Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Anurag Srivastava said India "firmly rejects" the attempt by Pakistan to bring material changes to a part of Indian territory which is under Islamabad's "illegal and forcible occupation" and asked the neighbouring country to immediately vacate such areas. "I reiterate that the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the area of so-called 'Gilgit-Baltistan', are an integral part of India by virtue of the legal, complete and irrevocable accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947," the MEA spokesperson said.
India said the government of Pakistan has no locus standi on territories "illegally and forcibly" occupied by it and that the latest move will not be able to hide the "grave" human rights violations in these Pakistan occupied territories. "Instead of seeking to alter the status of these Indian territories, we call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation, the MEA spokesperson said.
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 on 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). There are a total of 33 seats, but six are reserved for technocrats and three for women. The special seats are filled from nominations by the parties winning the polls according to their representation.
The announcement by the Pakistani government comes at time from when Imran Khan is facing strong protests from major opposition parties over many issues - mainly on economy and security. These parties have also reportedly targeted Pakistani Army for supporting the civilian government.