India says Pakistan has no legal basis to convert Gilgit-Baltistan region as fifth province


New Delhi: India on Thursday said that Pakistan has no legal basis to convert Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s Gilgit-Baltistan region as its fifth province and the action will be “void ab initio”.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava in response to a question said, “Any action by Pakistan to alter the status of the militarily occupied so-called “Gilgit-Baltistan” has no legal basis whatsoever and is totally void ab-initio.”

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Reiterating its “clear and consistent” position on PoK, the MEA spokesperson said, “The entire territories of the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been and are an integral part of India and would remain so. Pakistan has no locus standi to comment on India’s internal matters.”

Pakistan has announced that the once-postponed election for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan will be held on November 15, amidst India’s objection to Islamabad’s moves in the strategically-located region.

Hectic political activity is taking place in Pakistan over plans to make the area the country’s fifth province, other four being–Punjab, the most populated, Balochistan, the largest one, khyber Pakhtunkhwa bordering Afghanistan and southern Sindh province. 

On September 16, the Pakistani Army Chief Javed Bajwa and ISI DG Lt Gen Faiz Hameed had a meeting with opposition parties over the issue. 

According to news agency PTI, President Dr Arif Alvi issued an official notification on September 23 to fix the date of the elections in Gilgit-Baltistan. “The president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to announce Sunday, the 15th November 2020, as the poll day for the general elections to the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Legislative Assembly in terms of Section 57(1) of the Elections Act 2017,” the statement said.

India has told Pakistan that the entire union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of the country by virtue of its fully legal and irrevocable accession. India has said the Government of Pakistan or its judiciary has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it.

The polls in Gilgit-Baltistan were to be held on August 18, but the Election Commission on July 11 postponed them due to the coronavirus pandemic. Polling would be held on 24 general seats of the legislative assembly. The five-year term of the previous assembly had ended on June 24, bringing an end to the five-year rule of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

There are a total of 33 seats, but six are reserved for technocrats and three for women. The special seats are filled from nominations by the parties winning the polls according to their representation. The election date has been announced amidst reported consultations to elevate Gilgit-Baltistan’s status to that of a full-fledged province.

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