Month: January 2011

Gilgit-Baltistan: Italian Government Offers Help to Upgrade Skardu Airport

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GILGIT: The Italian government has offered help to upgrade Skardu airport, it has been learnt.

“Italian Ambassador Vincenzo PratiIn made the offer to Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Chief Minister Mehdi Shah in a recent meeting in Islamabad,” said a source in the provincial government.

Apart from the airport, they discussed the possibilities of other development projects in Skardu, the capital town of Baltistan that was declared the twin of Italy’s Cortina city in August 2010.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani addressing an election rally in Skardu in 2009 had promised to upgrade Gilgit and Skardu airports but no progress has been made yet.

Baltistan is home to various peaks incluidng the 8,611-meter K2, the second highest peak in the world.

K2 was scaled first by two Italian mountaineers, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni,on July 31, 1954.

“People in Italy are emotionally attached with Gilgit-Baltistan, particularly Skardu, and declaring it a twin city with Cortina is testimony to it,” he said.

In the meeting, the Italian ambassador told the chief minister that EV-K2-CNR, an Italian NGO, would build 10 schools in Braldo and Hushay valleys in Baltistan, said the source.

He said that construction of two hospitals in G-B was also part of the plans that the ambassador shared with Chief Minister Shah.

A library equipped with information for mountaineering expeditions will also be built in Skardu.

The library will be of immense use for mountaineers attracted by the 18 of the world’s 50 highest peaks located in G-B.

Italy has already been assisting Karakorum International University in Gilgit in the fields of research and higher education, and has indicated an increase in this assistance.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: Development Projects not Launched on the Basis of Equality

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ISLAMABAD  (January 29, 2011) : A former chief of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Masood Sharif Khattak, on Friday called for an independent Planning Commission (PC), sans political intervention, to undertake uplift schemes with special focus on the areas that have been ignored in the past.

Speaking at a news conference here at National Press Club, he said that the PC is the only government body responsible for approving multi-billion rupees mega projects, but was being influenced by some powerful politicians and bureaucrats. He suggested setting up of an independent planning commission, on the pattern of judiciary, that could undertake development projects across the board, particularly in areas that have been ignored for the last six decades.

The former IB chief raised serious objections to what he called the over-concentration of uplift projects in selected areas, and added that it was high time to free the 53-year-old Planning Commission of political influence. He said that the government should adopt a uniform policy for undertaking development projects, focusing on the neglected areas of Gilgit-Baltistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

He expressed the view that undertaking multi-billion dollars luxury projects in Islamabad did not augur well for the federation. He opined that the major cause of deprivation and sense of alienation among people in neglected areas of the country was that development projects were not launched on the basis of equality. He warned that the deprived people of backward areas would march on Islamabad, and said that the country could witness a bloody revolution if authorities continued to turn a blind eye towards the development of neglected areas.

Courtesy: Business Recorder

Gilgit-Baltistan: Pir Karam Ali Shah to Sworn in as Governor GB

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GILGIT: Pir Karam Ali Shah will be sworn in as new Governor of Gilgit Baltistan on today (Saturday).

According to media reports, Chief Judge of Applet Court Gilgit Baltistan Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi would administer the oath from new Governor.

Speaker and Deputy Speaker of National Assembly have congratulated Pir Karam Ali for his appointment as a Governor.

Pir Syed Karam Ali Shah is a veteran politician who was first elected unopposed as member of the northern Area Advisory Council in 1970.

He till to-date was the Member NA council, NA legislative Assembly.

Pir Syed Karam Ali Shah was appointed as a new governor of the Gilgit-Baltistan on the sheer advice of the Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani after Dr Shama Khalid who died on September 15, 2010.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Assembly passed Unanimous Resolution Condeming Recent Blasts in Diamer District and Targeted killings in Gilgit

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GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly passed a unanimous resolution on Friday, condemning the recent blasts in girls schools in Diamer district and targeted killings in Gilgit that have stoked sectarian unrest in the region. They also demanded the arrest of those behind such acts.

The resolution was passed during the first proceedings of the legislative assembly’s 10th session with Speaker Wazir Baig in chair.

Janbaz Khan, a PML-N lawmaker hailing from Diamer district, tabled the resolution that was supported by almost all the members. “It’s the responsibility of the government to take such outlaws to task,” said the lawmaker.

The lawmakers asked people to stand united against all odds, so that the nefarious designs of the enemies would not triumph.

Clerics were urged to play an active role to eradicate militancy and establish durable peace in the region.

Maulana Sarwar Shah, a technocrat, asked the government to uncover the real faces behind the acts of terrorism, if it wanted restoration of peace in the region. He was supported by independent member Didar Ali who said that religious scholars could play an effective role in ridding the society of the menace.

Amina Ansari, a member from the PML-Q, said the series of blasts last month that left three girls schools in Chilas damaged were a conspiracy against development activities and the Diamer Bhasha dam. “An in-depth investigation into these blasts needs to be carried out to foil the nefarious designs of anti-social elements,” she said.

Opposition leader Bashir Ahmed came down hard on the treasury benches saying that the government was not serious in maintaining peace in the region. “It’s strange that not a single perpetrator has been arrested so far,” he said.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: Attabad Lake spillway was reopened on Thursday on Recommendation of American, Chinese and Nespak Experts

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ISLAMABAD: Attabad Lake spillway was reopened on Thursday on recommendation of American, Chinese and Nespak experts, said a press release. The water flow into the Hunza River after the spillway was opened is about 22,000 cusecs.

As a preventive measure, the government of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), on directives of National Disaster Management Authority, has vacated the low lying areas downstream till the water flow stabilises.

Currently water-level in the lake is lowering at about seven inches per hour. The G-B government has also imposed Section 144 along the river banks to restrict movement.

If things go according to Frontier Works Organisation plan, the water level in the lake will be lowered by an additional 30 metres by May 2011 and the 15 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway currently under water will re-emerge.

The lake was formed last year on January 4 during a landslide that completely buried Attabad village and killed 20 people. About 6,000 people were displaced and a further 25,000 were stranded in the upstream villages.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan:Pre-Feasibility Study had been Completed for Rail Link between Pakistan and China

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ISLAMABAD: Minister of State of Railways Muhammad Afzal Sindhu, on Wednesday, informed the National Assembly that the government has no intention to privatise the Pakistan Railways (PR).

During the NA question-answer session, Sindhu said that the government had no plan to close or privatise the railways, rather steps were being taken to transform it into a profit-oriented entity. He also informed the House that the PR had its own workshop for maintenance of faulty engines and damaged coaches.

The minister said the Railways Ministry had signed two loan agreements with the Export-Import Bank of China (EIBC) on December 14, 2009 for procurement of 75 locomotives and 202 passenger carriages. He said there was a proposal to connect China with Pakistan through a rail link between Havelian in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Khunjirap in Gilgit-Baltistan. The proposal, he added, was still in a preliminary stage as only a pre-feasibility study had been completed while a detailed feasibility was yet to be carried out.

He maintained that that the feasibility study would decide whether the project was financially and economically viable for conducting a detailed feasibility study.

Sindhu also informed the House that a proposal to operate a new air-conditioned business train service between Lahore and Karachi was under consideration, which would be run through the public-private partnership. He added the Railways Ministry had been considering another proposal to purchase used locomotives from South Korea to strengthen its fleet.

In a written reply, the ministry also apprised the National Assembly that the Korean Railways had evinced interest in supplying 50 used 3,000 horsepower locomotives to Pakistan.

Courtesy: The Nation

Gilgit-Baltistan:14 Model schools, 2 each in each Districts of GB with the Assistance of Australian Government

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GILGIT: Australia and the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government have joined hands to provide quality education to people in the north.

“An agreement to this effect has been signed with the Australian government,” G-B Education Minister Dr Ali Madad Sher said on Tuesday.

Under the agreement 14 model schools, two each in every district of the mountain region will be constructed with assistance of the Australian government, Dr Sher said.

Teachers of the model schools will be given special training on modern teaching techniques.

“The model schools will be constructed in all the seven districts,” he said, expecting that the good results of these schools will influence others to follow suit in raising their standards too. He said that only brilliant students would be enrolled in the model schools.

The minister said education department and trainers would monitor and assess the performance of teachers at model schools and give bonuses.

The minister did not say if teachers for the model schools would be taken from existing schools or freshly recruited. However an official in the G-B education department said that a criterion would be developed to pick teachers for the schools and those at par would be selected for teaching in the schools.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: Tightrope Walk for New Governor

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GILGIT: At long last Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is set to have its governor, a post lying vacant for nearly five months. A notification for the appointment of Pir Karam Ali Shah to the position is likely to be issued on Wednesday.

Opposition parties remain hopeful that the new governor won’t turn out to be yet another ‘Jiyala’.

“He is a seasoned politician and we expect him not to be a Jiyala governor,” said Bashir Ahmed Khan, a PML-Q leader and opposition leader in Gilgit-Baltistan. Khan said that people expect the new governor will forge a consensus among various sects of the region to guide them towards success.

Unlike Punjab, the G-B governor, Pir Karam Ali Shah, was appointed after nearly five months since the death of the first governor of Gilgit-Baltistan Dr Shamma Khalid, who died of cancer. Whereas in Punjab, Latif Khosa took charge as the new governor only days after the assassination of Salmaan Taseer.

Speaker G-B Wazir Baig was made “acting” governor in the interim period. The Pakistan Peoples Party even held a special meeting in Islamabad last month asking President Zardari to appoint a male governor for the region in line with the region’s traditions.

“Pir Karam has vast experience of running government affairs and we hope for the best,” said Hafizur Rehman, provincial chief of PML-N in Gilgit-Baltistan. Rehman said that unlike Punjab or any other province, the G-B governor has even more powers than the chief minister in the constitutional setup, meaning that the position in G-B is far more significant than elsewhere.

However, despite the appointment of Shah, a PPP stalwart and former deputy chief executive G-B, fears of him turning out to be a partisan governor remain alive. “We have tolerated other governors in Punjab too and we just hope for the best,” said Rehman, adding that if the new governor did turn out to be partisan, they would have to devise a strategy in response, accordingly.

A regional politician of a religious party suggested that the governor should learn from past mistakes and avoid confrontation. “If he does so, he will have to face the repercussions,” said the politician, requesting anonymity.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: NA Bill Proposes 8 National Languages

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will have up to eight national languages — not just Urdu — if a private bill introduced in the National Assembly on Tuesday without any government objection is passed by parliament as a constitutional amendment.

The introduction of the long-pending and potentially divisive bill came after the government said it had no objection to the process, but there was no immediate indication if the ruling Pakistan People`s Party (PPP) would actually back the draft, most of whose 22 authors are its members, with Nawab Mohammad Yusuf Talpur on the top of the list, along with some well-known members of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

It was one of two private bills introduced on the first private members` day of the new session that began on Monday, before Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi adjourned the house until 4pm on Wednesday amid a shouting match between members of the opposition PML-N and government-allied Mutahida Qaumi Movement which was sparked by angry exchanges over a demand made by MQM chief Altaf Hussain in a speech on the previous day for the imposition of martial law in Punjab to check crime rate.

The other bill, tabled earlier by 22 PML-N members, sought to abolish discretionary quotas in housing schemes in the public sector to avoid its misuse and require that allotments be made in a fair, equitable and transparent manner.

What is called the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2011 — a nomenclature that could be changed by the house standing committee on law and justice during its scrutiny — seeks to replace the Article 251 of the constitution that specifies only Urdu as the national language with a new one that says: “The national languages of Pakistan are Balochi, Punjabi, Pushto, Shina/Balti, Sindhi, Saraiki and Urdu.”

The inclusion of `Shina/Balti` — actually two languages cited in one entry — in the list was a surprise oddity as they are among some five major dialects spoken in the Gilgit-Baltistan region which has not been cited in the Constitution as a part of Pakistan, and there are several other dialects spoken by even larger populations such as Hindku in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Brahvi in Balochistan and Gujrati in Sindh.

The bill must be passed by two-thirds majorities in both the National Assembly and the Senate to become part of the Constitution, which underwent two landmark changes — Eighteenth and Nineteenth amendments drafted by an all-party parliamentary committee — last year with consensus in both houses.

But it seems doubtful if the amendment proposed now through a private bill can muster the required two-thirds majority because language has been a sensitive issue from the early days of Pakistan when Urdu was chosen as the only national language to the exclusion of Bengali spoken by the majority of the population living in former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

And any talk of giving national status to some major languages spoken in the country`s four provinces has been viewed with suspicion because of its perceived link with the concept of different nationalities propounded mainly by nationalist parties and demands for the creation of new provinces like one in the Saraiki-speaking south of Punjab or in Pushto-speaking north of Balochistan.

The new bill also provides for continuing English as Pakistan`s official language “until arrangements are made for the national languages to come at par with it” while the original Article 251 says that “arrangements shall be made” for Urdu “being made for official and other purposes within 15 years from the commencing day” and that “the English language may be used for official purposes until arrangements are made for its replacement by Urdu”.

Another addition to the article requires the federal government to establish a fund for the development and promotion of national languages “as well as to ensure teaching of Arabic as a compulsory subject at school level” for what an accompanying statement called a better understanding of Islam by the country`s population and Persian as an optional subject “so that regionally we remain connected to our age-old literary traditions of Persian”.

Courtesy: Dawn

Gilgit-Baltistan: Pir Karam Ali Shah to be the New Governor of GB

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ISLAMABAD: The federal government decided on Monday to appoint Pir Karam Ali Shah as the new governor of Gilgit-Baltistan. The post was lying vacant for more than four months after the death of the first G-B Governor Dr Shama Khalid, who died on September 15 last year.

Sources said that the decision was taken by President Asif Ali Zardari in consultation with Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and other party leaders. However, a notification to this effect has not yet been issued. It is likely that the notification will be issued today.

Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly Speaker Wazir Baig was performing as acting governor since the death of the first governor.

Shah along with G-B Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah held separate meetings with Zardari and the prime minister on Monday. Shah is a sitting member of the G-B Legislative Assembly and is considered one of the stalwarts of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Shah was a close aide of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and also served as the first deputy chief executive of the then Northern Areas Legislative Council under the Legal Framework Order during the first stint of the PPP government in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, several political parties in Gilgit have welcomed appointment of Shah as the governor. “We expect that the new governor will utilise his experience for the development of the region,” Hafiz ur Rehman, the provincial chief of PML-N told the media.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune