India Protest Against Pakistan Supreme Court Order on Polls in Gilgit Baltistan

India Warns Pakistan
Image: ANI

New Delhi: India on Monday protested against the Pakistan Supreme Court’s order last week allowing elections to be held in Gilgit Baltistan, by asserting that Pakistani institutions have “no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it”.

In line with the diplomatic protocol forced by guidelines on social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, a “strong protest” was registered by serving a démarche to the acting head of the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi through a phone call, as per sources.

On April 30, Pakistan’s apex court allowed the federal government’s application to amend the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018, to set up a caretaker government and conduct provincial assembly elections.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, India lodged a “strong protest” through the démarche, that “clearly conveyed that the entire Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of India by virtue of its fully legal and irrevocable accession”.

Asserting that Pakistan or its judiciary has “no locus standi” on these “illegally and forcibly occupied” territories, the statement noted:

“India completely rejects such actions and continued attempts to bring material changes in Pakistan occupied areas of the Indian territory of Jammu & Kashmir”.

Further, India asserted that Pakistan’s actions “can neither hide the illegal occupation of parts of Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom to the people residing in Pakistan occupied territories for the past seven decades”.

“Government of India’s position in the matter is reflected in the resolution passed by the Parliament in 1994 by consensus,” it added.

The Pakistani Supreme Court was approached by the Central government with the plea that the 2018 Order has no provision for appointment of a interim set up and holding assembly elections. The last elections in 2015 were held under Gilgit Baltistan Order of 2009.

The current term of the provincial government was scheduled to expire in June, with the current provisions providing a period of 60 days to hold an election.

In January 2019, Pakistan Supreme Court had explicitly extended its jurisdiction to Gilgit Baltistan in a written order on the province’s constitutional status.

India had also protested at that time, with the acting high commissioner Syed Haidar Shah summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs and personally given the protest note. This time, this was not possible considering the ongoing pandemic crisis.

The MEA statement last year had also made similar points that Pakistani supreme court had “no locus standi” and India rejected Pakistan’s efforts to make “material change” in Gilgit Baltistan.

India has always considered the whole of Kashmir as part of its own territory. In August 2019, India passed a constitutional amendment which removed the special autonomous status and truncated the state into two Union Territories, directly administered by the Central government.

In the fresh maps released in November 2019, the home ministry depicted Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) as part of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Gilgit Baltistan was put in the Union Territory of Ladakh.

Despite the pandemic situation, the two South Asian countries have continued to verbally spar and also exchange cross border firing over the line of control.

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, Pakistan had highlighted the state of journalists in Kashmir, many of them facing police cases. Pakistan’s state of media freedom state is, however, not exemplary, with many journalists forced to go into exile and worse.