Month: March 2011

Gilgit-Baltistan:Sou Motu Action of Supreme Appellate Court

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GILGIT:  The Supreme Appellate Court (SAC) Gilgit-Baltistan took suo motu action on Thursday against the rising incidents of target killings in Gilgit.

An official said that the court directed the chief secretary, IG police and secretary home to submit report to the court in this respect by March 14. “The proceedings of the case would start from March 15,” said the official.

Following the murder of senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Mir Nawaz Khan, lawyers in Gilgit had passed a resolution urging SAC Chief Justice Nawaz Abbasi to take action against the assassination. The Supreme Appellate Court Bar lawyers had also expressed distrust in police investigations into the case, fearing that the fate of this case too would be similar to other unresolved ones.

Mir Nawaz Khan, a lawyer by profession, was assassinated last month by armed men outside his house in Gilgit, triggering the revival of sectarian skirmishes which left five people injured in the ensuing days.

Courtesy: Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: KIU Student to get WWF Annual Award

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GILGIT: A project, the first of its kind in Gilgit-Baltistan, prepared by a student of Karakoram International University (KIU) has been approved for an annual award.

“DNA testing and GPS position of snow leopard genetic material in Gilgit-Baltistan” is the project that was scrutinised and nominated for an award by the scientific committee of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said a university spokesperson. The project was submitted by Nilofer, a student of KIU who prepared it with help from the Associate Dean Dr Khalil Ahmed. He said that the International Snow Leopard Trust and WWF sponsored the student for the research project, which is the first of its kind in a region where the rare snow leopard faces extinction. Environmentalists say most incidents in which snow leopards are targeted are reprisal attacks following attacks on livestock.

Last week, a snow leopard was beaten to death by the people of Mathal, a remote village in Skardu, after the ageing cat broke into a cattle house. Locals managed to protect their cattle, but seriously injured the leopard. It died in the forest department’s custody. The International Snow Leopard Trust will give the student US$8,000 while the WWF will provide Rs200,000.

Courtesy: Express Tribune

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Government failed to submit its response to Ministry of Water & Power

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ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet will discuss the technical merits of electricity generation through independent power projects of less than 50MW, shows a summary of the Ministry of Water and Power.

The summary seeks approval of the ECC to the “policy guidelines for power generation capacity through small independent power producers (SIPPs) with capacity below 50 MW”, says the agenda of the meeting, to be chaired by minister for finance.

If the government approves the policy guidelines for SIPPs, it will be a renunciation of the previous power policy, said a power sector expert.

The governments of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Sindh have objected to the summary while the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Punjab have failed to reply to the summary.

The KPK government said the summary should be placed before the Council of Common Interest (CCI) rather than the ECC which lacks provincial representation.

The ministry of water and power is of the view that the summary was cleared by the law, justice and parliamentary affairs division without any reservation on this account.

Citing Article 157 of the Constitution, the government of Sindh said the guideline given for SIPPs deviated from the true spirit of the Constitution.

The ministry replied that the concerned province would have the ‘first right of refusal’ to develop these projects.

Gilgit-Baltistan:There has never been a Tourism Policy for Gilgit-Baltistan

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ISLAMABAD: The northern areas of Pakistan are like canvases that portray the joy and contentment bestowed by the inexhaustible beauty of nature’s boundless forms.

But the beautiful valleys miss their admirers who once used to visit in great numbers to watch and bask in the glory of nature. That is because tourism has failed to reach its full potential in Gilgit-Baltistan, conceded experts associated with the industry in the Ministry of Tourism as well as those in parliament.

Worst, they dread that these tourist retreats `are in danger of slipping further behind`.

Experts in the tourism industry pointed the fingers at the government for mismanagement of policies despite the fact that tourism was the largest industry in Gilgit and all the way to Hunza and beyond.

“It`s just not government`s priority,” said Senator Pervaiz Rashid, who is member of the Senate standing committee on culture and tourism, citing his reason for the held-back growth.

Tourism could play a key role in the region`s future economy, he said, adding: “But the industry needs stronger, clearer support from the government to reach its full potential. And that we fear does not seem coming.”

Worst hit, of course, was the hotel industry. “Last year we had less than 2,500 foreigners visit our valleys. This numbers include the Chinese who are building the Karakoram Highway,” lamented the owner of the famed Eagle`s Nest Hotel, Ali Madad Galiu who is also president of Hunza Hotels Association.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the war on terror has kept foreign tourists away. “Most of the westerners believed that Gilgit and Hunza were in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and confused it with the conflict in Swat where Pakistan army was sweeping on the ground,” said a senior official with the ministry.

Then came the floods and later the Attabad lake disaster, he explained. “When these factors had done enough damage, the government abandoned the valleys and the people. There are no rehabilitation programmes to fix infrastructure or help the hotel owners, tour operators and transporters by providing them some kind of financial backing to keep the industry running,” the official said.

“While Attabad was the focus and so were schools, nobody focused on hotel and other small associated businesses,” said Raja Hussain, who owns a hotel in Gilgit, adding how media needed to return to highlight the aftermath.

Alam Shah, the general manager of Hilltop Hotel in Karimabad, lamented that Gilgit-Baltistan had not seen a dime of funds announced by Department for International Development (DFID) for development purposes after impacts of war on terror.

Experts connected with the tourism industry said lack of infrastructure and delay on part of the government in developing tourist resorts in these mountain resorts had been one of the reasons for the drop in not just foreign but local tourist traffic that was the backbone of the industry.

“Tourists and excursionists are forced to opt for safer areas for rest and relaxation because access to these places has almost been impossible. The region abounds in scenic spots but these sites have neither been developed nor projected in the state`s tourism promotion campaign,” said the official with the ministry.

Azam Khan, who visited Hunza last year, was delayed for two days because of flight cancellation. “That cost us extra two days of hotel stay besides missing work. It`s ridiculous that there are only two flights to some of the world`s most popular retreats and that too subject to weather conditions,” he said.

The decline in the biggest trade again speaks volumes about the government apathy and the utter disregard for tourism promotion in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Chairperson Senate standing committee on culture and tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar, who is also a former federal minister for tourism, described the predicament best when she said: “There has never been a tourism policy for Gilgit-Baltistan.”

Courtesy: Dawn

Gilgit-Baltistan: The Fall of Middle East Empire

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Empires can collapse in the course of a generation. At the end of the 16th century, the Spanish looked dominant. Twenty-five years later, they were on their knees, over-extended, bankrupt, and incapable of coping with the emergent maritime powers of Britain and Holland. The British empire reached its fullest extent in 1930. Twenty years later, it was all over.

Today, it is reasonable to ask whether the United States, seemingly invincible a decade ago, will follow the same trajectory. America has suffered two convulsive blows in the last three years. The first was the financial crisis of 2008, whose consequences are yet to be properly felt. Although the immediate cause was the debacle in the mortgage market, the underlying problem was chronic imbalance in the economy.

For a number of years, America has been incapable of funding its domestic programmes and overseas commitments without resorting to massive help from China, its global rival. China has a pressing motive to assist: it needs to sustain US demand in order to provide a market for its exports and thus avert an economic crisis of its own. This situation is the contemporary equivalent of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the doctrine which prevented nuclear war breaking out between America and Russia.

Unlike MAD, this pact is unsustainable. But Barack Obama has not sought to address the problem. Instead, he responded to the crisis with the same failed policies that caused the trouble in the first place: easy credit and yet more debt. It is certain that America will, in due course, be forced into a massive adjustment both to its living standards at home and its commitments abroad.

This matters because, following the second convulsive blow, America’s global interests are under threat on a scale never before seen. Since 1956, when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles pulled the plug on Britain and France over Suez, the Arab world has been a US domain. At first, there were promises that it would tolerate independence and self-determination. But this did not last long; America chose to govern through brutal and corrupt dictators, supplied with arms, military training and advice from Washington.

The momentous importance of the last few weeks is that this profitable, though morally bankrupt, arrangement appears to be coming to an end. One of the choicest ironies of the bloody and macabre death throes of the regime in Libya is that Colonel Gaddafi would have been wiser to have stayed out of the US sphere of influence. When he joined forces with George Bush and Tony Blair five years ago, the ageing dictator was leaping on to a bandwagon that was about to grind to a halt.

In Washington, President Obama has not been stressing this aspect of affairs. Instead, after hesitation, he has presented the recent uprisings as democratic and even pro-American, indeed a triumph for the latest methods of Western communication such as Twitter and Facebook. Many sympathetic commentators have therefore claimed that the Arab revolutions bear comparison with the 1989 uprising of the peoples of Eastern Europe against Soviet tyranny.

I would guess that the analogy is apt. Just as 1989 saw the collapse of the Russian empire in Eastern Europe, so it now looks as if 2011 will mark the removal of many of America’s client regimes in the Arab world. It is highly unlikely, however, that events will thereafter take the tidy path the White House would prefer. Far from being inspired by Twitter, a great many of Arab people who have driven the sensational events of recent weeks are illiterate. They have been impelled into action by mass poverty and unemployment, allied to a sense of disgust at vast divergences of wealth and grotesque corruption. It is too early to chart the future course of events with confidence, but it seems unlikely that these liberated peoples will look to Washington and New York as their political or economic model.

The great question is whether America will take its diminished status gracefully, or whether it will lash out, as empires in trouble are historically prone to do. Here the White House response gives cause for concern. American insensitivity is well demonstrated in the case of Raymond Davis, the CIA man who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore. Hillary Clinton is trying to bully Pakistan into awarding Davis diplomatic immunity. This is incredible behaviour, which shows that the US continues to regard itself as above the law. Were President Zardari, already seen by his fellow countrymen as a pro-American stooge, to comply, his government would almost certainly fall.

Or take President Obama’s decision last week to veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Even America itself accepts that these settlements are illegal. At a time when the Middle East is already mutinous, this course of action looks mad.

The biggest problem is that America wants democracy, but only on its own terms. A very good example of this concerns the election of a Hamas government in Gaza in 2006. This should have been a hopeful moment for the Middle East peace process: the election of a government with the legitimacy and power to end violence. But America refused to engage with Hamas, just as it has refused to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or to acknowledge the well-founded regional aspirations of Iran.

The history of the Arab world since the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate in 1922 can be divided schematically into two periods: open colonial rule under the British and French, followed by America’s invisible empire after the Second World War. Now we are entering a third epoch, when Arab nations, and in due course others, will assert their independence. It is highly unlikely that all of them will choose a path that the Americans want. From the evidence available, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are muddled and incapable of grasping the nature of current events.

This is where the British, who have deep historical connections with the region, and whose own loss of empire is still within living memory, ought to be able to offer wise and practical advice. So far the Prime Minister, a neophyte in foreign affairs, has not done so. His regional tour of Middle Eastern capitals with a caravan of arms dealers made sense only in terms of the broken settlement of the last 50 years. His speeches might have been scripted by Tony Blair a decade ago, with the identical evasions and hypocrisies. There was no acknowledgment of the great paradigm shift in global politics.

The links between the US and British defence, security and foreign policy establishments are so close that perhaps it is no longer possible for any British government to act independently. When challenged, our ministers always say that we use our influence “behind the scenes” with American allies, rather than challenge them in the open. But this, too, is a failed tactic. I am told, for example, that William Hague tried hard to persuade Hillary Clinton not to veto last week’s Security Council resolution, but was ignored. It is time we became a much more candid friend, because the world is changing faster than we know.

Courtesy: The Telegraph

Gilgit-Baltistan: Legislation to Punish those using Religious Platforms

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GILGIT: The selection committee of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) legislative assembly on law and order decided on Saturday to introduce legislation to punish those using religious platforms to spread hatred in society, sources privy to the development said.

The decision was taken in a meeting of the selection committee chaired by opposition leader Bashir Ahmed. “The issue regarding the use of religious platforms for spreading hatred is serious and the assembly will legislate on it,” said an official aware of the developments. He said the meeting also discussed the biases of police officials in conducting investigations in cases where sectarian crimes were involved. “The meeting was informed about the grievances expressed by clerics regarding innocent people who have been put behind bars under false cases,” he said. The official said the meeting also decided that various agreements that were inked since 1975 to 2006 between rival sects in Gilgit should go through the legislators so a comprehensive strategy could be devised to ensure such pacts are not violated.

The formation of the Islamic Ideology Council and Ulema Board was also discussed for ensuring peace in the region that has seen bloodshed on many occasions in the past. The option of holding dialogue with clerics was also discussed and approved in the meeting, the requirement for which was necessitated following the murder of PPP stalwart Mir Nawaz last week in Gilgit. The murder has heightened sectarianism in the region.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune