Month: January 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan:GB’S Biggest Corruption Scandal Unearthed

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Gilgit (ET): An assistant commissioner in the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region and his staff have allegedly received commissions and kickbacks worth millions of rupees for preparing fake award lists for the lands in Thore Valley likely to be submerged due to the construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam (DBD).

“The officials, including the assistant commissioner of Diamer, a magistrate (Tehsildar) and two Naib Tehsildars prepared a forged award list of over Rs3 billion for barren lands in Thore Valley and received over Rs100 million in kickbacks,” credible sources told The Express Tribune on Saturday.

According to sources, the list – prepared between July and December 2011 – contained exaggerated costs, after ‘demands’ of officials were met by people, including non-residents of Diamer, who are likely to be displaced due to the construction of the dam.

According to preliminary information, the assistant commissioner advised his subordinates to collect money for him as he wanted to purchase a house in Lahore which cost Rs60 million. The staff, then, ‘cooperated with their boss’ who later transferred the money to a bank account in Lahore, believed to be his father’s.  Another source claimed that suspicions arose because of his attempt to transfer the money to his father’s account.

In addition, the assistant commissioner allegedly demanded timber worth millions of rupees as bribe, which was delivered to his house in Lahore.

“The assistant commissioner and six others involved in the scam have been suspended and barred from leaving G-B,” a senior district administration official confirmed to The Express Tribune.

The G-B government constituted a committee, headed by the G-B Home Secretary, Asif Bilal, to investigate the scam, which is believed to be the biggest corruption scandal in the region. As events unfolded, the government stopped disbursing funds to people affected by the Diamer-Bhasha dam.

Meanwhile, a senior official said that posting of senior district government officials in Diamer Valley was under consideration.

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Gilgit-Baltistan:Civil Society Vowed to Strugle for Sustainable Peace and Harmony in GB

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ISLAMABAD (ET): They carried on with the poetry of peace even when the lights went out at Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL).

Poets, intellectuals and students’ groups from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) gathered here on Saturday, where they vowed to struggle for sustainable peace and harmony in the mountain region.

The pledges began under the setting sun. However, thanks to the electricity department which seized all the light out of it while the love songs were still going on, PAL failed to illuminate their hopes and love for peace with artificial light.

But what was even more surprising was the fact that one of the biggest institutions for the preservation and promotion of literature and arts does not have a single working generator.

The participants of the peace convention were left in the unlit academy hall where they reached the end-note in sheer darkness. A bad omen?

“We are helpless. The only generator that we possess has been out of order for the last six months,” said an official. He said it was being used in the main building, while the writers’ house and the other building do not have the facility.

“You are talking about generators. We are worried for our salaries for this month,” said another official. “It seems the institute is not on a priority list of the government,” he added.

The organisers of the G-B Peace Convention blamed themselves for the trouble, saying that they were informed by the PAL administration to wrap up their seminar before 6pm, when electricity is suspended.

However, it went on after 6pm and was conducted with cell phones’ lights and without any microphone.

Speaking about the peace convention, Inayatullah Shumali said he was saddened that some of the invited speakers did not show up, however, he advised the students present there to unite for peace and sectarian harmony.

“Through our efforts for establishment of peace in our area, we will set an example for the rest of the country to follow,” he added.

He said we had to take into account as to where we went wrong.

He advised the students to watch out for hate-mongers and spread the message of love.

Adviser to the Prime Minister Attaullah Shahab said the situation in G-B is not as bad as it is feared. “It is better than many other parts of the country. We need to highlight the bright side of the situation which will help our cause in the long run,” he added.

He said people of G-B are peaceful and educated. Even though there are sectarian issues, people are generally living in harmony.

Other speakers included Halqa-i-Arbab-e-Zauq Gilgit President Muhammad Amin Zia, Karakoram Arts and Culture Council President Abdul Hafiz Shakir, Ahsan Ali Danish from Bazm-i-ilm-o-fun Skardu and Daily Himalaya Chief Editor Tariq Meer.

In addition to that, Sher Nadir Shahi, Sartaj Ali Kamal, Tehzeeb Hussain Barcha, Rashid Arshad and Ishtiaq Ahmed Yad read their poems.

Gilgit-Baltistan: AKU-EB Opens Liaison Office in Gilgit

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GILGIT (APP): Aga Khan University Examination Board (AKU-EB) has opened liaison office in Gilgit Baltistan to help affiliated schools create an active learning environment for the students. Located in Gilgit, the liaison office will offer year-round support through a team of subject specialists, arrange professional development workshops for teachers and provide supplementary learning resources for students.

The AKU-EB offers emanations services in both English and Urdu, based on the national curriculum. It is the first institution in Asia to use a computerized examination processing system, E-marking, to ensure transparency in results. For the first time in Pakistan, the Board has also launched a Middle School Assessment Framework to bridge the gap between middle and secondary school, and prepare students at an early age for the analytical and critical thinking skills required for success.

Apart from e-enrolment of candidates and continuously updated information online, the Board has developed its own learning support site (http://learningsupport.akueb.edu.pk) to bring together students and educators from across Pakistan to a common platform where they can find useful resource material, share knowledge and exchange innovative ideas.

Gilgit-Baltistan:NHA Signed Agreement for Realignment of KKH

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ISLAMABAD (D.Times): National Highway Authority (NHA) has signed a contract with M/s China Road and Bridge Corporation for realignment of Karakorum Highway. Application for loan is under process with Economic Affair Division (EAD). Work will be completed in 2 years after commencement subject to availability, release of funds.

In a written reply, the Senate of Pakistan was informed here on Tuesday that NHA was allocated Rs 36.418 billion (local currency component) in PSDP 2010-11. Due to 50 percent cut on overall PSDP, the allocation was reduced to Rs 18.500 billion. To-date, Rs 17.362 billion has been released by Ministry of Finance. Funds to NHA are released as single line budget and not province or project-wise. Total amount required to complete ongoing projects is Rs 371 billion. As funds are not released on time, projects suffer from time and cost overrun.

A massive landslide occurred on Karakoram Highway (KKH) across Hunza near Attaabad on January 4, 2010. The debris 86 huge boulders blocked River Hunza in a length of around 500 m. The blockage has created a lake, submerging 24 km length of KKH.

The contract for lowering the water level of the lake by 30m has been awarded to Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) by P&D Division. If this mission is achieved, around 7 km road length will be retrieved. FWO has so far managed lowering the lake level by 4m and has indicated that the task is likely to take next 2 to 3 low flow seasons (winters).

Meanwhile, NHA signed a contract with M/s China Road & Bridge Corporation on December-2010 for realignment of KKH. Application for loan is under process with EAD.

Gilgit-Baltistan: FBR will assist GB Council for Imposition of Income Tax

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ISLAMABAD (BR): The Federal Board of Revenue will assist the Gilgit-Baltistan Council Board of Revenue in drafting of the new bill for imposition of income tax on certain categories of persons including corporate sector of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), 35 percent corporate tax on GB-based companies and sharing of customs duty between the FBR and the GB on the clearance of Chinese goods from the Sust Dry Port.

The decision has been taken in the last meeting of the Technical Group of the FBR and the Gilgit-Baltistan Council Board of Revenue to examine the draft Bill on the imposition of the income tax in Gilgit-Baltistan. It has been decided that 100 percent imposition of income tax law of Pakistan in the Gilgit-Baltistan would be considered by re-drafting a Bill for the tax authorities of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council Board of Revenue. Another major decision is that the FBR and the authorities of Gilgit-Baltistan have agreed to share duties and taxes particularly customs duty on the imported goods cleared through the Sust Dry Port. In this regard, the portion of the duty collected would be determined for allocation to the tax authorities of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council Board of Revenue. Top tax managers would assist the said Council in drafting the new Bill including proposed amendments in the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 for bringing corporate sector and business suppliers within the documented regime.

According to sources following points have been discussed in the recent meeting of the Technical Group at the FBR Headquarters:

Firstly, in case of uniformity of the adapted law with Income Tax Law in Pakistan, there would be no issue of tax evasion by the companies, creation of tax haven and credits/adjustments.

Secondly, the FBR only collects customs duty and other taxes from Sust Dry Port. The sharing of these taxes would be decided by Ministry of Finance, after determining imports for Gilgit-Baltistan and down-country. However, in principle FBR would have no objection to sharing of the revenue with Gilgit-Baltistan Council.

Thirdly, since Gilgit-Baltistan has been given political empowerment after 62 years, tax responsibility should be compatible with political rights. In case Gilgit-Baltistan has political rights as in Pakistan and constitutional status, 100% imposition of Income Tax Law of Pakistan would be appropriate.

Fourthly, if tax is collected only from salaried class & contractors and businessmen are exempted, there would be no Income Tax collection even at Sust Dry Port and companies would dissolve themselves.

After detailed deliberations, the following decisions were taken at the level of the Technical Group of the FBR and the Gilgit-Baltistan Council Board of Revenue:

One, Ministry of Finance may be approached for an agreement on sharing of Custom Duty with Gilgit-Baltistan Council.

Two, all conceivable loopholes are required to be plugged in the proposed Bill for legislation.

Three, instead of introduction of amendments in the First Schedule of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, an appropriate provision of exemption may be inserted in the adapted Second Schedule of the Income Tax Ordinance 2011.

Four, the Business Class of the Gilgit-Baltistan may be brought in tax net to avoid legal complications and disputes among different categories of taxpayers.

Five, a proper definition of individual and contractors may be added by inserting a Clause “domiciled in Gilgit-Baltistan and deriving income from Gilgit-Baltistan”.

Sixth, it has also been decided that the tax on companies would be at uniformed rate of 35 percent.

Seven, an appropriate provision may be added to empower Gilgit-Baltistan Council Board of Revenue to suspend any facility and issue statutory regulatory order (SRO) for clarification/ facilitation of the Law.

Eight, a team of senior tax officials of the FBR would assist Gilgit-Baltistan Council Secretariat in redrafting the Bill including proposed amendments in the Income Tax Ordinance 2001.

Some of persons who actively participated in the whole process of ensuing tax compliance in Gilgit-Baltistan included Tariq Tarar, MNA, Ghulam Hussain Saleem, Advisor GB Council and senior FBR officials. The parliamentarians including Tarar also co-ordinated with the tax authorities of the FBR for proposed legislation in the tax laws for collection of taxes in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Agriculture Department promises “free seeds” for GB farmers

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Gilgit (PT): The GB Agriculture Department plans to provide free seeds to farmers in the region. This was stated by a representative of the department while talking to media today. He informed that the seeds of a variety of crops will be made available to the farmers during the upcoming sowing season.

He further said that seeds were being packed and the process of distribution of seeds would soon be started in all seven districts of Gilgit Baltistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan:FoDP task force gives top priority to DBD

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ISLAMABAD (Dawn): The Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) has prioritised $28.2 billion water and hydropower projects to be completed by 2020 and decided to follow the guidelines and safeguards set by the Asian Development Bank for providing funds and technical assistance.

This is the crux of the final report of FoDP’s water sector task force after including suggestions of the stakeholders. The report completed in about a year is scheduled to be launched on Feb 20.

“It is Pakistan’s political and policy leaders who will have to decide the course of action” — whether to have a binding commitment from provinces and the lending agencies or follow the normal decision process of five-year plans, annual budgets and partnership strategies with lenders about a roadmap.

The report says Pakistan has one of the largest, complex and integrated water system but despite greater issues its policy leaders were ‘flying almost blind’ despite an ominous threat from snow and glacial melt on the Indus system arising out of climate change.

The task force puts $12 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam in Gilgit-Baltistan as ‘priority number one’ for implementation after unanimity of views among all domestic stakeholders and bilateral and multilateral lenders.

Second on the list are six major projects with total cost of $14 billion — Kurram Tangi, Munda, Dasu, Kohala, Golen Gol and Bunji, to be developed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fata, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. There was unanimity among the member countries, lenders and stakeholders in Pakistan on the need for major dams and top priority for Bhasha dam.

On resistance from some provinces, the controversial Kalabagh dam has been dropped from the priority list, although the multilateral lenders had strongly recommended its construction.

Understanding the difficulties in taking major political decisions in an election year, the task force has also called for provincial strategies for the ‘next governments’ but advised the lending agencies to include these projects in the programmes already in the pipeline.

The task force has noted opposition from the Federal Flood Commission to putting responsibility of inspection of existing infrastructure and embankments on Wapda and left the issue for the government to decide.

The lenders have endorsed Punjab’s move to put in place an Asset Management Plan for embankments and to develop a financial method for maintenance of major embankments. Provinces believed FFC’s inspection of embankments was not up to the mark.

However, the task force notes “serious, cumulative problems of neglect of maintenance of major embankments by the provinces”.

It was agreed that good institutional, social and environmental policies were needed to attract external investment.

The task force did not agree to follow recommendations of the World Commission of Dams and decided to follow safeguard requirements of the ADB.

Despite insistence by some provinces that existing revenue sharing from large dams was sacrosanct, the task force said it would continue to advocate that Pakistan should adopt good global practices involving a formula of royalty sharing among affected provinces and local people and move away from the Tarbela-like arrangement that transfers maximum benefits to the province where the power house is located without giving project benefits to locally displaced communities.

The task force agreed that the 1991 accord was a great asset for water sharing among the provinces but urged to put in place an institutional framework that reduced current large political elements in its implementation and for better predictions for rabi and kharif seasons and transparent measurement of flows and losses to end mistrust.

The report notes strong agreement for improved on-farm water management (OFWM), the need for new infrastructure on canal storage and control structure.

Likewise, strong commitment has emerged for small and medium dams which should be developed by provinces but in integrated command area projects using modern technologies.

For this, all provinces have agreed to the objective of full cost recovery from users.

For better agricultural productivity, the stakeholders have also agreed to a $315 million assistance for OFWM, $140 million for small dams, $100 million for spate irrigation and $500 million for improved management of main canals.

The stakeholders have agreed to put in place new operating rules for major future dams and projects — moving away from agriculture as top priority to power and flood control whose benefits are larger than agriculture.

The FODP agreed to provide $500 million for a flood management programme to be completed by 2016.

The report notes major issues with bulk water transmission in Karachi, unsustainable groundwater use in Quetta posing an existential threat and deplores “no indication of willingness to address these challenges”.

It has also found broad agreement that the present institutional model is broken, most obviously financially as no utilities have operating ratio greater than 50 per cent, creating problems in meeting water needs in growing city peripheries and choking sewerage and sanitation services. It says the first step to address these issues will be for the political leadership to spend political capital for financial sustainability.

The task force says the FoDP should stay away from reforming city institutions unless there is a strong political commitment and then consider financing ‘transition costs’ for getting to financial sustainability.