NOTWITHSTANDING Kashmiri leaders' criticism of the grant of full internal autonomy to the Northern Areas, which are now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan, one would like to endorse the move. The decision, that remains short of granting the areas provincial status, in line with the long-standing demand of the local people, is also consistent with the requirement of decentralisation. However, it is necessary that the reservations expressed by certain circles (as, for instance, by Azad Kashmir's former Prime Minister Sardar Atiq Ahmed Khan) about these areas' future status in the Kashmir dispute must be kept in mind, and the government should make it clear that the change would not in any way affect that status. Nevertheless, whether the critics' concerns are justified or not, one thing is quite obvious and that is that the decision would be greatly welcomed by the local people. It would facilitate the execution of development works there as well as solution of the locally felt problems, and for these reasons should be appreciated. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, while briefing the media on Saturday about the unanimous approval of the federal cabinet of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Ordinance 2009, said that it was based on the recommendations of a high-powered committee constituted with the mandate of preparing a reform package for the Northern Areas. The ordinance now awaits the final consent of the President. Later, the Prime Minister also met the Northern Areas Council and notables of the areas. Mr Gilani spelled out some of the salient features of the ordinance: elections to the legislative assembly and the chief minister coming November, composition of the assembly, appointment of the acting governor, etc. Somehow, the decision is not to the liking of certain political parties, though major parties, the PPP, PML(N) and MQM, have welcomed it and the PML(Q) has pointed to certain 'shortcomings' in the Ordinance and has regretted that it falls short of the local people's expectations. One would have wished that those critics, who termed the move a "gimmickry of words", had waited for it to be put into effect to see whether it means local autonomy in the real sense of the word. Unfortunately though, the ordinance reflects the government's tendency to govern through fiats. It would help the cause of democracy to understand that it would have been far better had a decision of such a far-reaching nature not been taken through an ordinance. It should have been brought before Parliament and thoroughly debated, consistent with democratic norms. That would have also helped iron out differences among the various parties and produced better legislation.