Month: April 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan: Revival of Silk Route to benefit Pakistan

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Beijing (ET): Revival of the ancient Silk Route can benefit Pakistan’s ailing economy, if the country upgrades its infrastructure along modern lines, says a Chinese minister.

“The Silk Route was a famous trade route in the ancient times. This proves that we have a long history of trade. Nowadays, the form of trade has changed. It needs to be developed along modern lines. I hope that this can benefit Pakistan’s economic development,” Ai Ping, Chinese Vice-Minister of the International Department Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview.

Ai shared his personal views about the issues faced by Pakistan, its relationship with China and emphasised on improving trade relations to strengthen the entire region.

After development of its eastern side, China is now focusing on developing its western region by investing billions of dollars. Chinese authorities said the western parts, particularly Xinjiang that borders Pakistan, will be the focus of development. The area is being linked with the rest of the country through state-of-the-art communication networks.

In a recent article, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Beijing Masood Khan said Pakistan can turn into the most important westward artery for China’s exports, as it builds a Eurasian bridge. Pakistan’s ports can shrink distances between China, the Middle East and Africa.

However, Ai said Pakistan can benefit by upgrading its airports, highways, railway networks and ports and the two countries can cooperate to not only help boost Pakistan’s economy but also open new vistas of cooperation, including power generation, between the two countries, he added.

He hoped that after the pullout of US-led Nato forces from Afghanistan, there will be chances of bringing peace to the war-torn country and improving economic cooperation. According to analysts, Pakistan might lose important US aid following the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, but it is possible to turn the region into a peaceful commercial hub for transcontinental trade — reminiscent of the ancient Silk Route. On the reported complaints against extremists using terrorist bases on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border for training to create disturbances in China, Ai claimed that there is a general impression in China that Pakistan has been very supportive in fighting extremists. However, he added there can be some elements that are beyond the Pakistan government’s control.

“Some people say this war on terror was imposed on Pakistan. My personal opinion is that Pakistan is a victim of terror attacks. Pakistani people and the government are fighting against these evils. Pakistan is entitled to more support in the fight against terrorists,” he claimed.

On the issue of Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project and US opposition to it, Ai gave candid remarks. “I think now there are some arguments about tensions… Even US intelligence operatives so far are not sure whether Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. I believe Iran has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, so I do not know why this project is controversial,” he said. “But once again this is my personal opinion. I am not speaking on behalf of the Chinese government,” he added.

Gilgit-Baltistan:GB Chief Justice Announced to Implement National Judicial Policy

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Karachi (ET): The two-day meeting of the National Judicial Policy Making Committee (NJPMC) concluded on Saturday, with the committee satisfied with its performance and an apparent achievement rate of almost 90%.

The meeting was chaired by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and attended by chief justices of all four provinces plus Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, high courts and members of the lower judiciary of Sindh.

The meeting, held at the Sindh High Court’s Committee Room, examined the NJP’s achievements, changes required to improve the policy’s implementation and future targets. The chief justices of G-B and AJK announced that they would also implement the NJP in their respective areas for the benefit of the masses.

Gilgit-Baltistan:The Kargil-Skardu Route: Implications Of Its Opening

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Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is strategically important for Pakistan both in terms of water security and because of the Karakoram Highway, which links Gwadar with China. Consolidating a road that intercepts the Karakoram highway is critically important in times of war for rapidly severing this link that has been deeply detrimental to India’s security. Moreover such a road can provide rapid access to Central Asia should either of two extremities eventuate – the collapse of Pakistan, or a rapid warming of India-Pakistan ties. This article, however, attempts to explore the implications of opening and consolidating the Kargil – Skardu road as a step towards the opening of GB and its pacification, which has been in turmoil for years.

In recent years, the Sectarian violence in GB has, in fact, intensified leading to an attempted exodus to Kharmang in Pakistan, compounded by a human rights problem. Two issues are central to the problem – divided families and a depressed local economy. That cross-border routes alleviate emotional alienation as a result of families divided by borders has been proven by the opening of the Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlkote routes for Kashmir and Jammu respectively. Now attention needs to be focussed on Ladakh – especially the Shia Baltis of the Kargil and Skardu regions.

Haji Abdul Hamid, a native of Zanskar symbolises this. In 1948 the retreating Pakistan Army, which had occupied the Zanskar heights took many locals and settled them in Skardu. As a result of tight travel restrictions they can only meet in Saudi Arabia or Iran during pilgrimages. Since the Baltis do not identify with the Kashmiri culture, the alleviation of Balti concerns significantly reduces the scope of what is referred to as the “Kashmir Issues” taking further wind away from the sails of this monolith construction.

Historically, the all weather Kargil-Skardu route was a jugular of intra-regional trade on which the local economy was heavily dependent. The events following partition, specifically the India-Pakistan war of 1948 resulted in the closure of this historic route isolating Baltistan from its natural linkages to the outside. The road from Skardu to Kargil via Srinagar is almost a stretch of 1,700Kms while, at the same time, Skardu is a 173kms or a five to six hours drive from Kargil. The entire route is, at present, suitable for four wheeled vehicles and may need some widening for a small stretch of about half a kilometre near the Line of Control (LoC). The utility of the Kargil-Skardu road also lies in its durability in winter months. At present there is only one pass Zoji-La (NH1) which connects the Ladakh region on the Indian side with the rest of the World. But this lifeline is cut off for more than six months in winters due to heavy snowfall and people spend their life in isolation specially in Kargil (Leh has an aerial connectivity from Srinagar, Jammu and Delhi).

This route can become an important trade and tourism link for the people of Ladakh. Several studies indicate the existence of a large smuggling based black market in the region. Formalizing this trade carries the potential of increasing governmental income, which can strengthen the local economy by providing impetus for further growth independent of what happens in the Kashmir valley. As trade between India and Pakistan are carried out in a third country, significant revenues are lost, profit margins are reduced, and costs go up. Formalization of direct trade by eliminating these three undesirable aspects brings an immediate improvement to the quality of life in the region.

GB and Kargil have extensive tourism potential, especially adventure tourism – trekking, mountain biking, river rafting and a host of other such activities. In addition, there are number of routes suitable for high altitude Jeep Safaris. The exploitation of these depends on open circuits with several contingencies and shorter access routes, which are cut off by the border as of now. Moreover, given that the link to Kashmir is snowed in for half the year, this route delinks what is otherwise an all weather tourist destination to the climactic undesirables of weather patterns in Kashmir. As a result, the seasonal unemployment that Kashmir suffers from is unwittingly imposed on the Kargil region, which need not be the case.

Leaders of the Hill Development Council in Kargil have demanded a Greater Ladakh which would include Gilgit, Skardu and Baltistan precisely because the local economic development is being held hostage to events in Kashmir even though the underlying causes are completely divorced from the more contentious issues there. This card if played right can be the first step towards the pacification if not the solution of the Kashmir problem.

Zainab Akhter, Research Intern, IPCS, email:

Gilgit-Baltistan: Curfew Lifted

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Gilgit: After 27 long days, the curfew in Gilgit and Baltistan came to an end, on an early Sunday morning. According to the press release from Cheif Minister Mehdi Shah’s office, the curfew in Gilgit will end today and mobile phone services will be allowed to operate again in Gilgit Baltistan territories. However, Pakistan Army will still remain deployed in the city even after the end of curfew and suspects who are under arrest on suspicion will soon be released from custody.—NNI

Gilgit-Baltistan: Peace Conference on GB Held in Islamabad

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Islamabad: Members of Gilgit Baltistan Council Maulana Attaullah Shahab, Professor Ghulam Hussain Saleem, Wazir Abadit Ali and Saeed Afzal attended the Conference ,they accused the local government for the current mess in GB. They said that the recent killings are a part of well planned conspiracy against the people of Gilgit Baltistan. Muhammad Ibrahim demanded that the perpetrator of the Kohistan, Gilgit and Chilas incidents be immediately arrested and punished according to the law of the land and also demanded relaxation in the curfew so that people could purchase their food and other commodities.

Gilgit-Baltistan in which over 200 people were killed and many more are still missing. Who did it ?? Who is responsible for this ?? Who will take the guarantee of our lives and prosperities ?? We are totally helpless, Pakistan’s military-run mainstream media and Human rights groups are silent over recent Killings in Gilgit-baltistan. Sunni, Shia, Ismaili & Noorbakhshi Muslims are being targeted by our own Govt. and agencies. Everything is going in a p0lanned manner. This sectarian massacres 2012 ‘brinkmanship’ reminds Gen Zia’s 1988 massacre of Gilgiti people… Gilgit-Baltistan needs basic human rights not the agencies funded ‘peace’ lectures.Prof.Ghulam Hussain Saleem said Shias, Ismailis and moderate Sunnis are under threat in Gilgit Baltistan as ethnic cleansing is systematically being carried out by radical elements in Pakistani society.

A senior lawyer-cum-politician from Gilgit Baltistan has asked the pakistani govt. to hastily make administrative changes in this area. He advocated that GB region should be divided into three administrative divisions for its development and political advancements. He demanded a judicial inquiry into the the current mess in GB. Astori Leader Qari Gulzar Criticized the role of local media they said “some newspapers are busy in spreading sectarian hatred by publishing baseless stories. Government representatives assured the participants that government is committed to restore peace in the region and every possible measure in this regard is taken.” They ensured that Karakorarm Highway would soon be opened for the public and goods transport so that supply and communication to GB region could be restored. At the end participants expressed their sorrow and grief over the killings of innocent people during the recent wave of violence and prayed that may Allah Almighty rest the departed souls in the eternal peace and grant courage and strength to the bereaved families to bear the loss with fortitude.


Gilgit-Baltistan: Sensitise Youth on Combating Gener Based Violence

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Karachi (News): Need to sensitise youth on combating gender-based violence (GBV) was stressed in the grants closing meeting of Gender Equity Programme (GEP) organised by the Devolution Trust for Community Empowerment (DTCE).

Four months campaign on gender-based violence was concluded during the two-day event organized by Devolution Trust for Community Empowerment (DTCE). The campaign was supported by USAID funded Gender Equity Programme of Aurat Foundation.

The meeting was held in connection with a campaign of the GEP (Cycle-4) on gender-based violence. The objective of meetings was to share field based experiences including success stories challenges, issues and lessons learnt. The event featured interesting presentations and 22 stalls displaying information, education and communication materials.

The GEP is a 5 years programme implemented by Aurat Foundation (AF) in collaboration with The Asia Foundation (TAF) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Programme aims at closing the gender gap in Pakistan by proactively supporting development of women.

Under the fourth grant cycle, more than 900 events were organised in more than 400 tehsils including AJK and GB. More than 50,000 community women and men participated in the activities held with the assistance of Aurat Foundation and the USAID.

The representatives of different community based organisations (CBOs) suggested that under such campaigns, activities should be carried out in the context of the local culture and issues related with local customs and traditions should not be directly targeted. They said that it is important to bring the government officials, religious leaders and community leaders in board before starting any activity.

The representative of the Association for Behaviour and Knowledge Transformation said that local communities express more interest and offer support in the development of their area and give less importance to soft activities like seminars, photo and painting exhibitions and conferences, Sharing her experience of working with girls in Peshawar District, Chairperson Aware Girls Gulalai Ismail stressed the need to work more with girls as they have actually internalised the violations of their rights. “We can give them hope that they can change their lives,” she said. In her opinion, men are also the victims of patriarchal system as society overburdens them with social responsibilities.

Aurat Foundation Chief Operating Officer Naeem Mirza said that women and men have to work side by side to change the mindset of sabotaging rights of women. DTCE Chief Operating Officer Azhar Bashir Malik said that women in Pakistan now feel more protected through better awareness channels present in the shape of different CSOs working on gender issues, media and government legislation.

On the second day of the event, sub grantees of Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan made presentations on campaigns run by them. The event culminated by a certificate distribution ceremony for participation in the campaign. Prize were also distributed among Society for the Advancement of Community Health, Education and Training (SACHET), Aware Girls, Awareness on Human Rights, Social Development and Action Society (AHSAS) for securing first, second and third positions respectively in stall set-up and presentation competition.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Extremists will be brought to Justice,CM

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Gilgit (ET):Chief Minister GB, Mehdi Shah on Wednesday said that the perpetrators of the recent spate of sectarian violence would be brought to justice.

He was speaking to a delegation from Nagar valley who called on him at his office on Wednesday.

Shah said the writ of the government would be established at all costs and the protection of life and property of citizens was the responsibility of the government.

The chief minister faced relentless criticism for being absent from the region during the sectarian violence which claimed more than 20 lives earlier this month in G-B.

Shah said the police would arrest people against whom cases have been registered. “Nobody is above the law,” he said, reiterating his government’s resolve to restore peace in the region.

The delegation assured the CM of their support in maintaining law and order in the region and said they would not provide protection to anybody involved in crime.

The G-B government has decided to form a special highway task force to ensure a safe journey on the Karakoram Highway [KKH] in a cabinet meeting. The task force will be led by a major while Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts, the Frontier Constabulary and elite police will also be part of it.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Spreading IT Network in Every Corner of the Country

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ISLAMABAD(APP): Federal Minister for Information Technology (IT) Raja Pervez Ashraf said government will introduce E-Governance throughout the country and Capital Development Authority (CDA) which will be the first model in this regard. The Minister said his first and foremost effort was to spread the network of IT in each and every corner of the country, including far flung areas of Gilgit – Baltistan. He said this during an interactive session with officials at Ministry of Information Technology held here on Wednesday.
He said it was big challenge for him to under-take this challenging task of uplift of the IT Ministry.
“E-Governance is the governance of tomorrow and future and our focus is timely completion of various policies of IT”.
He said the government is fully committed to launch various pilot projects of E-Governance in country and computerization of whole revenue system would be encouraged by federal government.
He also held an interactive session with heads of various attached departments of IT Ministry who briefed the Minister about the performance of their departments.
While addressing the officers, he stressed that alongwith various under process IT schemes, one mega program in IT sector would be launched and completed on priority basis.
He said that he will ensure timely and fair auction of 3-G licenses.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Paramilitary and Police Commandos Deployed on KKH

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Gilgit (Pak.Obs): GB Cabinet at a meeting here on Monday decided to deploy para military forces and police commandos’ teams to ensure safe journey on Karakorram high in the jurisdiction of district Diamer. Extra ordinary meeting of the Cabinet held under Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah reviewed the overall law and order situation in the area and took important decision.

Later briefing media about the Cabinet meeting, provincial government spokesman and Education Minster Dr Ali Madad Sher said that the cabinet approved constitution of a task force comprising 400 jawans.

The task force would consist of GB Scouts, Rangers, FC and Police Commandos. A Major rank officer would head the team. The team would patrol in areas in the jurisdiction of Gilgit –Baltistan upto KPK borers to ensure safety of passengers traveling between Gilgit and Rawalpindi.

Dr Ali Madad Sher said the government was in search of 30 accused involved in acts of terrorism. Of them twenty were arrested in raids during curfew and forces were carrying out raids to those who have gone in hiding. He said elites of the area would decide about the reopening of two central mosques in Gilgit so that the mosques were not used for political purposes.

In reply to a question, the Provincial Education Minister said that mobile phone service would remain suspended in Gilgit,Diamer and Hunzanagar till complete restoration of law and order. However he said the Cabinet has decided to restore mobile phone service in Ghizr district, which would be implemented from Monday evening.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Making GB Fifth Province of Pakistan

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The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have always been unequivocalin defending their association with Pakistan. Although the region is not a constitutional part of the country, it has never lagged behind any other province in terms of sacrifices for the sovereignty of the state. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have never complained about their miseriesdespitehaving no right to cast votes,no representation in the national assembly or senate, anda strong sense of deprivationin many other fields where other provincesenjoyconstitutional rights.

In 1948, the Republic of Gilgit-Baltistan emerged on the map of the world and survived only for a couple of weeks. The people of the region fought their own war against the tyrannical regimeof Dogra Raj and won their freedom. Because of the political circumstances that included a lack of resources, governance skills and political leadership, the victorious freedom fighters opted to accede to Pakistan unconditionally.

Until the first tenure of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Gilgit-Baltistan was taken for granted. Bhutto abrogated the fiefdom system and FCR (Frontier CrimesRegulations) and gave the people of the region a certain level of independence. Employment opportunities wereprovided and unemployment was almost brought to zero. His revolutionaryreforms are hailed by friends and foes alike. The people of Gilgit-Baltistantherefore endorse the idea that their region should be a Pakistan People’s Party stronghold where the party is even stronger than Sindh. In 2009, the PPP swept the elections in the region and is now the major ruling party.

In the four wars that Pakistan has fought with India, some of the best soldiers in Pakistan Army were from Gilgit-Baltistan. They fought for the country despite knowing their constitutional status. For them, passports and ID cards were just pieces of paper. A major part of the forces that defended Azad Jammu and Kashmir in 1948 was from Gilgit-Baltistan. Ironically, Azad Kashmir has enjoyed a status of a semi state for decades and Gilgit-Baltistan, then Northern Areas of Pakistan, suffered with an identity crisis for decades.

The Kargil War is also an evidence of the love of the people of the region with Pakistan. In 1999, hundreds of soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry sacrificed their lives and fought in extreme conditions to capture Kargil, but they were labeled militants and mujahideen. They stood by their country despite being disowned. Lalak Jan, who fought with extraordinary valor in Kargil and was awarded Pakistan’s highest military honor Nishan-e-Haider, was from Gilgit-Baltistan.

And although there are separatist movements in some parts of Pakistan, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have always remained loyal to Pakistan.

But 65 years is a long period of time to wait for the right of casting a vote of having a representative in Islamabad. It doesn’t even take more than a few years to be granted the nationality of countries like the US and UK.It is unfortunate that 80% of Pakistanis don’t even know the status of Gilgit-Baltistan, although they always speak for the rights of the people of Indian-administered Kashmir. The sovereignty of Gilgit-Baltistan is much more important for Pakistan than that of Srinagar.

Considering the sacrifices and loyalty of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and considering the strategic important of the region, it should be given the status of Pakistan’s fifth province. It is the gateway to the natural resources of the Central Asian states and the progressive state of Chinathat is a major source of economic stability for Pakistan. The region itself is rich in gold, uranium and gems. Its second largest water reservoirs in the world outside Antarctica and the North Pole make it a lifeline for Pakistan’s agriculture and can be used to make 50,000 megawatts of electricity. Gilgit-Baltistan is blessed with the tallest mountain peaks in the world, having the potential of attracting millions of dollars in adventure tourism.

It is essential that the legislators, think tanks and policy makers in Pakistan resolve this issue on a priority basis, before there is a sense of deprivation in the region similar to the former East Pakistan or Balochistan.