The Fifth Province

Army troops have been deployed in all districts of Gilgit-Baltistan for the maintenance of peace and security in the upcoming elections for the region’s Legislative Assembly, which have unfortunately rubbed India the wrong way. India has described the scheduled polls in Gilgit-Baltistan as an attempt by Pakistan to “camouflage” its “forcible and illegal occupation” of part of Jammu and Kashmir. With this ridiculously entitled attitude, soon India will be laying claims to Islamabad and Lahore. High-time to integrate Gilgit-Baltistan and the tribal areas into Pakistan for good, no? Islamabad High Court has issued notices to the Ministries of Law and Justice, Kashmir and Northern Areas Affairs and Secretary Cabinet Division on a petition filed to designate Gilgit-Baltistan a fifth province. What will India do if it gets whiff of this? In 2010, when Gilgit-Baltistan CM said it was now the “fifth province” of Pakistan, the India had “reminded” it that it was part of Jammu and Kashmir. But India is far away, and the idea of a fifth province has currency in Pakistan.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir are an integral part of Pakistan’s commercial and economic markets without any border controls. Sost, a busy trading post for trade with China is located in Gilgit-Baltistan and the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project is being built on the confluence of two rivers in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. In the upcoming elections, Pakistani parties will contest the elections. India’s claims are weak just in the light of this social and economic integration.
Pakistan’s constitution does not mention Azad Jammu and Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan, even though residents of the two regions are subjected to all taxes — including income tax, which all Pakistani citizens have to pay. However, the in the Constitution the territorial limits also include “such states and territories” that are already included in Pakistan “whether by accession or otherwise”. Political leaders in Gilgit-Balistan have been demanding for decades that their region be integrated into Pakistan, but Islamabad has resisted. The integration may give the signal that we have accepted the de facto division of Kashmir and might weaken our claim on the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir. The Constitution, however, provides that Pakistan’s geographical limits are not final yet and new areas can be joined “whether by accession or otherwise”.

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