Month: May 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan: Another Mega Scam in GB?

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Gilgit (ET): The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has accused the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government of awarding a multi-million rupee tender on nepotism.

Addressing reporters outside the Gilgit Press Club on Saturday, PML-N Ghizer President Rana Nasir Hussain alleged that the government has awarded a tender for Rs700 million to blue-eyed officials. He claimed that the tender – which includes construction of buildings, boundary walls and classrooms in different valleys of the region, including Ghizer, Diamer and Skardu – was not advertised in any newspaper.

“We have done our homework and we believe that the education minister, education secretary and a director are among those involved in this mega scam,” Hussain alleged. Furthermore, he said that the project was awarded in the month of May, “which suggests that they intended to withdraw the money before the end of the fiscal year”. The accused officials could not be contacted for comment.

Gilgit-Baltistan:GB Development Authority Bill Passed

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Gilgit(ET): Following a unanimous vote in its favour, the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) enacted the G-B Development Authority Bill on Friday. The bill, prepared by G-B Law Minister Wazir Baig and refined by a parliamentary committee, will serve as the watchdog for development in the mountain region.

During the session, G-B Senior Minister Muhammad Jaffar said the posts for three newly carved divisions would be created in the upcoming budget.

The health minister, Haji Gulbar Khan, criticised the ban on recruitment in hospitals, saying that it has created staff shortage and the vacant posts should be filled on an immediate basis.

Replying to Khan, the law minister said it is expected that the federal government will lift the ban after the budget is announced.

The speaker also inquired about the 10,000 posts sought from the federal government for various departments and asked the law minister to initiate the process of recruitment in this regard.

Sarwar Shah, a lawmaker of JUI-F from Diamer Valley, pointed out that Darel and Tangeer valleys had not received their quota of 22,000 wheat bags so far.

However, Jaffar, who is also the minister for food, said the delay was caused due to the law and order situation in the region followed by a strike by transporters. He assured that the commodity would be delivered on an immediate basis.

The chief minister was also urged to regularise the jobs of lecturers appointed on contract basis during the session.

No regrets

Meanwhile, a legislator barred from entering the assembly said he would resort to his voters instead of seeking an apology or any other legal course against the decision.

“The people voted me to power by rejecting the bribe offered to them in the shape of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and Watan cards,” said Nawaz Khan Naji, a nationalist leader during a press conference.

Naji was barred from entering the assembly for tearing apart a copy of resolution supporting Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

His act led to a ruckus in the house and ended up with the speaker calling in the police for his arrest.

Naji said he had just torn a piece of paper, while on the other hand the treasury benches had hurled abuse at him.

“Action should have been taken against them, not me,” he remarked, adding that the treasury benches were trying unnecessarily to bail out Gilani, who had been convicted by Pakistan’s highest judiciary.

He further said that the G-B governor and chief minister were looting public money in the name of protocol and the empowerment order. “Not a single development project has been completed in the region for the past two years.”

Gilgit-Baltistan:Role of Media for Peace in GB

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Gilgit (ET): Government functionaries and media experts at a seminar urged the media to play its vital role in salvaging Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) from sectarian violence.

“We all need to come forward to protect the mountainous region from elements hell bent on ruining it,” said G-B Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah, while addressing a seminar on “Challenges and Role of media in G-B” organised at Gilgit Press Club on Thursday. He said that the media has a critical role to play in educating the society and strengthening institutions.

Adding on to the governor’s stance, Law Minister Wazir Shakeel said that all was not perfect with the government and that the media should highlight the loopholes in its working and performance. “The government authorities don’t claim to be perfect creatures,” said Shakeel, “but instead of criticising them all the time, the media should also highlight the good work they have done”.

However, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) G-B President Hafizur Rehman came hard at the government, saying that it has “failed miserably” since taking charge of G-B’s affairs. “Correct me if there has been any decrease in corruption and lawlessness in the region in the past three years,” he remarked.

He alleged that posting and appointments in G-B are subject to bribes and nepotism and money is being “ruthlessly spent” on the protocol of ministers. He claimed that the government spends more than 80 per cent budget on non-development activities, including on protocol, while only 20 per cent is spent on development activities. He urged the media to focus on investigative journalism to “unearth the true faces of corruption”.

Adviser to the Prime Minister, Attaullah Shah, said that lack of education is the root cause of bloodshed in G-B. He said that the gulf between two schools of thought has widened after the recent violence in G-B, adding that people from various valleys need to be brought closer to end this menace. In order to ease sectarian tensions and help foster peace in G-B, he urged the media should play the role of the educator.

G-B Jamaat-i-Islami Ameer Maulana Abdus Sami hailed the role of media in G-B but said that it should also cover the positive activities of religious leaders.

Presidents of the various press clubs of G-B, including those of Skardu, Ghizer, Astore and Hunza-Nagar valleys, called on the government to settle issues being faced by journalists by constructing press clubs in every district, providing annual grants and implementing wage board awards.

At the end of the seminar, certificates were distributed among leading journalists of G-B.

Gilgit-Baltistan:GB Rich in Tourism

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Astore (Obs.): Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has rich tourism potential and the government is utilizing all available resources for its promotion. This was stated by Advisor to Tourism Gilgit-Baltistan Miss Sadia Danish in a telephonic conversation with meida on Wednesday.

She said negotiations had been held with various renowned companies of the country to develop the region on modern lines. She added due to the efforts of Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah the tourism department was developing at a rapid pace.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Code of conduct for Clerics

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Gilgit (Observer): Gilgit Baltistan (GB) cabinet approved ‘Code of Conduct’ CoC) for mosques and gave legal status to Masajid Boards, which were formed by the Parliamentary Committee. The cabinet discussed Law and Order situation and reviewed measures taken to maintain law and order in the region.

Meanwhile, talking to media men the spokesman of the government, Minister for Education Dr Ali Madad Sher said the code of conduct has been approved and will be given a legal cover by presenting it in the assembly in the shape of a Masajid Boards Act and its implementation will ensure harmony, tranquility and tolerance. He said the code was a need of hour which has been framed keeping in view the demand of society.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Seminars on School Safety

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Islamabad:  Focus Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan, an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) organised a seminar to commemorate 16th May as School Safety Day, in line with a unanimous declaration passed at the International School Safety Conference organised by AKDN in March 2008. The seminar on School Safety was held in Islamabad and  attended by experts and practitioners of School Safety initiatives across Pakistan.

Dr. Zafar Iqbal Qadir, Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Chief Guest of the event  appreciated AKDN’s role in developing resilient communities. He said that joint working groups will finalize Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) enriched curriculum for Pakistan by the year end. “At the government level, our efforts will continue to notify official commemoration of National School Safety Day annually on May 16th”, he said.

Earlier, FOCUS Chairperson, Ms. Khadija Jamal Shaban, welcomed participants of the seminar and highlighted the efforts of the Aga Khan Development Network in mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction. She emphasized the importance of preparedness of the next generation, and highlighted the need for collaborative efforts in this regard.

Dr. Tariq Mahmood, Deputy Educational Adviser in Curriculum and Textbook Development and Production Unit of the Capital Administration and Development Division (CA&DD), Islamabad Pakistan, made a presentation about the national curriculum and how efforts have been made to incorporate DRR as a theme. He hoped that by 2013 – 14, a DRR enriched national curriculum will be available, which can be used across the country.

Mr. Zulfiqar Ali, Programme Coordinator, made a presentation about AKDN’s School Safety programme being jointly implemented by the different AKDN agencies, including AKF, AKES, AKU – IED and AKPBS, with assistance from the Australian government. Experts from different organizations made thematic presentations on different aspects of school safety. Among the presenters was Col (r) Shehryar of ERRA who presented a paper on construction of safer schools, based on his experience of rebuilding infrastructure in the Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) region. Mr. Syed Arsalan Sabah Zaidi from UNESCO presented a paper on “existing school curriculum and school safety”. Ms. Javeria Afzal of Oxfam presented a paper on social and physical vulnerabilities faced by members of the school community. A paper on structural vulnerabilities and mitigation measures was presented by Mr. Muhammad Sohail of NESPAK.

Mr. Eid Dad, a teacher from the Ghizar District of Gilgit – Baltistan, shared his experiences related to implementation of School Safety measures in his school and village. He said that a visible change could be seen at the school level where School Safety and DRR have become a priority.

The seminar was also attended by large numbers of government officials, including Federal Secretary for Education, Education Secretary for Gilgit – Baltistan and other senior officials. The Gilgit-Baltistan Directorate of Education also officially celebrated 16 May 2012 as the School Safety Day across GB.

Different programmes were held in Karachi, Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Chitral and other parts of the country to raise awareness about the need for creating disaster resilient school communities, better equipped and trained for dealing with natural and human induced disasters, and to increase the physical resistance of school structures to serve as safe havens during disasters.  School Safety Day related events were also held at schools in Astore, Ghizar, Gilgit, Hunza –Nagar, Chitral and Karachi, where students, teachers and community members came out in large numbers to advocate creation of safer and resilient schools.

Focus Humanitarian Assistance has been providing school safety training to communities since its inception in 1998. Thousands of students, teachers and community members have been trained for managing emergency evacuations, development of safety plans, fire-fighting, provision of first-aid, as well as basic search and rescue operations, in case of any eventuality. FOCUS has also worked with the Gilgit – Baltistan government to develop a school safety strategy for the mountainous regions. Advocacy efforts are underway currently to create laws based on the school safety strategy.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Share of Federating Units in Divisible Pool

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ISLAMABAD (News): The four federating units will get the major share of 70 percent in the net divisible pool, leaving only 30 percent for the federal government, according to a presentation prepared by the ministry of finance on strategy for the Budget 2012/13.

The provinces will have additional transfer of Rs800 billion from centre under the 7th National Finance Commission Award, it said.

Of the 30 percent revenue receipts from the divisible pool, the central government will fund the defence sector along with going for debt servicing, spending in pay and pension, sharing in the public sector development programme and extending the subsidies in energy, food sector and giving bailout packages to the public sector entities.

Mentioning about the initiatives taken in the last four years, the presentation says that the government has extended Rs1.122 trillion as subsidy to the power sector, Rs104 billion to the petroleum sector, Rs110 billion to fertiliser and Rs137 billion to food. In the period under review, massive resources have been provided to less developed areas such as Rs120 billion to FATA, AJK Rs72 billion and Gilgit-Baltistan Rs52 billion.