Pakistan is planning to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region as the fifth province, a move that may raise concerns in India as it borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan's minister for inter-provincial coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada told Geo TV that a committee headed by advisor of foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz had proposed giving the status of a province to Gilgit-Baltistan.
"The committee recommended that Gilgit-Baltistan should be made a province of Pakistan," Pirzada said on Tuesday.
He also said that a constitutional amendment would be made to change the status of the region, through which the 46 billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes.
Gilgit-Baltistan is treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan. It has a regional assembly and an elected chief minister.
Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh are four provinces of Pakistan. The move may raise concerns in India as the disputed region borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
It is believed that China's concerns about the unsettled status of Gilgit-Baltistan prompted Pakistan to change its status. According to an earlier report in Dawn newspaper, Pakistan was mulling to elevate the constitutional status of the region in a bid to provide legal cover to the CPEC.
The move could signal a historic shift in the country's position on the future of the wider Kashmir region, the paper had quoted experts as saying.