Month: February 2011

Gilgit-Baltistan: Of the 27 endangered Pakistani languages, 18 are native to K-P, Fata and G-B.

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PESHAWAR: When Mohammad Sat Sayeed died in Kalkatak Village in southern Chitral a few years back, an entire dialect died with him. The last words uttered by the native Kalasha language speaker were Sayeed’s familiar loud prayer, “O mi ganah xaudai mi nauf keri,” or, “Oh my God forgive me.”

In his 2009 book “Kalkatak: A Crossroad of Cultures in Chitral”, Fakhruddin Akhundzada notes that the Kalasha language is nearly extinct in nearby villages except for a few elderly people who are hesitant to speak it in front of outsiders. The language traces its roots to the historical Kafiristan, now Nuristan Province in Afghanistan, and was stigmatised as a ‘non-Muslim language’ by some.

This illustrates the threat faced by the rare languages of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), where 26 of 69 Pakistani languages are spoken.

These native language communities are small, and scattered across inhospitable terrain and are facing threats from globalisation and language hegemony.

These small languages are ignored in the national language discourse. The insurgency in the region further dealt a blow to these languages, as the only institution conducting research on the subject, Forum for Language Initiatives (FLI), shifted its offices from Peshawar to Islamabad due to security reasons a few years back.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Interactive Atlas of World’s Languages in Danger 2009 says that the languages face extinction due to the monopoly of major languages and lack of documentation and preservation on the part of the concerned authorities.

The UNESO Atlas classifies at least 27 Pakistani languages as endangered and 18 out of these are native to K-P, Fata and G-B.

UNESO classifies severely endangered languages as, “Spoken by grandparents and older generations, while the parent generation may understand it but doesn’t speak it with children or among themselves.”

These endangered languages are no longer learnt by children as a mother tongue at home, while vulnerable languages, though spoken by most children, are often restricted to the home.

FLI, an initiative to promote and preserve indigenous languages, lists 26 languages spoken across K-P and northern Pakistan.

Chitral District, with a population of around 500,000, hosts 12 of these languages. Renowned Norwegian linguist George Morgenstierne noted that the Chitral was one of the most linguistically diverse regions of the world.

Mohammad Pervesh Shaheen, a linguist based in Swat said, “Languages are the limbs of humanity and when a language goes extinct, a nation’s culture, history, folklore, civilization and knowledge go with it.”

“There is a Hadith in which the Prophet Mohammad (SAW) says, ‘If you want to save yourself from the mischief of a nation, learn its language,’ and we are forgetting our own,” he added.

Last year, the K-P assembly passed a bill allowing primary education to be imparted using any of eight languages native to the province. Hopefully, this and other similar measures can lead to the promotion of endangered dialects and save these languages from the Sword of Damocles hanging over them.

Courtesy: Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: A Unique Safari Through Gilgit-Baltistan

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ISLAMABAD: Tourists can now see snow leopards in their natural habitat on the sky-high mountainous terrains of Gilgit-Baltistan. An adventure safari provides an opportunity for tourists to visit the mighty mountains in the country’s extreme north and capture fantastic scenes where these wild animals, also known as “big cats” by the locals, are found playing, hunting and relaxing.

This ambitious plan, carved out by Himalayan Holidays, an Islamabad-based tour operator, will help explore snow leopards, which are found in the dense forests at an altitude of 1,200 to 2,000 metres (3900 to 6600 feet).

“By organising this event we can entertain the visitors with not just wildlife, but also include tours of the serene valleys where tourists can witness diverse cultures, snow-clad mountainous peaks and gushing streams and rivers,” said Najib Ahmed Khan, owner of Himalayan Holidays.

Khan is determined that the spectacular event, besides attracting visitors from around the country, would help enthrall the tourists from across the world, boosting Pakistan’s tourism industry.

“It is a unique move towards tapping into the country’s endangered wildlife species and using our fascinating flora and fauna to promote tourism,” Najib said.

He, however, said focus would be on snow leopards as the wildlife sector had so far not figured in country’s tourism activities.

The tour will take wildlife lovers from Islamabad to Gilgit, where the journey begins by a road trek to Ramghat via Partabpul and Bunji. A bar-b-que dinner at sunset on the Nanga Parbat will conclude day one.

Day two starts with a hike to Neelidar, going as high as about 600 metres in five hours to discover the big cats, roaming freely in their habitats.

Third day’s hiking leads to Akalotamo where the local guides brief the visitors about places for filming of fantastic scenes of big cats. On day four, the group will be taken to the enchanting destination of Misikhandgah.

An individual snow leopard lives within a well-defined home range, but does not defend its territory aggressively when encroached upon by other big cats.

Like other cats, snow leopards use scent marks, scent to indicate their territory and common travel routes. Being most active at dawn and dusk they are known for their extreme secretive and well camouflaged nature.

The diet of the snow leopard also varies across its range and with the time of year, depending on prey availability. In the western Himalayas it preys mostly Himalayan blue sheep, Markhor, ibex and smaller prey consists of marmots, woolly hares and birds such as the snow cock and chukar. However, it is not averse to taking domestic livestock which brings it into direct conflict with humans.

Snow leopards have not been reported to attack humans, and appear to be among the least aggressive of all the big cats.

As a result, they are easily driven away from livestock, they readily abandon their kills when threatened and may not even defend themselves when attacked.

Snow leopards prefer to ambush prey from above, using broken terrain to conceal their approach, and can leap as far as 14 metres. They actively pursue prey down steep mountainsides, using the momentum of their initial leap to chase animals for up to 300 meters.

Estimated population of snow leopards in Pakistan is 420 to 500 with their habitat stretching over 80,000 square miles in Skardu, Astore Bunji (Nanga Parbat region), Khunjran Borogil and Chitral. – APP


Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistan can be a success, if we want it badly enough

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Where George W. Bush failed, Tunisia may yet succeed. Inspired by the Jasmine Revolution, the street-fighting young are crusading against some of the most oppressive and ossified regimes in the Middle East and North Africa, daring to take back what it rightly theirs: control of their collective destiny. It’s enough to make anyone think.
Here in Pakistan, people are just waking up to the significance of events in faraway Tunisia. As a member of Parliament, I have been traveling the country from the forgotten parts of Gilgit-Baltistan to the criminally impoverished villages and hamlets of Sindh. These areas do not feature in our limited public discourse, but they ought to for there is courage here, and faith in country.
Everyday Pakistan has mettle, even if it is the unglamorous one of living life by one’s convictions, unbowed and undefeated by the furies of oblivion and inflation. Everyday Pakistanis have faith in our country, and no amount of betrayal by politicians has been able to snuff it out completely.
Those I have met and spoken with believe that Pakistan will one day be a place where everyone can live with dignity, where hunger and injustice have receded into an unrecognizable past, where there is peace and security, where those who want to can do well by the country on merit alone, and where lives are fulfilled and meaningful. We all want this, or at least say that we do. But we will not reach this Pakistan through utterances alone. If we want this badly enough, we need to change that fundamental obstacle in our way: the defeatist notion that nothing can ever change. And now Tunisia dares us to dream.
We are all aware of the scandalous conditions the majority of our countrymen live in. I have seen young children drink from the same pool of dirty, germ-infested water as cattle. I have visited school structures falling at the seams, where there are no chairs, and no teachers. Yet, children show up in the hope that an instructor also will. I have heard stories from far too many bereaved families about pregnant women who have died on their way to midwives or whatever passes for a health-care facility because of roads that exist only on paper. I have seen the effects of industrial waste ruin lives. I have heard stories of killing for family honor, kidnapping, lack of access to justice, and great personal tragedy. But among all these horrors, I have always seen hope in the hearts of those who have suffered the most.
While the people are resilient, their elected representatives could do much better. Few in Islamabad are willing to do anything besides maintaining the status quo. This is no option. In the three years since the last elections, people can be forgiven for their dissatisfaction with government. The majority of Pakistanis are far worse now than ever before.
The economy is on deathwatch. The political, bureaucratic, religious, business, feudal and military elites have both hands, and both feet, in the till. The kleptocrats are looting with impunity. The terror of deprivation and lawlessness is acute and debilitating. The wishes of foreign powers are overriding requirements of national self-interest. The political class is spectacularly unmoved and unprepared, enslaved by their own delusions, pointing their guns at each other when the country could really use some unity and real consensus to fight the real fight. It is rueful that it is a happening when a day passes without any new scandal emerging against the government. Except for the judiciary, all other state institutions seem to have abdicated from their responsibilities to the public in a fit of hopelessness.
We deserve far better, and we should feel no shame in saying it or wanting it. Pakistan was not born to fail. We have the human capital and natural resources to make our country a story of prosperity. But we remain divided by our sub-identities and self-inflicted fault lines, and have been unable to reap the demographic dividend that countries like India have. There is too much at stake here for us to remain quiet and complacent. A developed and moderate Pakistan will require yet more sacrifice. Like our forebears who worked for Independence, we have to be willing to die for a Pakistan that our children can be proud to call home. We owe it to them to step up.
By Marvi Memon member of the National Assembly from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q

Gilgit-Baltistan: Assembly Set to Legislate on Tourism, Mineral and Electricity Board

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GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) assembly is set to legislate on tourism and mineral deposits as the G-B Council has finalised its recommendations for awarding both the sectors the status of corporations, sources said on Wednesday.

An electricity board will be instituted for the power sector, sources added. “The managing committee of the G-B Council has discussed and prepared its recommendations. The laws will be incorporated soon,” said a provincial government official. “Various laws dealing with minerals and tourism in other provinces are being studied by authorities in G-B, with an aim to replicate successful models in the region,” he said, adding the bills are expected to be passed from the assembly easily, as legislators do not have specialised knowledge on the subjects.

The legislation is expected to increase revenue collection through institution of rules and regulations for tourists, individuals and corporations visiting, or investing in, the region. The laws in place in Baluchistan could be extended to G-B, suggested a member of the G-B Council Mohammad Ibrahim. With their implementation, the region is expected to make much progress in development, he added.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan:Women Lawmakers to Boycott if Abusive Language used again in GB Assembly

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GILGIT: Lawmakers in Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly passed a resolution on Monday calling for strong action against department heads violating recruitment rules.

Lawmakers also asked the government to ensure the adoption of service rules.

The resolution, tabled by Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Syed Raziuddin, was unanimously approved. “Rules have persistently been violated over the past two decades,” Raziuddin said, adding that the Public Works Department (PWD), police, education department, health and livestock were some departments where merit was overlooked in appointments.

When Wazir Shakeel, an independent lawmaker, suggested investigating all such cases and punishing all violators, he was supported by all members of the house.

The assembly witnessed some rowdy scenes as lawmakers representing JUI-F and PML-N exchanged harsh words. The incident occurred after Rehmat Khaliq of the JUI-F criticised the government for sacking employees in the PWD. “Instead of providing jobs, the government is sacking people,” he said before demanding their immediate restoration. Khaliq said this in reference to an incident where the PWD had sacked some employees, whose service was said to be in violation of rules.

The demand of the JUI-F legislator angered a senior PML-N lawmaker, Janbaz Khan, who accused Rehmat Khaliq of fighting with PWD officials on an ethnic basis. “Everyone who got jobs in violation of rules and regulations must be shown the door,” said the PML-N legislator.

Women lawmakers urged all legislators to maintain proper decorum and be civil with each other and warned that they would boycott the assembly proceedings if such abusive language was heard in the assembly again. The speaker helped control the chaos.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune