India questions Pak announcement to hold elections in Gilgit-Baltistan

India on Thursday questioned Pakistan for its decision to hold general elections in Gilgit-Baltistan and said any action to alter the status of the region has no legal basis.

Pakistan has announced that elections for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan will be held on November 15.

“Any action by Pakistan to alter the status of the militarily-occupied so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ has no legal basis whatsoever and is totally void ab-initio,” Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Anurag Srivastava said at virtual media briefing.

Referring to statements by the Pakistani leadership on the issue, he said Pakistan has no locus standi to comment on India’s internal matters.

“Our position has always been clear and consistent. The entire territories of the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been and are an integral part of India and would remain so,” Srivastava said.

In a ruling earlier this year, the Pakistan Supreme Court allowed Islamabad to amend a 2018 administrative order to conduct general elections in the region. The Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018 provided for administrative changes, including authorising the prime minister of Pakistan to legislate on an array of subjects.

Following the verdict, India issued a demarche to a senior Pakistani diplomat here and lodged a strong protest over the apex court ruling.

India also clearly conveyed to Pakistan that the entire Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of the country.

The polls in Gilgit-Baltistan were to be held on August 18, but Pakistan’s election commission on July 11 postponed them due to the coronavirus pandemic. Polling would be held for 24 general seats of the legislative assembly. The five-year term of the previous assembly had ended on June 24, bringing an end to the five-year rule of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).