Month: October 2010

Gilgit-Baltistan: Government approves filling 2400 new jobs

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GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah on Friday approved filling of 2,400 newly created posts, saying that the appointments will be made strictly on merit. “The decision to this effect was taken in the cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister,” Information Minister Ali Madad Sher told The Express Tribune after the meeting.

The information minister said that apart from other sectors, the education sector will have 600 posts. Aside from this, there will be 350 posts in the health sector, 36 posts in the livestock sector, 350 posts in water and power department, 246 posts in agriculture and 333 posts in the newly-formed district of Hunza-Nagar.

This was the fourth cabinet meeting since its formation earlier this year. The cabinet members presented individual progress reports, Sher said, adding that the chief minister expressed satisfaction over their performance and stressed the need to further improve it. The chief minister also asked the ministers to submit a report on incomplete projects of their respective departments and issued directives to hold quarterly meetings of the cabinet to review the pace and progress of the ongoing schemes.

Taking exception to the use of government vehicles, the chief minister asked authorities concerned to curtail expenditure and reduce burden on the national exchequer. “The officials will have one vehicle with them and neither their children nor the officials themselves will be allowed to drive the vehicles,” said the provincial information minister, adding that the policy is in line with the one issued by the prime minister.

He also said that Chief Minister Shah asked the chief secretary to ensure that all the officials seek prior permission before leaving G-B for official visits.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2010


Gilgit-Baltistan: Promotion of Precious Stones

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GILGIT: In the hopes of introducing precious stones to the international market, Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Mehdi Shah plans to visit China, sources said on Wednesday.

“The stones found in the mountains of G-B are rare, and if these are introduced to the international market, not only the economy of G-B but also that of the whole country can improve,” said an official.

The delegation, led by the chief minister, will consist of 17-members including some traders who specialise in the buying and selling of gemstones. Officials in Gilgit said that the event is to be held in Kashgar and will be well attended by several international delegations.

The Chief Minister and his delegation are hoping to attract traders. “It will be a good opportunity for the Pakistani delegation to create links with other countries and investors so that they can visit the region and invest in this sector too,” said an official from the G-B commerce and industry.

Precious stones are abundantly found in G-B but the lack of expertise in locating and skillfully extracting them is the biggest hurdle being faced by the local people in the area.

According to experts, more than 60 varieties of gems and stones are found in G-B; Topaz, Quartz, Albite, Apatite, Beryl to name a few.

“Special lectures highlighting the importance of gemstones in the international market and the ways to access the international market will also be delivered during the conference,” officials said.

The economy of G-B is based on the traditional route of trade through the Silk Road. The China Trade Organisation was the leading economic forum through which most of the barter trade activity was made changing in the general economical outlook of the area.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2010.

Gilgit-Baltistan: NEC Reconstituted

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ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari, on the advice of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, approved composition of the National Economic Council (NEC) under the 18th Amendment, on Wednesday.

The PM will chair the council, whereas ministers for finance, communication, health and housing and works would be its members. Chief ministers of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan will also be members of the council. Other members from provinces include Senator Ishaq Dar from Punjab, Adviser to Sindh chief minister Planning and Development (P&D), senior minister for P&D and power from KP, Balochistan finance minister and Gilgit-Baltistan chief secretary. KP governor, AJK prime minister and chief secretary would be invited by special invitation.

Courtesy: Daily Times October 28, 2010

Gilgit-Baltistan:The suo motu notice taken by the GB Supreme Appellate court failed to put PWD in order

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GILGIT: The people of Gilgit have been let down by the new provincial government of Mehdi Shah after economic and domestic life in the area has been crippled as a result of long hours of power outages.

Usmania Muhalla in the Kashrote area is one of the worst hit areas where blackouts last for more than 60 hours bringing the daily lives of people to a standstill. “When we ask officials why these power outages are so long we are give unsatisfactory answers,” a housewife told The Express Tribune.

Locals believe that the sole reason behind these long unannounced power failures is corruption. “Can anybody tell me why the situation has deteriorated so much?” Imran Ali, a tailor in the region asked. “The expectations that we had from the Mehdi Shah government have not been met.” “No one is questioning the Public Works Department (PWD) officials,” he said.

The suo motu notice taken by the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate court recently failed to put the PWD in order. “Out of 18 mega watts, only 6 mega watts of electricity is generated at this time in the biggest Naltar Hydel Power Project due to a decrease in the water level,” a PWD official said. He said that due to the non-availability of funds, the damages caused by the recent floods have not been repaired. “An amount of Rs15 million is required to repair the damages in the hydel power project in GB,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials at the Kashrote power station claim that because of an overload at least two transformers have short circuited. “The rest of the transformers cannot handle the load,” an official at the power station in Kashrote said.

Officials at the power station said that they delay in repairing the transformers were because they were unable to get hold of the damaged parts. The situation in other parts of Gilgit isn’t rosy either. The Basin, Amphery, Khomer, Jutial and Nagral areas have also been hit by breakdown making it difficult for locals to continue with their daily lives.

During Pervez Musharaff’s regime an 18 mega watt Naltar Hydel Power Project was constructed in 2008 costing Rs1.5 billion but failed to meet the power demands of the region. Similarly, the hydel power projects at Guru Jaglot and Kargah were also unable to produce enough power.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2010

Gilgit-Baltistan: Strict action against government employees

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GILGIT: Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan Mehdi Shah has warned that strict action will be taken against government employees if they allowed their sectarian identities to affect their jobs.

He was referring to the three policemen who were arrested by security forces in connection with killing civilians  belonging to rival sects in Gilgit, an episode which had created panic in government circles.

“I warn all government employees to not work for their sects (it can be sectarian organisation), if they still persist in doing so then they will no longer be tolerated,” said Shah on Tuesday while addressing a seminar organised by an NGO, Plan Pakistan, in Gilgit .

Gilgit has had a history of sectarian violence since the early 1970s. In August, at least 10 people died in target killings and many were injured during a fresh wave of violence. The chief minister in an attempt to discourage the trend posted over 50 policemen from the violence-scarred Gilgit to other districts.

NGO launch

Plan Pakistan has launched in Gilgit-Baltistan and aims to end corporal punishment in schools, which is common in government schools in the region as it is considered an essential part of education.

“The teacher has a pivotal role in society and hence should be a role model,” said Shah, adding that his government would act against everyone who was politicising the educational institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan to achieve their personal objectives. He was referring to strikes by the teaching staff which had resulted in the removal of the principal of cadet college Skardu this week.

Earlier the education minister, Ali Madad Sher, announced plans to make two model schools in every district in order to lift the quality of education in all the schools.

He offered his support to the NGO saying that punishment should be banned in schools so that it did not leave a negative impact on the minds of children.

Wasim Yaqoob, the director of the NGO, said that they would train schoolteachers to provide a child-friendly education to students.

Courtesy: Express Tribune, October 27th, 2010.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Exploring Socio-Economic Prospects

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by Junaid Kamal

GILGIT BALTISTAN — about two million people scattered over a territory of 72,496 square kilometres — presents a rich mix of different cultures, languages, plants, animals and habitats. It is a landscape dominated by high peaks, rivers, lakes, glaciers, wild plateaus, and narrow valleys linked by networks of passes.

Gilgit Baltistan (formerly Northern Areas) has a unique role to play in the sustainable development of Pakistan. Although spans a relatively small geographical area, GB serves as a vital catchment for the Indus River, upon which a majority of Pakistan’s irrigated agriculture and hydroelectricity depends.

Containing some of the world’s largest freshwater resources on which the irrigated agriculture of Punjab and Sindh depends, the estimated hydroelectric potential in Gilgit Baltistan goes beyond Pakistan’s current needs.

People of Gilgit Baltistan finally got their identification and political rights in the present government of Pakistan People’s Party through Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009.

The Order still needs a constitutional cover-up to make it an act of Parliament. Renaming the Northern Areas as Gilgit Baltistan is perhaps the most significant part of the deal as this change in nomenclature will help people regain their lost identity and go a long way in resurrecting the tourism industry in an area otherwise devastated by the Taliban.

Ongoing mega projects like the Diamer dam and Satpara dam further necessitates that Gilgit -Baltistan be brought into the mainstream and that its people be given a voice in national decision-making so that the region’s public representatives can also take part in inter-provincial deliberations to safeguard socio-economic interests. Gilgit Baltistan offers abundant water resources for energy which if tapped judiciously can produce electricity not only for the area but also for the rest of the country.

The people of Gilgit Baltistan are naturally peace-loving, patriotic and courageous. A disaster on Jan 4 in the Attaabad village of Hunza has got the attention of the entire world, when a landsliding buried the village of Attaabad in which 20 people lost their lives and countless got the tag-name IDPs.

Those who were killed in the tragedy, and those still missing, could have been saved had the state shown more interest than it did. However, measures have been taken by the government later on to rescue the people and make arrangements for the survival of the IDPs.

The most important task for the government is to maintain peace and harmony in the region. Until the war on terror began, Gilgit Baltistan was a major destination for foreign tourists, thus contributing to the national economy. This potential resource must be explored through concrete plans that include investment, establishing well-equipped tourist centres and mountaineering training institutes.

Junaid Kamal

Gilgit-Baltistan: Gilani advises Zardari to reconstitute NEC

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ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to reconstitute the National Economic Council (NEC) by including the Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister and chief secretary as members and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor, AJK prime minister and chief secretary as special guests at the NEC meeting. In this regard, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani on Friday advised President Zardari to reconstitute the National Economic Council (NEC) by including these people. The NEC is the apex economic decision-making body of the federation having representation from all federating units at the level of chief ministers, finance ministers and planning and development ministers from the federal and provincial governments. NEC, headed by the PM, approves the federal government’s Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), provincial governments’ annual development plans (ADPs) as well as the macro-economic framework of the country at the start of each fiscal year. It also endorses the recommendations of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), headed by the federal finance minister. staff report

courtesy: Daily Times October 23, 2010

Gilgit-Baltistan: Minister’s Royalty remarks spark rage in GB

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GILGIT: Federal Communication Minister Arbab Alamgir’s statement denying Gilgit-Baltistan the right to claim royalty from Diamer-Bhasha Dam has sparked a sharp reaction in the region with politicians fastening their belts for a final showdown with the federal government.

“It’s our land and we will have its royalty as per the judgment of the G-B apex court,” Amina Ansari, a lawmaker from Ghanche, Skardu, told the media on Friday while commenting on a statement made by Arbab Alamgir a couple of days back in Islamabad. “We will take up this matter with the federal government, but if the issue persists we will chalk out a future course of action,” she threatened.

The federal communication minister had said that according to the constitution, Gilgit-Baltistan is not a constitutional part of Pakistan but a disputed territory just like Kashmir. Therefore, it is not entitled to get any royalty.

Early this month, the supreme appellate court had ruled that as per the constitution of Pakistan, G-B was entitled for 75 per cent of the royalty.

“If you don’t want to give us our due share, then you should make your Kalabagh Dam so that you will have all the royalty with you,” she said addressing the federal minister.

Arbab Alamgir also said that for its constitutional status, G-B would have only “user charges”.

It wasn’t the lawmakers alone who got angry over the statement. The people of Diamer who are the likely victims of the dam, rose against it to vent their anger.

“We have sacrificed our property and land, and now it’s we who are being deprived of the royalty,” said Haji Najeebullah Khan, a member of Diamer Dam Action Committee, adding that if G-B is not part of Pakistan then why the dam is being built on G-B territory.

Senior lawyers Mohammad Faqir and Mohammad Iqbal of the Karakoram Lawyers Forum termed the Self-governance and Empowerment Order 2009 (under which the present assembly came into existence) a ‘pack of lies’ and the assembly a puppet that has no powers to make decisions on any point.

Courtesy: The  Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2010.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Gilani asks GB Council to transform area

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ISLAMABAD, Oct 22 (APP): Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday urged the Gilgit-Baltistan Council to formulate realistic plans for transformation of the area into a developed and forward-looking region of the country.Inaugurating the session of Gilgit-Baltistan Council, Gilani called for more attention to strengthening of institutional frameworks to promote good governance.The Prime Minister in his capacity as the Chairman of the Council extended and ensured all possible assistance to achieve the objectives of the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2009.
“If there are any anomalies in the implementation of the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2009, then a Committee could be constituted representing all stakeholders to rectify the same,” he added.
The Prime Minister said Gilgit-Baltistan Council was the supreme authority for the coordination and working of all arrangements involving the government of Pakistan.
The Prime Minister expressed the hope that representatives of the people would play a key role in the development of their area, set agenda for socio-economic development of Gilgit-Baltistan and also ensure fair and judicious distribution of resources.
The Prime Minister described the Empowerment Order 2009, as “a quantum leap in the political history of Pakistan” and  reflective of the maturity and wisdom of the representatives of all the political parties.
He said it has been designed to empower the people of the area to govern themselves through democratically elected representatives and also to have socio economic empowerment; which was the policy and long time commitment of the present government.
Gilani said Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order 2009 empowers the people at a grassroots level, develops democratic traditions, respect for the rule of law, justice and human rights so as to bring them at par with other people of the provinces of Pakistan.
Gilani congratulated the public representatives and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan over the first-ever meeting of the Council and described it as a “historic and memorable occasion”.
He recalled that it was also the Peoples government under the dynamic leadership of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who introduced the first ever Administrative Order – “Northern Areas Legal Framework Order 1975” whereby major administrative, judicial and political institutions were established.
He also congratulated the representatives of all the political parties for their collective efforts to introduce the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order 2009.
The meeting was attended by acting governor Gilgit-Baltistan Wazir Baig, Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan Syed Mehdi Shah and members of the GB Council.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Executive Engineer Building and Road Division, awarded 13 contracts without advertising

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ISLAMABAD: The Gilgit-Baltistan Public Works Department (PWD) has awarded contracts worth Rs94.1 million for development projects without approval and in clear violation of rules, according to the 2008-09 audit report.

The report, presented to a National Assembly special committee on Gilgit-Baltistan last week, reveals that the Executive Engineer Building and Road Division, G-B-PWD awarded as many as 13 contracts without advertising in newspapers.

According to the Procurement Rules 2004, tenders must be invited from registered pre-qualified contractors, firms and suppliers through advertisements in the press for works exceeding the sum of Rs100,000.

The audit document reveals that the value of each split work was more than Rs100,000 which resulted in irregular calling and acceptance of tenders for Rs94.1 million.

A Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC) in its meeting on July 29, contended that a sufficient number of contractors participated in the bidding and recommended for the settlement of the issue with the directions that the settlement will not be a precedent for other issues and procurement rules will be observed in the future.

The report also reveals that the G-B-PWD incurred Rs54.4 million losses in 2008-09 due to deficit in the operational expenses of electricity generation.

The reports stated that the Executive Engineer, Water and Power Division, Skardu incurred a huge expenditure of Rs84.8 million on thermal power generation through a diesel generator installed to cover the shortage of electricity/power generation against the receipt of electricity bills for Rs32.4 million. Due to the “non-construction” of hydel power stations in G-B, the department was sustaining a recurring loss of Rs.52.4 million per annum, the report added.

The department replied that the losses occurred as Wapda could not complete the hydel power generation projects within the stipulated.

The DAC, however, without giving any reason recommended for settlement of the audit para.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2010.