Northern Areas named at last!

The government is all set to approve the renaming of the Northern Areas as Gilgit-Baltistan to be governed under self-rule, The News has learnt.

The federal cabinet is meeting here on Saturday with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the chair to take up one-point agenda — a new status for the Northern Areas with its proper name. “It’s a special cabinet session to discuss and approve a summary in this regard.”

Sources disclosed the Northern Areas, to be renamed as Gilgit-Baltistan, would have its own assembly (council) with 39 members. “No, not at all,” was the response of sources when asked whether the Northern Areas would be given the status of a province.

“The Northern Areas would be granted self rule on the pattern of Azad Jammu and Kashmir as proposed in the summary finalised in consultation with the authorities of these areas and in accordance with its resolutions,” the sources revealed. When asked about opposition from any quarters, the sources said every sitting minister had been consulted and their input had been formed part of the summary.

Under the summary, Gilgit-Baltistan would have its own election commission, commissioner and courts like the AJK. “Had the Northern Areas given the status of a province, there might be reaction from outside the borders.”

Asked about the procedure, the sources said the president of Pakistan had to give a final nod to the summary to be implemented in the form of a presidential order. “The Northern Areas fall under the direct jurisdiction of the president and, therefore, he (President Zardari) will issue an order after approval of the same by the federal cabinet.”

The Constitution provides that only the sitting president can issue a presidential order in case of the Northern Areas, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and other areas falling under the direct jurisdiction of the federation. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan confirmed that the Northern Areas were being given a new name.

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