Islamabad’s 24th attempt to give provincial status to PoK fails

Islamabad's 24th attempt to give provincial status to PoK fails

ISLAMABAD: Amid stiff opposition from the people, the Pakistan government withdrew the 15th Constitutional Amendment bill to the Interim Constitution of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), thus failing in its 24th attempt to provide provincial status to PoK.

The introduction of the bill led to massive protests and public meetings in all the ten districts of Pakistan-occupied region Protestors strongly objected to the Pakistan government’s plan to bring in the 15th amendment to fix the constitutional status of the region, reported Asian Lite International.

The protests against the 15th Amendment and oppressive taxes spread like wildfire across the area, calling the amendment a conspiracy to dilute the identity of PoK.

All those who oppose the government in PoK are labelled as traitors or agents and then put through a series of torture, humiliation, or jail.

The bill envisaged the establishment of a separate election commission for local bodies (LB), which was tabled by the government on August 13, 2022, with the backing of the Opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

While the AJK Assembly remained undecided, the people of the territory illegally occupied by Pakistan in 1947 protested vociferously against the attempt by Islamabad to take away their rights.

This amendment is purely related to the procedure of local elections. The bill was tabled by the Pakistan government on August 13, 2022, with the backing of the opposition PPP and PML-N. It is therefore significant that local media reports suggest that the proposed draft of the 15th amendment is much more than being related only to LB elections.

The Pakistan government’s plan is to bring in the 15th Constitutional Amendment that will transfer the financial and administrative powers of the local government to Islamabad.

According to a local media report, details revealed in the proposed draft of the 15th amendment show that the Kashmir Council will be revived which will include six members from the PoJK legislative assembly and seven from Pakistan. It will include the Prime Minister, Defense, and Foreign ministers of Pakistan and will be headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The Kashmir Council will have the power to collect taxes and present its own budget. Property worth Rs 80 billion in Pakistan which belongs to PoK will be brought under the Kashmir Property Council and PoK will have no powers over its sale or to preserve it.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan will have the right to directly appoint the Chief Justice, High and Supreme Court judges as well as the Chief Election Commissioner of PoK, and appointments made by the PM would not be allowed to be challenged in the courts.

All financial powers will be transferred from the government of PoK to Pakistan thus practically degrading PoK to the level of a provincial entity.

The new draft rules aimed to roll back the 13th amendment which had empowered local lawmakers to take major political and economic decisions without the approval of Islamabad.

A bandh was called at Muzaffarabad’s Gilani Chowk. All roads in the area were shut. Protests have been ongoing in areas such as Rawalakot, Bagh, Poonch, Muzaffarabad, and Neelum Valley, reported Asian Lite International.

Kashmiris have been long-suspicious about Islamabad’s intentions to exploit vast reserves of natural resources the region has.

There have been repeated allegations that the Pakistan state exploits the rich forest, mining, and water resources in PoK while the Kashmiri people do not get any benefit. (ANI)

Also Read: Will Gilgit-Baltistan become a new regional flashpoint?