The value of Gilgit Baltistan is important to Pakistan, China, India, and the United States due to its strategic location. By 1880s the Russians had advanced in Central Asia and were pressing the river Oxus and Pamirs. Britishers were desperate to make sure that this part of the border was clear so that the Russians could not sneak down to through Pamirs Mountains into Chitral and Gilgit.A Russian captain Gromchevtasky entered Hunza through Pamir and his presence was taken as the start of the great game.The location of Gilgit was important for the defence of the British Empire; therefore, Gilgit was made an agency in 1889 under Colonel Algernon Durand. In 1935, British leased Gilgit subdivision from Kashmir. According to June 1947 partition plan, the Britishers handed over entire Gilgit agency to the Maharaja contrary to the wishes of the people of the area as the entire population of Gilgit was pro Pakistan. On the independence of Pakistan, slogans in the favour of Pakistan were written on the building in the Gilgit bazaar, slogans like “Pakistan Zindabad”, “Hindustan Murdabad” “Kashmir ka Maharaja Murdabad”. According to Major William Brown (Commandant Gilgit Scouts), even slogans were written on the Governor House gate. The local officers of Gilgit Scouts under Babar Khan conveyed to William Brown that they are planning to stage a revolution in favour of Pakistan. The plan was executed and Governor Ghansara Singh surrendered to Gilgit Scouts and Pakistan flag was raised.According to William Brown, the first important meeting was held in Rawalpindi under Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and it was decided that the entire territory of Gilgit Agency be held by Pakistan at all costs against possible invasion by Indian army. The people of Gilgit Baltistan with the help of Gilgit Scouts and Muslim officers of 6th Jammu and Kashmir liberated entire Gilgit Baltistan and joined Pakistan unconditional. Prime Minister enjoys powers in Gilgit Baltistan as he cannot enjoy the same in other provincesThe status of Gilgit Baltistan was kept disputed as both Pakistan and India went to UN to conduct a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan was also included in it to get votes in favour of Pakistan. Ironically, Gilgit Baltistan also remained under FCR and that was very difficult time for the people of Gilgit Baltistan.On 6 April 1948, Gilgit Agency was placed under the resident of the NWFP and it was in 1949 through Karachi agreement that the administration of Gilgit Baltistan was transferred to Pakistan and a separate ministry of Kashmir affairs was created. However, in this agreement, there was no representation from Gilgit agency. The successive government introduced different reforms like Northern Area Council 1970, Legal Framework order 1947, Northern Area Council Legal Framework order 1994, and Supreme Court order 1999 to bring the people of the area to the mainstream. In this regard, the major steps were taken in 2009 when Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order-2009 was introduced. Northern Areas was renamed as Gilgit Baltistan, a long-standing demand of the people. A province like status was created with Chief Minister and Governor in office. On this, India lodged a protest that entire Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India and by virtue of its accession in 1947. In Feb 2018 in a historic move, the Prime Minister of Pakistan announced annulment of Gilgit Baltistan Council which was created through 2009 Empowerment Order. The Gilgit Baltistan Council comprised 15 members as the majority of members were from the federal government and Prime Minister was the chairman of the council.In this decision, all the powers exercised by the Gilgit Baltistan Council are transferred to Gilgit Baltistan legislative Assembly making it powerful. The government was to announce the new reforms within a week of its announcement; however, it took considerable time to do so. The delay indeed created rumours and confusion which resulted into the passing of a unanimous resolution by Gilgit Baltistan Assembly for sharing the recommendations of Sartaj Aziz Committee which was formed on 29 October 2015 to recommend new political and administrative reforms for Gilgit Baltistan. The Committee took three years for formulation and the new order was decided in 27 meetings. The draft was also debated in all parties’ conference held in Gilgit on 20 November 2017 as claimed by the government spokesman.The positive points of new order are that it has repealed 2009 order and annulled powerful Gilgit Baltistan Council and powers shifted to Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly. Apparently, there is no role of Kashmir Affairs ministry as it is Gilgit Baltistan Assembly with the powers of legislation. Chief Court will be renamed as High Court comprising of 7 Judges. Appointments of Judges will be made at Gilgit Baltistan level. There will be Gilgit Baltistan provincial service commission and a provincial Auditor General. Till their appointments, the Jurisdiction of Federal Public Service Commission of Pakistan and Auditor General of Pakistan have been extended to the Gilgit Baltistan. Similarly, the jurisdiction of Council of Islamic Ideology has also been extended to the area. Gilgit Baltistan is being given the status of nonvoting/coopted membership in all constitutional bodies like National Finance Commission, The Economic Coordination Committee, Council of Common Interest, and Indus River System Authority, although, this is not part of the order.However, it has sparked a new debate in the area, terming the new order to be Prime Minister centric. The Prime Minister will have the final authority on legislation and policies of the government. Prime Minister will levy taxes and no decree or order can be issued against him. Prime Minister enjoys powers in Gilgit Baltistan as he cannot enjoy the same in other provinces. Moreover, no one can challenge/question the validity of this order.The article 41 of new order says that “the executive authority of the government shall extend to the matters with respect to which the assembly has the power to make laws, provided that in any matter with respect to which both Prime Minister and the assembly has the power to make laws, the executive authority of the government shall be subject to and limited by the executive authority expressly conferred and this order by law made and by the Prime Minister”.According to article 60 (4) of order “any law which the Prime Minister is competent to enact then the law made by the Prime Minister, whether passed before or after the act of the assembly shall prevail and the act of the assembly shall to the extent of the repugnancy, be void”. The Prime Minister has the power to levy taxes in the area according to article 65.On 12 May 2018 the joint opposition in Gilgit Baltistan rejected this order being Prime Minister centric. They claimed that earlier Gilgit Baltistan Council dealt 54 subjects per legislation according to schedule 3 and 61 subjects by Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly according to schedule 4 of 2009 ordinance. As per the new 2018 reforms schedule 3 and 4 has been mixed to make 62 subjects that too under Prime Minister. The popular demand of people of Gilgit Baltistan is its merger with Pakistan as its fifth province.In 1999, the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a historic decision declared the people of Gilgit Baltistan as citizens of Pakistan and directed government to ensure that people Gilgit Baltistan enjoy fundamental rights. Without comprising the Kashmir issue, Gilgit Baltistan can be made an interim province linking it with the final solution of Kashmir issue. In August 2015, Gilgit Baltistan Legislative assembly passed a unanimous resolution which demanded federal government to declare Gilgit Baltistan as a constitutional province of Pakistan. There is a requirement of consultation with all political parties, civil society, lawyers and youth of the area to avoid misunderstandings/confusion on new order. Before giving a final shape to this order, it must be discussed in Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly.The jurisdiction of Supreme Court of Pakistan needs to be extended to Gilgit Baltistan if Federal Public Service Commission, Auditor General and Council Islamic Ideology, jurisdiction can be extended to the area. Let us not allow anti-state elements to use this for their ulterior motives.The writer is Commissioner of the Afghan refugees organisationPublished in Daily Times, May 19th 2018.