The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan carried out a special study of the situation in the NA in 1993. The results of this study were published in its monthly newsletter for January,1994. The study said inter alia:
"The Government of Pakistan governs the NA through the Kashmir and Northern Areas Division (KANA). Authority behind KANA has remained vague. The executive head is the Chief Commissioner appointed by KANA and only answerable to it. The place is totally under bureaucratic rule. There is no industry in NA."
" The Judicial Commissioner does not have any writ jurisdiction, and, as the people of the NA do not have any fundamental rights, the Judicial Commissioner does not have any jurisdiction to enforce them."
"The Judicial Commissioner has no say in the appointments and transfers of subordinate court judges, which are done by the KANA Division."
" The people of the NA have no say in what laws should govern them. The KANA Division exercises the powers of the provincial Government for the NA and by notification extends laws of Pakistan and such amendments as it thinks fit to the NA. Entrusting such absolute legislative powers to a Government functionary is not without its share of hardships."
"By a notification, Order 39 of the Civil Procedure Code was amended taking away the powers of the civil courts to grant temporary injunctions against the Government, thus making most of the cases against the Government meaningless. By another notification, the Speedy Trials Courts Act,1992, was made applicable to the NA, with the amendment that in appeal from the trial court, any differences of opinion between the two Judges of the Appellate Court will be settled by the Chairman of the court. Such arbitrary application of law is particularly unfair because not only do the people have no forum to protest against or amed these laws, but also because the courts have no writ jurisdiction nor the people any fundamental rights. Thus, such laws cannot be tested for their legality and reasonableness for violation of fundamental rights."
"The Northern Areas Council is headed by the Minister of KANA and meets whenever called by the Minister. The members cannot convene a meeting. The orders require that a meeting of the Council should be called every two and a half months, but, in practice, the Minister at times does not convene one for months. The Council, in any case, has no power. It cannot form a government, cannot legislate and has no say in the administration. It cannot suggest development schemes. The main function of the Councillors, as a cynic said, is receiving dignitaries from Pakistan."
" The police in the NA has no prosecution or crime branch nor a forensic laboratory. No newspaper is published within the NA. There are a few local language weeklies and monthlies, but they are printed elsewhere."
" The Sunni and Shia communities in Gilgit had lived harmoniously for centuries. It is not easy to say when the trouble started, but it reached its climax in the killings of 1988. Some people suspect that the administration started it up after the political upheaval in Pakistan of 1970 and 1971 to take the minds of the people off political issues. It has even given rise to the occasional rumour that the Government itself pays the ulema to start the clashes. With very low literacy, extreme poverty and no organised political activity, it is not surprising that the ulema had acquired such a strong hold over the people. No judicial enquiry has been held into the clashes of 1992 and no compensation paid to the heirs of the persons killed or for properties damaged."
2. In its summing-up, the study stated as follows:
The people of the NA have no say in who governs them.
The democratic rights of the people have been tied to a cause.
A Pakistani civil servant legislates for the NA and influences all the executive and judicial acts.
Sometimes arbitrary laws are applied, while important ones are not extended, according to convenience.
The NA Council, the highest elective body in the NA, has no legislative powers at all.
The Judicial Commissioner and the subordinate courts are not free.
The people have no fundamental rights whatsoever.
Executive acts, however arbitrary, cannot be judicially reviewed.
The Election Commissioner is not independent and is vulnerable to pressures.
The administration has failed to control sectarian clashes due to mismanagement and acquiescence to pressures. (17-9-09)
To be continued
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )