In a move that may raise concerns in India, reports suggest that Pakistan is planning to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region also known as Northern Areas as its fifth province.
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 Wednesday.
He also said that a constitutional amendment would be made to change the status of the region, through which the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes.
The four provinces that are presently under Pakistan are Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan shares a geographical boundary with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India has maintained that entire area is its integral part while Pakistan sees it as separate from PoK.
The USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through this region, and reports said Pakistan was mulling to elevate the constitutional status of the region in a bid to provide legal cover to the CPEC.
Reports also said 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.