India’s sharp reaction after Pak announces poll date for Gilgit-Baltistan
New Delhi, Sep 25: Pakistan has announced that the once-postponed election for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan will be held on November 15, amidst India's strong objection to Islamabad's move to alter the status of the militarily-occupied region.
President Dr Arif Alvi issued an official notification on Wednesday 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.
Reacting to the development, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said in New Delhi said the Government of Pakistan or its judiciary has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it.
"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," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Anurag Srivastava said at a virtual media briefing.
Referring to statements by the Pakistani leadership on the issue, he said Pakistan has no locus standi to comment on India's internal matters.
"Our position has always been clear and consistent. 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," Srivastava said.
In a ruling earlier this year, the Pakistan Supreme Court allowed the government to amend a 2018 administrative order to conduct general elections in the region. The Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018 provided for administrative changes, including authorising the prime minister of Pakistan to legislate on an array of subjects.
Following the verdict, India issued a demarche to a senior Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi and lodged a strong protest over the Pakistan Supreme Court ruling.
India also clearly conveyed to 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.
The polls in Gilgit-Baltistan were to be held on August 18, but Pakistan's 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.
The issue was discussed in a meeting between the Opposition leaders and Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on September 16.