domination of the India friendly National Conference. Can they afford to be too angry for too long?

To be cautious, until a referendum is held in the entire state under the supervision of the UN, no decision should be taken. We might be not be violating any constitutional limits, but what we are pushing a long history of resentment and animosity with a country that is just waiting for any opportunity to use our indiscretions against us. Yet, this may also be a way forward- for better or for worse.