Islamabad: In a move with far-reaching
implications, the Pakistan government today approved a
self-governance and reforms package for the Northern Areas,
renaming it as "Gilgit-Baltistan", part of Jammu and Kashmir
currently under Islamabad`s occupation.
The strategically located Northern Areas, which
borders the North West Frontier Province to the west,
Afghanistan and China to the north and Jammu and Kashmir to
the east, will have rights akin to those of Pakistan`s four
provinces, said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The "Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance
Order 2009", unveiled by Gilani at a news conference, is also
aimed at giving the Northern Areas "full internal autonomy"
and changing the region`s name to Gilgit-Baltistan.
The order will come into effect after President Asif
Ali Zardari formally ratifies it by issuing an official
Federal Minister Farooq Sattar told reporters
separately that elections will be held in the Northern Areas
in the next three months to install a government like the one
in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Sattar also said a cabinet committee will be
constituted to "remove hurdles for merging Gilgit-Baltistan
into Pakistan in accordance with the resolutions of the UN".
India says that the Northern Areas are part of its
territory as they were part of Jammu and Kashmir.