Month: December 2010

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Cash-Starved

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GILGIT: Leader of the opposition in the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly, Bashir Ahmed has said that Chief Minister Mehdi Shah is least bothered about the region as a result of which it is “starved of cash”.

“They [members of the government] are not taking any interest in the economic affairs of Gilgit-Baltistan,” Ahmed, who is a Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid legislator, said.

While talking to journalists on Sunday he said that no funds are expected to be delivered by the federal government and several development projects have been suspended due to a lack of funds.

He added that the government’s performance in the first year was very poor. “There is nothing praiseworthy,” he said.

Ahmed said that the budget for Gilgit-Baltistan was slashed instead of being increased but the provincial government sat back and watched instead of doing something. “The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government made several announcements before and after the elections but none materialised,” he said.

Ahmed added that the flood victims of the region are going through much trouble due to severe weather conditions while the government has not extended any support. “Mehdi Shah’s government has failed in rehabilitating the flood survivors,” he said.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: Local Seek Jobs in Diamer-Bhasha Dam Project

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GILGIT: The Diamer-Bhasha Dam affected people have demanded provision of jobs to the local people in the project saying that they will not tolerate employing people from other provinces.

“It is we who are the sufferers but the jobs in our area are given to people from other provinces,” said Haji Najeebullah, a representative of the Diamer-Bhasha Action Committee on Saturday.

He asked the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) to implement the agreement signed between the people of Diamer and the government.

The reservoir would inundate 23 villages of Diamer District and displace more than 40,000 people, 6,500 houses, 4,500 acres cultivable lands, 8,000 acres uncultivable land, 60,000 fruit trees, 33,700 other trees, besides commercial areas, hotels, shops, mosques, and graveyards.

It will also endanger the region’s archaeological remains including some 50,000 rock carvings and 5,000 inscriptions.

The former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf had ordered work on the dam to start in 2007 and performed the groundbreaking of the project on April 26, 2006. He had also ordered setting up of a commission to settle the boundary and royalty issues between K-P and Gilgit-Baltistan which has not yet been done.

The Wapda chairman said recently that within a month Rs1 billion will be released as compensation for those affected by Diamer-Bhasha Dam.

In his meeting with the chief minister Gilgit-Baltistan Mehdi Shah, the Wapda Chairman Shakil Durrani, briefed him about projects being undertaken in Gilgit-Baltistan by Wapda. The projects include upgradation of hospitals in Gilgit and Skardu and construction of schools in other districts of the region.

Najeebullah said that there were a large number of skilled and unskilled labourers in Diamer District who should be given preference in jobs in the project.

“It is strange that local people are ignored and outsiders are given jobs,” said Najeebullah, asking the authorities concerned to take appropriate measures in this regard.

He said that the action committee had brought the matter to the notice of the G-B government but nothing positive came of it. He asked the government not to take them for granted.

He demanded of the government to constitute a committee to look into the issues and address them.  The people of Diamer are protesting from time to time against the Wapda policy and seeking payment of compensation according to the international law.

In February this year two people were killed and four others injured when law-enforcement personnel opened fire on a protest rally in Chilas, headquarter of the southern district seeking acceptance of their demands before the beginning of work on the dam.

The people of Diamer had launched a peaceful movement in January 2010 and gave the Feb 18 deadline to the government for acceptance of their charter of demands. The demands included royalty of the dam, resolution of border dispute between Gilgit-Baltistan and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and increase in compensation for the land taken over by the government for the project.

The firing triggered widespread protests in Chilas and people took to the streets.

The protesters burned down the offices of deputy commissioner, superintendent of police and assistant commissioner and two police checkpoints.

They also set on fire two vehicles of the Public Works Department and Agriculture Department. District administration officials said in Gilgit that paramilitary forces and contingents of police had been sent to Chilas to calm down the situation.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan:Minerals in Baltistan

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The northern and northwestern parts of Pakistan are shrouded by the three world-famous ranges called Hindukush, Himalaya, and Karakorum. In these mountains have been found nearly all the minerals Pakistan currently offers to the world market, including aquamarine, topaz, peridot, ruby, emerald, amethyst, morganite, zoisite, spinel, sphene, and tourmaline.

The question arises as to how these were explored: by the very people living in and beside the hills and not as a result of any government involvement or support, a fact that the government of Pakistan cannot refute. In the industrial minerals sector, of course, the government-owned mining corporation is effective and has been of great help to local investors. Pakistan, through its one body, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, has always recruited foreign investment in mining precious and semi-precious stones in Pakistan. But the rhetoric of the ministry is so inadequate and ineffective that no influential mining venture by any foreign institutes or individuals has taken place. One significant reason is the reputation for unreliability in the survey/analysis reports conducted by any government-sponsored institute in Pakistan.

Pakistan is home to many varieties of minerals, some of which make it prominent in the mineral world, such as peridot, aquamarine, topaz (various colours: violet and pink, golden and champagne), ruby, emerald, rare-earth minerals bastnaesite and xenotime, sphene, tourmaline, and many varieties and types of quartz.

By: Ayub Balti

Gilgit-Baltistan:Tajikistan’s Investment Potential

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President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon said Wednesday that “without investments, it would not be possible to make use of Tajikistan’s natural and human potential”.

Speaking at the “Turkey-Tajikistan Trade and Investment Forum”, organized by the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON) in north-western province of Istanbul, Rahmon said that “the Tajik government was doing all it can for investors”.

Tajikistan has the world’s richest silver mines. Certain mineral resources are being processed by companies from China and Canada. Many other mineral resources are currently waiting to be processed, Rahmon underlined.

The Republic of Tajikistan is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and People’s Republic of China to the east. Tajikistan also lies adjacent to Pakistan and the Gilgit-Baltistan region, separated by the narrow Wakhan Corridor.

Turkey’s President, on the occasion, said that Tajikistan had rich mines, marble reserves and water resources, stating that Turkish businessmen should make good use of numerous opportunities in this country.

Most of Tajikistan’s population belongs to the Persian-speaking Tajik ethnic group, who share language, culture and history with Afghanistan and Iran. Once part of the Samanid Empire, Tajikistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union in the 20th century, known as the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic (Tajik SSR). Mountains cover over 90% of this Central Asian republic.

After independence, Tajikistan suffered from a devastating civil war which lasted from 1992 to 1997. Since the end of the war, newly established political stability and foreign aid have allowed the country’s economy to grow. Trade in commodities such as cotton and aluminium has contributed greatly to this steady improvement.

Courtesy: World Bulletin

Gilgit-Baltistan:Audit General to Conduct Special Audit in All Provinces Including GB

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ISLAMABAD: The government has asked the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to scrutinise each and every penny of alleged corruption in multibillion rupees project of Clean Drinking Water for All (CDWA) and come up with its findings by fixing responsibility, sources said on Friday.

The launching of special audit by the AGPR will identify the culprits and fix the responsibility and will facilitate the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in framing criminal charges if found anything wrong in Rs23 billion project.

“Yes, we have forwarded this multibillion rupees project of CDWA to AGP with the purpose of conducting special audit and it is expected that the exercise to scrutinise this project will be completed within the next couple of months,” a senior government official told The News.

When contacted, Auditor General of Pakistan Tanveer Ali Agha confirmed that the government has asked them to conduct special audit of CDWA, which would be undertaken by the next month.

He said that the AGPR is busy in finalising its report for the outgoing year so that the special audit of CDWA would be launched by the next month.

Answering a query about the purpose of holding special audit, he said that if this specific project is not included into the routine list and the government found specific problems, then AGPR is assigned to conduct special scrutiny to come up with the audit objections.

However, the sources said that a senior Finance Ministry official had already conducted an inquiry on the project and found multimillion rupees alleged embezzlement on the spending of CDWA, especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Earlier, the Federal Investigation Agency was also asked to probe into the affairs of CDWA, but the launching of special audit will help frame criminal charges against the culprits.

According to official documents made available to The News, the PC-1 of CDWA, prepared by the Environment Ministry, was approved by the ECNEC on April 16, 2006 with an estimated cost of Rs7.871 billion under which it was envisaged to install 6,035 water filtration plants in each union council of the country.

This project was transferred to the Industries and Production Ministry on October 12, 2006 and again transferred to the Special Initiatives Ministry in November 2008.

The revised PC-1 was approved by ECNEC in November 2007 under which the cost was enhanced to Rs15.843 billion, while another revision in the cost was made and the cost escalated to Rs23.805 billion based on actual contract value submitted to the Planning and Development Division for approval.

The number of filtration plants was also increased from 6,035 to 6,638 in accordance with the third time revised PC-1.

According to physical progress achieved till September 30, 2010 on CDWA project, Only 813 filtration plants are operational, out of the total proposed installed plants, while 268 plants are non-operational.

In KPK, there are 237 plants installed and all of them are non operational.

In Punjab, there are 63 plants operational and 350 in Sindh and there was none non-operational in these two provinces.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, 23 plants are installed and all of them are non-operational and in FATA only one plant is installed, which is non-operational.

In Balochistan, 407 filtration plants were installed under CDWA, out of which 400 plants are operational and seven are non-operational. In AJK, the government has so far installed no filtration plant out of the total 232 planned plants.

In Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), the government envisaged installing 13 water plants, but none has so far been installed for providing clean drinking water.

Courtesy: The News

Gilgit-Baltistan:Gilani Takes Notice of Wrong Doings

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed concerns on Friday over several media reports that highlighted inefficiency and wrongdoing on the part of functionaries of various government departments.

According to a handout, the prime minister asked the ministries and departments concerned to immediately submit to him reports on the issues raised in the media reports.

The issues coming to the prime minister’s notice through newspaper reports include a delay in the posting of director of the Federal Investigation Agency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A reported conflict over determination of gas tariff between the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority and the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines and Sui Southern Gas Company has been lingering for quite some time and hampering the performance of the sector.

Prime Minister Gilani has expressed concern over a reported shortage of staff at the emergency ward and outpatients department of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.

Urgent calls have been made for providing shelter and warm clothes to flood survivors in Balochistan who, according to reports, have not received sufficient humanitarian assistance to bear the chilling cold.

Reports from the flood-hit areas, especially of Sindh, indicate that affected farmers have not been provided seed free of cost.

Another report is about non-recovery of money invested by 2,500 people of Gilgit-Baltistan in a fake housing society in Rawalpindi.

Courtesy: The Dawn

Gilgit-Baltistan:Government Decides to Conduct Complete Geological survey in GB

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GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan government has finally decided to conduct a complete geological survey of all those areas facing underground tremors, officials said on Monday.

“A geological survey will be carried out soon in areas of Gilgit-Baltistan where underground tremors are taking place,” said an official in the district administration on Monday. “The real cause of the tremors will be known after the survey,” said the official, who chose to remain anonymous.

People in Attabad in Hunza had time and again complained about tremors and fissures on the ground, asking the government to take measures to resolve the problem, but the request fell on deaf ears every time.

In January this year Attabad Village was submerged by an artificial lake caused due to a landslide that blocked River Hunza.

Following the Attabad Lake disaster, a number of other areas in Hunza-Nagar, Skardu and Ghizer valley have felt the underground jolts, creating panic among residents who demanded that a survey be carried out to discover the cause.

Home Secretary Asif Bilal told The Express Tribune that the reason for the tremors bellow surface was that many areas of Gilgit-Baltistan were located above the fault line.

More than 20 people were killed in the Attabad tragedy. Moreover, dozens of houses have been destroyed by landslides due to jolts. People in Miacher said that a huge fissure has also appeared on the surface of lands.

People of Khushbat, Ghizer and Rundo Skardu also voiced similar concerns, asking the government to take preemptive measures before they end up facing a situation like the Attabad disaster.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: Fruit Industry, 5 Model Villages and No tax GB-Nawaz Sharif

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Nawaz Sharif, the head of Pakistan Muslim League (N) arrived at Skardu airport on Wednesday to visit the flood affected areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. Talking to the media at the Airport he hinted the wikileaks cables and said that he is considered a dangerous man, for he always spoke in the best interest of Pakistan without being indulged in tricky politics. His government championed the nuke tests and people hardly swallow that bitter fact.

Regarding the taxes in Gilgit-Baltistan he assured that his party would not let that happen. He said taxes cannot be levied here until and unless the area is brought to the political and constitutional parity. He announced that Gilgit-Baltistan would be pretty much industrialized in the coming years. Tourism and fruit industry shall be developed for which the area has a great potential. He claimed that the PML (N) will not sit until it revolutionary change the area and make it a role model for the whole world. He said that the PML (N) shall play its role to give the people of the regions their political rights.

Nawaz Sharif apparently suggested modifications in the current Gilgit-Baltistan empowerment bill rather than proffering any out-of-box thought. He said that PML(n) will, with the passage of time, play its part to make changes in the package.

Nawaz Sharif later visited Hunza where he distributed Rs. 500000 among the Attabad affectees. He criticized the government’s apathy towards the people who have been severely hit by the flood and land sliding.

“The government should have built alternate roads right away but it could not do so, which is sad. I have relation with Mir of Hunza for about 40 years and I have seen the whole Hunza. This place has great potential and we will work for the promotion of tourism in this region”, he said at Ghazanfer’s abode.

Nawaz Sharif suggested building Motels around the lake in Gojal. He promised to fully support the displaced people despite the fact that  he is not in the Parliament. He said the government of Punjab will fund and provide logistics to rehabilitate the affected people in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The PMLN head announced to build 5 model villages  in the disaster hit areas. Nawaz Sharif, while speaking to a public gathering said that the natural resources of Gilgit-Baltistan could leverage prosperity in Pakistan.

Courtesy: Dardistan Times

Gilgit-Baltistan: PPP Led Government’s Performance Assailed

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GILGIT: Boloristan Labour Party has expressed disappointment over the performance of the government saying that it has miserably failed to restore law and order in the region despite the fact that it spends millions of rupees on security agencies.

“Rs300 million are being spent on law enforcement agencies annually but the law and order situation is deteriorating,” said a statement issued by the party here on Monday.

The labour party said it will issue a white paper against what it called ‘the government’s one year performance.

“Lawlessness, price-hikes, sectarianism, unemployment and bad governance are some of the issues which have dominated the first year of the PPP-led government in Gilgit-Baltistan,” said the statement.

The bad governance and corruption have made the life of common man miserable, it said, adding that the government officials have failed to curb even target killings in Gilgit.

The BLP said that the ruling party claiming to be providing bread, cloth and shelter to the poor masses has actually deprived them of these basic requirements.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistan links up with Kashgar

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KARACHI, Pakistan – China and Pakistan, which are already working to improve land communications across their mutual border, have inaugurated the first air cargo service linking Islamabad with Kashgar in China’s northwest Xinjiang province, with Rayyan Air, a Pakistani charter airline, operating the first 90-minute flight.

Opening of the Islamabad-Kashgar air cargo route last week came just before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Pakistan for the Pakistan-China strategic dialogue to be held in Islamabad on December 17. Ahead of Wen’s visit, Beijing agreed this month to extend cooperation in 36 development projects worth US$13.2 billion to boost economic activity in flood-hit areas of Pakistan.

Kashgar, located near the borders of Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and India, is well placed to become an important air logistics base. Cargo shipped between China and Pakistan has so far mostly gone by truck across a border closed from the end of December to May each year due to the severe winter climate.

The air cargo service will make products of the two countries available the year round and make markets in Central Asian states more accessible for Pakistan. It also augments Beijing’s efforts to develop the western regions of China, including Xinjiang, home to Muslim Uyghurs, helped by better communication with projects such as an extension of high-speed train services from the eastern part of the country.

Kashgar was recently given the status of a special economic zone and it is hoped it will become a major trade and transport hub, reviving its position as an important transit point on the what was the ancient Silk Route between China, Central Asia and the Middle East and Europe.

Kashgar Deputy Commissioner Wang Yongzhi highlighted the importance of reliable communication links between Pakistan and China and expressed a desire for further expanding such connectivity.

“The cargo service operates once a week and the frequency will be increased to daily flights, based on freight volume,” Xinhua news agency reported Wang as saying.

Commercial relations between Pakistan and China continue to grow and strengthen. This month, the Pakistan-China Joint Committee on Economic, Trade Scientific and Technical Cooperation (JEC) held its 14th session in Islamabad under the co-chairs of Finance Minister Hafiz Shaikh and Gao Hucheng, the China International Trade Representative, Ministry of Commerce.

The JEC agreed to enhance Chinese investment in various sectors of Pakistan’s economy including agriculture, electricity, finance, mining and infrastructure. The two countries have already established a joint investment company with a paid-up capital of $200 million for direct investment and joint ventures.

The countries in July signed memoranda of understanding to build two highways in Pakistan’s northernmost region of Gilgit-Baltistan. The projects, worth a combined 45 billion rupees (US$524 million), would be 85% financed by China, with the rest paid for by Pakistan. The neighbors also plan a rail link that will also connect Torkhum in Pakistan with Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

Syed Fazl-e-Haider ( is a development analyst in Pakistan. He is the author of many books, including The Economic Development of Balochistan (2004).

Courtesy: Asia Times