Month: February 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan: KKH Blocked and Vociferous Slogans raised against CM

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Chilas (INP):People in Gilgit-Baltistan have once taken to the streets after failure of the government to resolve the issue of withdrawal of wheat subsidy which resulted in increase of Rs3 per kilogram in the price of wheat flour.

Thousands of people marched to the Karakoram Highway in Chilas and blocked the road on Saturday. There was complete strike in Chilas, Ghizer and other parts of Gilgit-Baltistan where demonstrators raised vociferous slogans against the chief minister.

The GB government had sought time from the leaders of the protest movement till 25th of February at the beginning of this month when people started agitation against withdrawal of subsidy on wheat. The chief minister and the ministers repeatedly stated later that thee was no increase in the price of wheat and the increase of Rs3 per kg was only due to transportation cost but the people refused to agree to this contention.

Addressing the protestors at Chilas, MQM’s Haji Abdul Aziz, Haji Sher Ghazi, Habibur Rehman, PML-N Diamer’s President Haji Abdul Waheed, student leader Umer Farooq and others said they would not accept withdrawal of wheat subsidy to Gilgit-Baltistan. They demanded that the government must check its wasteful expenditure and not put additional burden on the poor people of the region.

Meanwhile Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) supporters on Saturday protested against vote rigging in NA-148 constituency here. According to the reports, the protest begin when PML-N workers witnessed incomplete voter-lists at polling station no. 98 and also a polling agent forcing voters to cast their votes for PPP at polling station102.

Voting process at both polling stations was brought to halt for a while amid protests. However, PPP candidate Ali Mussa Gilani rejected the rigging allegations. In NA-148, PPP has fielded Ali Musa Gilani against Abdul Ghaffar Dogar of PML-N and the seat was vacated by Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi after he joined PTI.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Progress on Projects of GB Reviewed

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ISLAMABAD (D.Times): A high-level meeting under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was informed here on Wednesday that connectivity of Skardu and Gilgit with the national grid would be completed with an estimated foreign funding of $100 million from the French Agency for Development.

Some 108 projects in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) with 137 megawatts (MW) generation capacity would be completed by 2016 with an estimated cost of Rs 137 billion.

Meeting was held at the PM’s House to review the progress on hydel power projects in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and GB with a view to accelerate the process of the completion of projects to meet the energy requirements of the people.

Gilani directed that the action plan should be implemented by the relevant ministries adding that the projects below the capacity of 50 MW should be completed on top priority basis.

Gilani directed the Ministry of Water and Power secretary to get Skardu and Gilgit connected with the national grid, which would smoothen the supply of electricity to a great deal.

Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) Chairman Shakil Durrani apprised the meeting that the connectivity of Skardu and Gilgit with the national grid would be completed with an estimated foreign funding of $100 million from the French Agency for Development.

GB chief secretary said that there were 108 projects in GB with 137 MW generation capacity and they would be completed by 2016 with an estimated cost of Rs 137 billion. The Kashmir Affairs and GB Secretary stated during his presentation that there were seven ongoing projects in AJK, which would produce 11 MW of electricity and the projects would be completed by the end of this year.

He further said that the federal Public Sector Development Programme included three projects of hydel power generation which would be completed with an estimated cost of Rs 9.9 billion by 2016 and produce 55 MW of power.

The secretary further pointed out that the private sector has taken up two power projects, at Bong, Mirpur and Pathrand, Muzaffarabad, which would produce 231 MW of electricity.

He further pointed out that there was a very encouraging response from the investors on seven projects and the government was proactively undertaking the projects at the earliest.

Earlier, in his opening statement, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and GB Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo congratulated the prime minister and his leadership on the unanimous passage of the 20th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2012, which would have positive effects on the democratic dispensation of the country. The unanimous enactment of the amendment had indeed raised the status of the politicians in the real sense, he said.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Water and Power Naveed Qamar, minister for Kashmir Affairs and GB, GB Chief Minister Mehdi Shah, Ministry of Water and Power secretary, EAD secretary, Kashmir Affairs and GB secretary, GB chief secretary, WAPDA chairman and other senior officials were also present in the meeting.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Team Formed to Probe Cracks in Naltar Dam

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GILGIT (Dawn): Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly Speaker Wazir Baig on Monday constituted a committee headed by Wazir Shakil, Minister for Water and Power, to investigate reasons behind cracks appeared in the water reservoir of 18MW power station in Naltar.

The committee was formed after member Syed Raziuddin Rizvi raised a question in the assembly session that there was likelihood of calamity in case the water reservoir burst as it had developed several cracks.

While responding to the question Minister Wazir Shakil said 15km long reservoir had accumulated tons of silt because of flashfloods of the last year, which caused cracks in it. He informed the house that experts had been hired to clean the reservoir. He said electricity to Gilgit city would be restored by Tuesday, which has been suspended for past five days due to the fault in the power station.

The Speaker Wazir Baig also directed the food minister to clarify whether or not the subsidy on wheat was being withdrawn as members raised hue and cry over the rumours of its withdrawal.

The food minister said while wheat prices were needed to be increased subsidy on its transportation would not be withdrawn.

Maulana Sarwar of JUI drew attention of the house towards law and order situation in the region.

SNOWFALL:Snowfall in the high altitude areas of Gilgit-Baltistan continued on the second consecutive day on Monday while plain areas received rain. A sever cold wave forced residents to remain indoors.

Phandar, Yasin, Ishkoman, Gupis, Khanbary, Babusar, Kharman, upper parts of Ghanche and Skadru districts, Minimarg, Qmri, Gultari, Mir Malik, and some valleys received heavy snowfall.

Police said there was no report of any casualty due to fresh spell of snowfall. Flights between Gilgit and Islamabad were also suspended due to inclement weather.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GBLA Members Ired by Wheat and Power Crisis

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Gilgit (ET): Legislators in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), including those belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), criticised the government, on Monday, for not keeping them in the loop over withdrawal of subsidy on wheat in the region during the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly.

“The government must clear its position on the issue, as we are answerable to the people,” said Ayub Shah, a PPP legislator from Ghizer valley, during the question-answer session. He asked the government to take lawmakers into confidence over the matter, which has also triggered protests in some areas.

Recently, around 10,000 people took to the streets in Ghizer valley to protest against increase in wheat prices, which have jumped to Rs1,100 from Rs800 per bag containing 100 kilogrammes.

Shah’s comments proved to be the tip of the iceberg. A number of lawmakers, including Abdul Hameed of PPP and Mirza Hussain and Bashir Ahmed of PML-Q reinforced Shah’s standpoint and rebuked the government for its anti-people policy.

“It is disappointing that the subsidy has been revoked by an elected government. The decision should immediately be annulled keeping in mind the financial condition of people,” they asserted.

However, Senior Minister Muhammad Jaffar, who responded to Shah on behalf of the chief minister in his absence, claimed that the subsidy had not been withdrawn.

“This is totally incorrect. The subsidy is there and will remain as it is a gift from Bhutto to the people of G-B,” he remarked.

He said only transportation charges had been increased due to a rise in fuel prices.

Giving the details of the subsidy, Jaffer said Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supply Corporation purchases wheat from farmers at Rs28 per kg, while the people receive the commodity at a subsidised rate of Rs11 per kg.

Power crisis

After a brief interval, legislators returned with harsh words for the government, this time against the power crisis that has crippled life in the capital city since November.

Raziuddin, an independent member of the assembly, accused a senior official of the water and power department of receiving Rs5 million as bribe for inviting experts from Lahore to repair the cracked reservoir at Naltar hydel power plant.

Similarly, Jamil Ahmed, deputy speaker of the assembly, also criticised the government for re-awarding the contract to inept companies who failed to deliver in the past.

“Instead of blacklisting such companies, they are being given contracts, which calls the government’s credibility into question,” he said. The speaker, Wazir Baig, formed a committee to probe the issue of the cracked reservoir.

The situation became pretty intense when G-B Minister for Water and Power Wazir Shakil informed the house that it would take another two or three days to restore power in Gilgit. Earlier on Saturday, the government had announced that electricity would remain cut off to the capital city till Monday under a load management plan

Gilgit-Baltistan:Snow Leopards Descend down to Doyan valley

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Gilgit: On 13th February 2012 local community members of the Doyan valley in Astore District of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan spotted a group of four snow leopards near their village. Astonishingly the shy cats remained at the same location till 14th February, and the community members Mr. Naseer ur Rehman and others informed Gilgit-Baltistan Wildlife Department about the sighting and continued show up of the animals. Upon the advice of Mr. Willayat Noor, Conservator Parks and Wildlife Gilgit-Baltistan and Mr. Aftab Mehmood, Divisional Forest Officer Wildlife Gilgit-Baltistan, the community members ventured to photograph the illusive felids. On 14th February, Mr. Naseer of Doyan Community and Mr. Farooq, Game Inspector of the Gilgit-Baltistan Wildlife Department were able to take some pictures and videos of the cats. According to Mr. Naseer, they were about 100 meters away from the cats on the other side of Astore river, while looking at them and taking photographs.

Human encounter with snow leopard in the rugged mountainous area of Gilgit-Baltistan and the neighborhood has been fascinatingly expressed by wildlife enthusiasts, biologists, government officials and local community members. The incidences have been quite often reported for the last couple of years when the local communities in Gilgit-Baltistan had proactively started wildlife watch and ward activities in their respective valleys.

Doyan valley is one of the twenty-four Community Managed Conservation Areas (CMCAs) notified by the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan as part of the community-based conservation efforts in the region. The conservation programme in Doyan valley was started in late 1990s and in 2004 local communities formed a community-based organization namely Doyan Valley Conservation and Development Organization (DVCDO). The valley was notified as CMCA in 2004 and first permit for trophy hunting of Astore Markhor (Capra falconeri falconeri) was granted in 2008-2009. Remembering the venture of the first trophy hunt in his village Mr. Naseer recounts that “a British hunter namely Malkom King came to our village during the winters of 2009 and prior to his hunt the trophy size animal was hunted by a snow leopard, we were deprived of USD 36000 but we never thought of taking revenge from the cat”. Mr. Naseer proudly added that “we kept our efforts continued in conserving wildlife species in the village and the same hunter came again in 2010 and succeeded in hunting a big Markhor (41” horn size), for which the community got Pak Rupees 3.1 million. Now every one of us in the village is a guardian of wildlife, therefore, not only the Markhor, but we are also taking care of snow leopards”.

Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is bestowed with exceptional natural areas comprising of lofty peaks, enormous glaciers, alpine meadows, gushing rivers and streams, high altitude lakes, stunning landscapes and beautiful patches of old alpine forests. All these features together constitute an astonishing but fragile mountain ecosystem, providing basic livelihoods to its inhabitants such as food, fiber, shelter, medicine, etc. Simultaneously these mountain ecosystems are sheltering a magnitude of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. To name a few are animals such as Snow leopard, Astore markhor, Himalayan ibex, Musk deer, Brown and Black bear, Woolly flying squirrel, Tibetan grey wolf, Red fox, Himalayan lynx and numerous species of birds including Ram chakor, chakor, snow partridge, golden eagle, Himalayan griffin, etc. Similarly the rivers, streams and high altitude lakes are splendid with aquatic life dominated by the famous trout fish, Eurasian otter and migratory waterfowl frequenting at certain places.

Keeping in view the extraordinary natural wealth of the mountainous areas, the Government of Gilgit Baltistan has brought certain ecologically rich areas under the net of protected areas by notifying five national parks, three wildlife sanctuaries, seven game reserves and twenty-four community-managed conservation areas, covering some 30,000 km2 , almost half of the total land area of GB. These protected areas aim to conserve species of special concern and their habitats while linking the conservation benefits with the livelihoods of local communities side by side generating avenues of income for the provincial and national economies.

Initiated from a pilot project in Bar valley of Hunza-Nagar District, some 20 years back by WWF Pakistan and the GB Wildlife Department, the community based conservation programme has now been a widespread environmental movement in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Legislators seeks Legal Cover to GB Ordinance 2009

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Gilgit (ET):The ambiguous status of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has sparked a new debate in the region’s legislative assembly — with the fourth day of proceedings witnessing a heated discussion over the existing legal status of the territory.

Assertive legislators rolled out two options: Either provide legal cover for the G-B Self Governance & Empowerment Ordinance 2009, or a setup similar to the one given to Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK).

The debate came in the wake of a petition filed by a resident of G-B Dr Ghulam Abbas in the Supreme Court on Wednesday over the ambiguous constitutional status of G-B. During Wednesday’s hearing the Supreme Court asked the attorney general (AG) to explain under which law was the Self Governance Order 2009 promulgated? The AG replied that the president of Pakistan, on behalf of the federal government, had issued the Self Governance Order 2009 for the region that has no representation in parliament due to its disputed status.

“The setup given to the region needs to be supported by a legal cover just like in AJK,” said Didar Ali, an independent lawmaker during the proceedings of the G-B Legislative Assembly that was chaired by Deputy Speaker Jamil Ahmed.

He said that in the wake of the hearing on the petition filed in the Supreme Court, it has been learnt that the order through which the G-B Self Governance & Empowerment Ordinance 2009 has been enforced is liable to be repealed by any authority anytime. “We are concerned about that,” he said.

Another independent legislator, Nawaz Naji, termed G-B a “fake province” that has no solid roots in the Constitution.

Rehmat Khaliq, a lawmaker of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), said that constitutionally G-B cannot be given the status of Pakistan’s fifth province due to some international disputes; hence a package similar to the one given to AJK should be allocated to G-B as well.

Meanwhile, G-B Law Minister Wazir Shakil told the house that the G-B ordinance was a presidential order that cannot be abolished. Chief Minister Mehdi Shah then asked the allied party legislators to convince their main leadership to raise their voice in parliament for a permanent status for G-B.

Responding to a question by an independent lawmaker Raziuddin, the law minister said that the G-B judiciary was independent and the government could not interfere in its matters

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB An Unconstitutional Province

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By Ejaz Karim

The federation of Pakistan comprises of four provinces and four non-provincial units, namely FATA, Northern areas now Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Islamabad capital territory. The people of GB have been living in a constitutional vacuum for over 64 years; they are neither given representation in the parliament nor a constitutional mandate to the local assembly.

On August 2009, an ad-hoc ordinance was introduced by The Government of Pakistan-named Gilgit-Baltistan empowerment and self-governance order. Pakistan People Party called it a democratic change in Gilgit-Baltistan-I accept that names have been changed: Executive to Governor and Deputy Executive to Chief Minister, Northern Areas to Gilgit-Baltistan, we can’t complain much about that- no doubt Ministers are increased but budget is same.

It was matter of celebration for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan that they are going to have their own Governor and Chief Minister, and the status of so called province. Nothing has been changed at the gross root level, no status of province, no representation either in parliament or senate. We are neither given any administrative setup like Azad Jammu and Kashmir nor facilities which other provinces enjoy. This suspious arrangement on the other hand, increases the prevailing confusion of the local people in order to explain the future status of the area and arises numerous questions: Will a citizen of GB able to be a Chief justice in courts of Pakistan including Supreme Court? Will a citizen of GB able to be chief in Pakistan military forces? Will it be written in syllabus that Pakistan has five provinces? Etc. Three years on- but all the promise seems not more than a betrayal for the people of GB and merely an opportunity of point scoring for Pakistan peoples party. While the area neither get part of NFC award nor separate quota in competitive examinations and seats in various Universities of Pakistan.

Since 1947 the constitutional and administrative status and fundamental human and political rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been discussed between Governments of Pakistan and India. The constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973 of- Pakistan don’t recognize Gilgit-Baltistan as part of Pakistan, It is clearly explained that GB is not part of Pakistan in term of article-1 of the constitution of Pakistan, which spell out territorial limits of the country. But democratic and military dictators introduced various governing reforms in the area under different names in order to align it with the emerging economics and political needs of the country.

Now, it’s the indeed require to clear the stance over GB for both countries- Pakistan and India and give maximum autonomy to the region. Pakistan must change the bureaucratic Government in GB and empower the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) and make its institutional capacity strengthen to work for the people rather than for the bureaucrats and politicians.

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Gilgit-Baltistan:Unending Power Crisis in GB

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Gilgit (ET): The Gilgit-Baltistan government, on Saturday, announced a load management plan under which electricity to the regional capital will remain suspended from Saturday till Monday.

The plan, the first of its kind to be made public, has helped people understand the extent of the power crisis that has brought life to a standstill in the region.

The reason behind the suspension is to give technicians time to repair fissures in the walls of the main water reservoir of the Naltar hydel power project. The fissures were first discovered after residents informed the media that families living downstream risked being swept away in case the walls burst.

Though the authorities initially ruled out this possibility, saying that the joints had contracted due to weather changes, the government later brought in experts to fill in the fissures without much success.

Regional Minister for Water and Power Wazir Shakil, while apologising for the inconvenience caused, urged the public to cooperate with the government, adding that it was spending 30 per cent of the development budget on the power sector.

The reservoir, situated approximately 45km from Gilgit, currently supplies water to 90 per cent of the city’s population, making it the largest power project in the region.

Gilgit-Baltistan: FWO Postponed Blasting of the Attabad Spillway

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Islamabad (APP):The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) has postponed its plan of blasting the spillway of artificial Attabad Lake to adopt some effective measures for controlled blasting so as to meet positive results.

Deputy Commissioner Hunza Nagar Burhan Afandi told APP on Friday that the blasting would now take place on February 27 instead of February 18 for some technical reasons and to ensure that it was controlled.”We have asked the residents settled along the bank of Hunza River to avoid going near the river so that loss of lives could be averted,” he said.

He said the preventive measures, in this regard, had already been undertaken by the district administration.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan Sajid Chouhan presided over a meeting, attended by senior police officials, which reviewed preventive measures taken by the district administrations of Gilgit and Hunza Nagar.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Seminar on Gender Based Violence in GB

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Gilgit (ET): Almost 90 per cent of women in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) have been subjected to domestic violence at least once in their lives. This was the consensus among speakers during a seminar on gender-based violence held at a local hotel on Thursday.

The seminar stressed on the fact that most women are subjected to physical abuse, mental torture and in some cases, even sexual abuse at home, which often go unreported due to lack of education and tribal norms.

The participants, comprising researchers, human rights activists, journalists and government officials, demanded immediate measures to address the issue.

“There is an urgent need to extend all national and international laws concerning women to G-B to check the increasing cases of violence,” said Yasmeen Nazar, parliamentary secretary for planning and law.

In addition to that, speakers also stressed on the role of men in uprooting the menace by ensuring the rights enshrined for women in religious teachings.

Sher Azam, the coordinator of Trust for Community Empowerment, a non-governmental organisation which organised the event, said women will continue to bear the brunt of violence until collective and coercive measures are taken. “This is the need of the hour and this is what society wants,” he remarked.

Nasreen Nasir, who has won a gallantry award in the past, said Islam guarantees equal rights for men and women, adding that more efforts are needed to curb domestic violence in the region.

At the end of the seminar, participants were asked to sign a petition to introduce laws concerning women in the region, which will be submitted to the concerned authorities.