The elections for the Federally Administered Northern Areas, now known as Gilgit-Baltistan, have been conducted, with the expected victory for the PPP, but the giving of the area the status of a province, should not disguise the fact that the new 'province is not at par with the other provinces, got its status has been established by a presidential order, not by an amendment to the constitution which otherwise governs provinces. Also, it establishes a third province where there had previously been one Princely State. However, Gilgit-Baltistan is merely the continuing of the tradition whereby this area was administered separately from the state, and before partition had formed part of the Gilgit Agency, which had been leased for 60 years in 1935 from the Kashmir state, and was taken over by a Dogra Governor, representative of a dynasty that had been placed in charge by the British of Indias Northern Frontier, and to which the agency had reverted at partition. The area had been particularly troublesome ever since coming under the Dogras, and when the Dogras had come under the British, when it has formed the eastern end of the frontier with China. It was this presence of Chinese influence, and British suspicion of indirect Soviet influence, that made this area crucial, and prompted much British interest, not just in this area, but in Kashmir as a whole. It is not clear, and perhaps never will be, what was the intention of the Dogra Maharaja when he did not accede to Pakistan. However, whatever was to be the fate of the state, he clearly intended to take along the Gilgit Agency, now the Gilgit Wizarat, which could be seen by his dispatch of Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the Kashmir state forces, as its first post-lease governor, appointed by Srinagar without any intervention by the British resident. However, the representatives of the Kashmir state, the garrison, consisted entirely of Muslims, and thus, Ghansara Singh or no Ghansara Singh, decided to go over to Pakistan as soon as it came into existence on August 14, 1947. This they managed to do, and during the first Kashmir war, presented Pakistan with part of Kashmir state that had won freedom without having taken part in the freedom struggle in what is now Azad Kashmir, led by Sardar Qayyum, but which had waged its own freedom struggle. There was an agreement between the new Kashmiri 'free state, with its capital at Mirpur, and Pakistan, that the new Gilgit Agency would be administered by Pakistan through a political agent. This would continue the old British-era arrangement. However, that arrangement was what the rebellion had been against, and successive Pakistani constitutions preserved the status of the Federally Administered Areas, which formed part of the SAFRON Ministry, which included States, Frontier Regions and Northern Areas. It was sometimes, but not always, joined with the Kashmir Affairs Ministry. At present, the portfolio was held by Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, who became governor of the new 'province by virtue of his office. While the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, are governed by the Frontier Crimes Regulations, and are the cynosure of world attention because of the War on Terror, and non-Pakistani militants having allegedly taken refuge there, FANA has not drawn so much world attention. One reason why the PPP upgraded its status is because it was bound to win there. When last it had been in office, in 1993-6, it had introduced elected institutions to the Northern Areas, and had won the first elections. From that point of view, the present upgradation has been a logical progression. The Northern Areas were actually created under the Yahya regime, becoming needed when the princely states were abolished, as apart from the Gilgit Agency, the states of Hunza, Gilgit, Punial, Ishkuman and Yasin were also merged into it, and given a rather unimaginative name. However, there is the logical question of how this impacts overall on the Kashmir situation. The main question to be grappled with is whether there has been a substantive change in the status of Kashmir, and whether that change affects the resolutions before the UN Security Council, which call for a plebiscite to ascertain the will of the people of Kashmir. Perhaps most important is the fact that the present changes are in accordance with the will of the people of the area, and represent a temporary solution until the permanent one contained in the UN Resolutions. Then comes the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution, in force since 1974, which has not affected the Kashmir cause. Also, India has long brought the part of Jammu and Kashmir it holds into the Indian Union without affecting any of the parties to the dispute. If it is argued that the present action represents some sort of partition, it can be remembered that the giving of provincial status is probably what Pakistan has in mind when Kashmir is left to accede to it. Gilgit-Balistan does not have any representation in the other federal institutions, such as the Council of Common Interests and the National Finance Commission, where AJK is also unrepresented. The AJK president (not governor) is elected by a council which includes a sprinkling of Pakistanis, unlike Gilgit-Baltistan, where the minister, inevitably a Pakistani, will hold the office ex-officio. This might create an uncomfortable situation when there is a change of government in Islamabad, but not Gilgit, and the minister and the government belong to different parties, but if the AJK experience is anything to go by, the Gilgit-Baltistan government will try to follow Islamabad. That is another factor protecting the Pakistani stance on Kashmir. Then there is the issue of the level of interest of the UN itself. The level of pro-Indian sentiment shown by the rest of the world can only be explained by Indias being a much larger potential market, as well as its being a pagan civilisation which the West finds more compatible, indeed congenial, than Pakistan, a Muslim country. This sentiment has ensured that the Indian position on Kashmir finds more acceptance among the world community than Pakistans. However, if this sentiment was to change, and the world community forced India to let Kashmiris decide their own fate, then changes in status would not be allowed to matter. One example is Czechoslovakia, which came into being in 1918, out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but which in 1993 split into Czechia and Slovakia, after a referendum, and even though they had more linguistic and ethnic linkages than Kashmiris have with Indians. E-mail: maniazi@nation.com.pk