Month: November 2010

Gilgit-Baltistan:The cultural heritage of GB to perish

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GB Bulletin, November 2010: The cultural heritage of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), including its native language Shina, will perish if concrete steps are not taken to conserve it.

Shina, Brushasi, Khwar, Wakhi and Balti, spoken in G-B, are among the 3,000 languages identified by Unesco in its red book that are facing extinction in the next 50 years if steps are not taken to preserve them. The general secretary of the Shina Language and Cultural Promotion Society (SLCPS) told  on Wednesday that though Shina is widely spoken in G-B, its orthography is not officially recognised. The society aims to make a “breakthrough” in their preservation efforts by launching a recognised orthography of Shina. Ishtiaq Yaad, general secretary of SLCPS, considers this to be their real success. “The orthography of the Shina Language will be launched soon as well as the Mother tongue Literacy Education (MLE) programme, which is meant to promote the writing and speaking of Shina in the region,” he said. Emphasising the need to safeguard the language and the culture of the region Yaad said, “We need to have a museum at least to conserve our precious cultural heritage.”

SLCPS has done extensive research to promote the language that is being spoken not only in G-B but also parts of Jammu and Kashmir, and Chitral, he said. “Under the umbrella of SLCPS, we have so far published 10 books while another three are in the pipeline,” Shakil Ahmad Shakil, president of SLCPS, told .

A number of renowned regional linguists including Abdul Hafiz Shakir, Ghulam Abbas Khan Ghandalo, Naseem, and Salman Khan are part of the 15-member SLCPS team that has coordinates with the Karakoram International University (KIU) .

Last year the university, following the same agenda, had organised an international conference on languages that was attended by world-renowned linguists. Recently, KIU also assured its support to the SLCPS after the society launched the first-ever audio album on Shina Sufi poetry titled “Inner Pain” in Gilgit.

The album, according to Yaad, is a rare initiative undertaken by any individual or body about the often-neglected Shina language. Contrary to the other regional languages of Pakistan, Shina has never been part of the curriculum, though it is spoken in all districts of G-B as well as parts of Chitral and Jammu and Kashmir, he said.

The Forum for Language Initiative Islamabad and USA has been providing technical support to SLCPS . “We have received dozens of trainings arranged by them in the recent past,” Yaad said.

However this might not be enough. Yaad said that if steps towards the preservation of this culture were not taken, chances are that it would eventually disappear.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune


Gilgit-Baltistan: Second Lot of Relief Goods from China

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GB Bulletin, November 17: Second lot of relief goods, mainly fuel items, send by the Chinese Government is likely to be received at the Khunzhrav Border within a couple of day.

Deputy Commissioner of Hunza – Nagar, Zafar Waqar Taj, is in China to facilitate transportation of the relief items to the Gojal Valley.

The very huge amount of coal being sent to Gojal Valley has been welcomed by majority of the local people because winters in the valley are relatively very harsh.

However, apprehensions have also been expressed by certain quarters about the environmental and health impact of excessive coal burning.

People have also demanded transparency in distribution of the petroleum products. The Diesel and Petrol sent earlier was used by the government and not a single litter has been provided as relief to the calamity hit region. The local people have demanded of the Supreme Appellate Court to intervene and stop the corruption by civil administration and the government.

Courtesy: Pamir Times

Gilgit-Baltistan: Two officers from GB promoted as Major-General for first time

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GB Bulletin: The Promotion Board of the Pakistan Army, chaired by General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), approved on November 15,2010, the promotions of 23 Brigadiers to the rank of Major-General.

According to the “Pamir Times”, two of the new Majors-General —Major-Gen.Salman Ali of the Army Medical Corps and Maj-Gen. Hidayat-Ur-Rehman of the Infantry— are natives of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). This is the first time since 1948 that two natives of the territory have risen to the rank of Maj-Gen.

Previously, Mohammad Aziz Khan, a member of the Sudhan tribe Azad Kashmir, rose to the rank of a General.

According to the “Pamir Times”, Major General Hidayat ur Rehman hails from the Astore Valley and Major General Salman Ali belongs to the Gojal Valley in the Hunza area.

Source: Sri Lanka Guardian

Gilgit-Baltistan: VIP treatment to GB CM

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Syed Mehdi Shah, the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), who has accompanied President Asif Ali Zardari to Guangdong in China to attend the inaugural function of the 16th Asian Games at Guangzhou, is being extended VIP treatment by the Chinese authorities. He is being treated on par with the other members of the Pakistani delegation, which has accompanied Zardari.

He was invited for a welcome banquet hosted by State Councillor Madam Liu Yangdong for the foreign dignitaries, who have come to participate in the inaugural ceremony of the Asian Games. He was also a member of the Pakistani delegation headed by Zardari which held bilateral talks on Sino-Pakistani relations on November 12,2010, with a Chinese delegation headed by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

The Pakistani media has reported that Syed Mehdi Shah would be separately visiting Kashgar in the Chinese-controlled Xinjiang Province, at the head of a 17-member delegation, to attend an international fair on precious stones and explore the possibility of selling precious stones found in G.B in the international market.


Gilgit-Baltistan:GB offer opportunities for soft to medium adventure tourism

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LONDON: Tourism in Pakistan has immense potential to grow and contribute towards economy of the country and the efforts to promote Pakistan tourism in the UK and other countries would be given all possible support from the government.
This assurance was given by the Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan in meeting with the Azad Kashmir Minister for Tourism, Culture and Archaeology Tahir Khokhar and Manager (TICS and Events) Sarhad Tourism Corporation Mr. Muhammad Ali Syed, who called on him Saturday.
A five-member team of representatives of tourism departments of Azad Kashmir, Sarhad Gilgit and Baltistan and two tour operators are currently visiting the UK where they participated in the just concluded World Travel Market an international exhibition of World Tourism, held at the Excel Exhibition Centre, East London.
A stall of Pakistan was setup at the exhibition where posters and brochures and other tourist information was also placed. People expressed great interest in the tourist places of Pakistan.
The other officials were Yasir Husain Deputy Director Tourism Government of Gilgit Baltistan, Mubarak Husain of Karakorum Explorers and Naiknam Karim Managing Director Adventure Tours Pakistan.
They held in-depth discussion with the High Commissioner on various means of promoting Pakistan Tourism in the UK including opening of information centres in the principal cities of Britain and noted that Azad Kashmir, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan offer excellent opportunities for soft to medium adventure tourism.

Source: APP

Gilgit-Baltistan: Tourism is what GB Needs

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These days when tourists visit Pakistan, families and friends back home worry about their safety, as they mostly read about suicide attacks in the country. But when the tourists visit Gilgit-Baltistan’s peaks, rivers, glaciers, mountain passes, trekking routes, still lochs, hidden and untouched valleys home to thousands of years old culture, wild life, unpolluted air and clear waters, their perception of Pakistan undergoes a complete change.

“When I told my wife I was going to Pakistan, she asked me to find a place for suicide in Switzerland. Despite her protests, I came here and was stunned to see Gilgit-Baltistan. The people were hospitable, friendly and atmosphere was calm and peaceful,” remembers a Swiss tourist who visited the country last year.

It shows that in the worst of conditions, Pakistan holds attraction for tourists. But unfortunately the tourist industry is going down, even in places like Gilgit-Baltistan, which fulfill all benchmarks for attracting tourists from around the world.

With provincial status, the Gilgit-Baltistan government has to move quickly to bring the tourism out of morass it is caught in. Several private tourism companies have been forced to close down offices. Hotels are empty and thousands of people related to tourism are jobless in Gilgit-Baltistan for the last many years.

Mohammad Iqbal, owner of Baltistan Tours and member of Gilgit-Baltistan Tourism Board, says foreign tourists visit Gilgit-Baltistan because of its peaceful atmosphere. “But to come here, they have to first reach Rawalpindi or Islamabad, where they don’t want to stay. If there is a direct flight to Skardu from abroad, we can bring back the days when tourists flocked Gilgit-Baltistan.”

Before 9/11, a large number of tourists visited Gilgit-Baltistan compared to other places of the country, as the World Tourism Organisation had declared Pakistan number two on the list of countries with tourism potential.

In the past despite absence of government backing and negligence of the Ministry of Tourism, 65 per cent out of the total foreign visitors used to visit Baltistan every year for mountaineering, trekking and witnessing nature.

But today the crumbling infrastructure, especially in Baltistan, is leaving little chances of reviving tourism. Shigar-Askoli Road, the only source to get to Baltoro or Concordia, the junction of hundreds of lofty peaks, glaciers, passes and trekking routes, is in extremely bad condition. The condition of road with dangerous turns and supporting wall has in itself become an adventure for the trekkers and climbers who pass through it.

A thriving tourism can become engine of change in Gilgit-Baltistan – the region has everything a tourist can think of – helping its people to come out of years of poverty and backwardness.

Four of the world’s 8,000 metre high peaks – K2 (8,611m), the second highest peak in the world, the Broad Peak (8,060m), Gashabrum-I (8,068m) and Gashabrum-II (8,036m) – are in Baltistan. Besides hundreds of other beautiful peaks, including Masha Brum, Laila, K7, and Trango Tower are also here. Gigantic glaciers like Baltoro, Biafo, Hisper, Bilafound and Siachen (the largest in the world outside the polar region) add to the importance of the region. Still lakes, Sadpara, Kachura, Jharba Tso and many others, invites those interested in fishing as they are full of trout fish.

It also has Deosai, world’s highest plateau with hundreds of beautiful wild flowers, thousand-year-old palaces and forts like Kharphocho (the mighty fort, built on a hill in the heart of Skardu city), Phong Khar Sghigar (the palace on the stone) and the palace of Raja Khaplu, and mosques and tombs having brilliant Kashmiri, Moghal and Iranian architectural structures. The surrounding rocks embellished with monuments and carvings of 1,200-year-old Bonism and Buddhism religions lure those who are interested in religious tourism.

The Pakistan People’s Party-led government has taken the first right step by giving the region back its name, Gilgit-Baltistan, along with provincial status, instead of ‘Northern Areas’. But more needs to be done to cash in on the potential the region has for tourism.

The provincial government has to go beyond mere announcements. Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah and late governor Dr Shama Khalid announced that they would make Gilgit-Baltistan ‘paradise’ for tourists. In May this year the chief minister also announced that Skardu airport would be made international within two months. Six months on the promise remains unfulfilled.

Experts want Skardu to have international airport if it wants to be a destination for tourists, but for that heavy investment has to be made. Additionally relations with India have to get better to allow flights between Ladakh and Skardu and also from Kashgar, China, and Kathmandu, Nepal.

Asking Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate regular flights from Islamabad to Skardu and Gilgit for domestic tourists, experts demand permission for other private airlines to bring tourists to Gilgit-Baltistan.

For them, it is high time to open Skardu-Kargil and Khaplu–Ladakh roads for attracting tourists from neighbouring Indian regions of Ladakh, Kargil and Nobra through bus service, adding that it would also reunite families living on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) for the last 63 years.

Experts also want reopening the Siachen region, a favourite tourist and mountaineering destination before 1984 because of beautiful lofty peaks and glaciers and organic valleys.

They also demand that trekking and climbing permits should be available in Gilgit and Skardu. The deputy commissioners of the districts should be authorised to give briefing and de-briefing.

Courtesy: The Daily Dawn

Gilgit-Baltistan:Restoration of Karokuram Highway and early drainage of water from Atta Abad Lake the major challenges faced by GB

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The two-day Pakistan Development Forum (PDF) started here on Sunday with an agenda of focusing and sharing with the participants and development partners the future development vision of Pakistan.

Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Dr.Abdul Hafeez inaugurated the much awaited forum as the last forum took place in April 2007.

In his opening remarks, Dr.Hafeez Shaikh welcomed the delegates for their participation in the forum and expressed country’s resolve to meet economic challenges faced by the country in the aftermath of the devastating floods which inflicted about US $10 billion losses to the national economy.

He expressed the hope that with the support of development partners and donor countries, Pakistan would be able to overcome the economic challenges and regain its macro-economic stability with the government’s prudent socio-economic vision which has already been launched.

He said that the Forum would provide opportunity to have comprehensive dialogue with the development partners on government’s strategic direction, priorities and policies.

He further said that deliberations of the PDF influence the country Partnership Programs/Strategies of the Donors and development partners adding that in addition, feedback from the development community facilitates alignment of government policy with international best practices.

He said that the event has got a particular significance this year in view of the devastation caused by the floods and the consequential economic fallout.

High level local and international participation including US Special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, Vice President of World Bank and ADB, UK Minister for International development, senior officials of the IMF, civil society organizations including Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are attending the forum.

In the plenary sessions on the topics of Provincial development agenda, Advisor to the Chief Minister Punjab Zulfiqar Ali Khosa, Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Amir Haider Khan Hoti, Governor KP Awaid Ahmed Ghani, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Mohammad Aslam Khan Raisani, Acting Governor Gilgit Baltistan Wazir Baig and Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan presented the future development vision of their respective provinces and areas before the forum.

In his remarks, Chief Minister of KP, Amir Haider Khan Hoti said that floods were not only the problem for the province but militancy is also an unresolved issue.

He said that cost of terror was also rising in the province adding that the heavy spending on the security and militancy related activities have resulted in less spending on social and productive sectors.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Owais Ahmed Ghani said that the province needed support from the international community to develop the flood-affected areas.

He said the security situation was keeping the private sector away from taking part in the development works, however added that sectors like education, mineral resources and infrastructure could be taken by private sector for development.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah said that efforts were on to rehabilitate the flood affected people adding that about 16 districts of the province suffered losses due to floods.

He said that the economy of the country was performing well before the catastrophic floods.

He said that the Sindh government would be imposing flood taxes and a law in this regard is being framed which would be presented before the provincial assembly during its upcoming sessions.

He said that the flood tax would be one-time and would not be made permanent burden on the taxpayers.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Balochistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani said that peace should be first priority which would lead to development and thereby prosperity.

He said that province of Balochistan was rich in resources hence providing large opportunities adding that the province has rich mineral resources, vast land mass, strategic trade location, loan coastline and immense livestock potential.

He said that the floods affected infrastructure of 14 out of 30 districts besides displacing 100,000 families, damaging houses, livestock and crops.

On the occasion, Prime Minister Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan said that the AJK government has embarked upon the “Green and Skilled Kashmir” vision, which envisages high educated and skilled people with fully employed, prosperous and a happy population by providing efficient services and financial resources to develop economic opportunities by utilizing local resources.

Education, health, poverty alleviation hydro power generation, development of water resources, infrastructure, tourism and mineral resources were the priorities of his government, he added.

Acting Governor, Gilgit Biltistan, Wazir Baig while speaking on the occasion said that restoration of Karokuram Highway and early drainage of water from Atta Abad Lake were the major challenges faced by Gilgit Baltistan.

Source: APP