Islamabad:  Pakistan government has not only “rejected” India’s strong objection against Islamabad’s move relating to administrative control over the Gilgit-Baltistan region, a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir but it has also ignored loud protests of its own opposition parties and civil rights groups.

Pakistan cabinet on 21 May had approved Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 which was also endorsed by the assembly for the region. The order is being seen as Islamabad’s efforts towards incorporating the disputed region as its fifth province.

Pakistan Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi said that under the order, all the powers have been transferred to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan who will enjoy similar rights which the people of other provinces have without any discrimination. The order takes away powers of President in respect of tribal areas to empower its people.

India yesterday summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah in New Delhi and lodged a strong protest over Islamabad’s latest move, saying any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under its “forcible and illegal occupation” has no legal basis.

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said it conveyed to Shah that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir, which also includes the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ areas, is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947.

However, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman in a statement claimed that the “Jammu and Kashmir was a disputed territory”.

“Pakistan categorically rejects India’s protest against the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 and its claim over Jammu & Kashmir as an ‘integral part’ of India. Everything from history to law to morality to the situation on the ground belies India’s spurious claim, the spokesman said.

“These resolutions, pledging the right to self-determination to the people of Kashmir, were accepted by India, Pakistan and the international community,” he said.

Abbasi said the international issues related to the region might go on, but it was a proud moment for the government as the people of Gilgit-Baltistan would have same rights which the people of other parts of the country enjoyed.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has also rejected the Opposition’s protest against a new order relating to administrative control over Gilgit-Baltistan, saying he has no authority over the region after the devolution of all the powers to local representatives.

Abbasi announced enforcement of the reform package for Gilgit Baltistan which was greeted with pandemonium and a shouting match in the local assembly.

Civil rights groups in Pakistan have also criticised the order. A complete strike was observed across Gilgit-Baltistan yesterday on the call of the joint Opposition to protest against the order.

Opposition members including Javed Hussain of Pakistan Peoples Party, Raja Jahanzeb of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Nawaz Naji of Balawaristan National Front stood up and shouted the slogans against the order. The opposition lawmakers also tore the copies of the agenda.

During the protest, a scuffle erupted between the opposition and ruling party members. The opposition parties later staged a walkout.