Month: February 2012
The G-B chief minister has spent about 70% of his time in Islamabad in the past year, according to sources close to him.
Moreover, since the beginning of the winter season most lawmakers, including G-B Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah, Deputy Speaker Jamil Ahmed, Senior Minister Wazir Jaffer, adviser to chief minister and several other officials have stayed in Islamabad and other cities.
“The capital city is bleeding while the chief minister and his cabinet members are living in luxury in Islamabad,” said Imtiaz Khan, a local resident while referring to the recent attack on JUI-F information secretary.
In addition to that, the capital city of G-B has also witnessed the worst power crisis in its history, bringing life to a complete standstill.
Jehanzeb Hussain, a resident of Jutial, said, “With every case of target killing, the feeling of alienation gets multiplied among residents, who blame the government for ignoring the gravity of the issue.”
Taking note of the growing criticism from the people, the chief minister recently ordered the lawmakers to ensure their presence in the region and play their part in addressing people’s issues.
“If lawmakers have to go out of town for personal reasons, they should avail their leaves,” he said. Even though Gilgit has a long history of target killings, the situation has aggravated since 2005, when a religious scholar was targeted.
Most of the residents believe the situation has become out of control for the government, which has simply failed to arrest the culprits behind the violence
“Conservation of biodiversity and the natural habitat of several endangered species is everybody’s responsibility since the next generation has the right to experience the wetlands and see what markhors and snow leopards look like,” Saleem Khan, a resident of Gahkuch said on the occasion of World Wetlands Day.
Organised by WWF-Pakistan and Pakistan Wetlands Programme, the event attracted over 400 individuals, including students, teachers, government functionaries and NGO officials in the main town of Ghizer valley.
A ‘Wetlands Nature Walk’ was organised in Gahkuch town and a speech and drawing competition was held for students. Two students each from ten schools were selected to participate in the speech and art competitions held on the ‘Role of high altitude wetlands for promotion of tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B)’. A jury selected the best debaters and artists for 1st, 2nd and 3rd position.
“The purpose of this event was to highlight the socio-economic and ecological importance of high-altitude wetlands and sensitise local communities and other stakeholders to manage these resources,” said Farasat Ali, a senior WWF official, who organised the event. Every year, February 2 is celebrated as World Wetlands Day across the globe to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands and associated biodiversity. The theme for World Wetlands Day 2012 is “Wetlands and Tourism”.
He said the day was extremely important for G-B as most communities are settled either adjacent to or along major river banks but they are not fully aware of the threats to the fragile high-altitude wetland ecosystem.
The challenge lies in exploiting its tourist potential while protecting it from degradation. “Though these freshwater bodies offer great tourism opportunities like camping, fishing, bird watching, scenic beauty and water sports, at the same time they are threatened due to excessive resource exploitation and unmanaged tourism,” he said.
Experts believe that misuse of natural resources resulting in socio-economic and ecological repercussions is damaging the ecosystem of the mountains.
According to a notification issued from the Prime Minister Secretariat, Justice Rana Mohammad Arshad Khan, a former judge of the Lahore High Court, has been appointed as the chief judge of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court (SAC). “Justice Khan will take oath of his office on Feb 8, 2012,” it said.
The position of chief judge fell vacant after Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi’s contract expired last month. The decision to grant an extension to Abbasi was revoked by the G-B government after it developed differences with him over an extension issue.
Last December, the former chief judge of the SAC, Justice Abbasi, had moved a reference against a fellow judge who allegedly threatened the governor. According to the reference moved by Justice Abbasi, he was telephoned by G-B Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah on December 19, who said that Justice Jafar Shah had threatened his life and his property.
The governor initially sent a letter to the federal government for the extension of Nawaz Abbasi but later on the intervention of the G-B chief minister, the decision was revoked and Justice Rana was appointed instead.
Legal experts say that the method of appointment of judges for Gilgit-Baltistan’s apex court is not only against the established norms of an independent judiciary but also a burden on the meagre resources of the region.
According to article 60 (8) of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order of 2009, the chief judge and judges are appointed for a period of three years by the prime minister of Pakistan, who is also the chairman of the G-B Council.
“The session is planned for February 14 when senior officials of FWO will share their experience with elected representatives including members of the legislative assembly and G-B Council,” said officials requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to interact with the media.
Responsible for executing the project to widen the lake’s spillway, the FWO has been severely criticised for the past one year for its failure to drain the lake that has submerged almost four villages upstream.
More than 25000 people in Gojal have been stranded after a massive landslide in January 2010 formed a natural dam in the Hunza River, creating a lake. The landslide also blocked the Karakoram Highway, a vital trade link to China, cutting off people in Gojal valley, also known as Upper Hunza, from the rest of the country.
Engineers had dug out a spillway to let the water gush out, but the lake did not drain out, sparking criticism.
According to experts, the spillway should have been at least 30 metres deep in order to allow the submerged villages and two RCC bridges and part of the Karakoram Highway to resurface. “The depth of the spillway is about 10 to 12 metres,” sources said.
FWO officials said huge boulders beneath the spillway were hindering progress and that they had tried to blast the rocks to widen the spillway. A colonel had drowned in the spillway in an attempt to rescue three persons stuck in a bulldozer.
Former home secretary G-B, Asif Bilal told reporters that Chinese engineers had expressed their inability to drain the Attabad Lake. Desperate to restore the only surface link to the rest of the country, youth from Attabad and Gojal attempted twice to drain the lake but the government barred them due to the risk involved.
In the absence of a land route, boats are the only means of transportation, but in winters when the surface of the 23-kilometre long Attabad Lake is frozen, the voyage is perilous and has been banned.