The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have long awaited an order which empowers its legislative assembly, and its judiciary, so that the power to make on-ground and autonomous reforms lies in the hand of the people. The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Order 2018 was the Act, worked on for three years, which would finally give GB the sovereignty and dignity that other provinces have, but it has tragically fallen short.

The Act has some redeeming features. It has annulled the powerful GB council and instead empowered the GB legislative assembly; all powers exercised by the GB council, including passing legislation regarding mineral, hydropower and tourism sectors, have been shifted to the GB Assembly. However, these reforms appear superficial and translucent when one considers the fact that all these provisions have been set with the condition that the Prime Minister can abate or terminate any decisions of the legislative assembly. Article 58 of the Act allows the PM to adopt any new laws or levy any taxes as he may, without approval from the assembly, an extraordinary power that the PM does not have in other provinces.

The Act had been hoped to empower the judiciary of GB, and make it more representative of the people. Unfortunately it fails on that count too. The Act unfairly bars the chances of people of GB representing in the Supreme Appellate Court (SAC), and again gives a lot of power to the PM in making the appointment of the judges. Article 70 of the Act stipulates that only previous SC judges may be appointed Chief Justice of the SAC. These changes are particularly damaging when one considers the recent tumultuous events that have occurred, like the poor treatment of protestors from the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) in Aliabad, and the unfair arrest of LPP activist Baba Jan Hunzai, all of which require good, empathic, GB centric judicial activism.