Month: May 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan:Uniform Distribution by WWF in Gilgit

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Gilgit (Dard.Times): WF-Pakistan under its Pakistan wetlands programme-Northern Alpine Wetlands Complex delivered 22 sets of uniform to the field staff of Gilgit-Baltistan Wildlife Department in a ceremony held in Gilgit Conservation Information Centre, on May 10, 2012.  The purpose of providing uniform to the field staff was to encourage dedicated personnel of the department who render their services to protect wildlife resources in their respective regions.

The Secretary Forest, Wildlife and Environment Gilgit-Baltistan, Mr.Khadim Hussain Saleem, who attended the ceremony as Chief Guest, applauded the initiative and remarked that the uniformed personnel in the department could deliver their duties more efficiently. He added that, in addition to sustainable resource use initiatives like trophy hunting efforts should also be channelled to build capacity of local communities to withstand the climate induced hazards and disasters.

Mr. Babar Khan Head WWF-P, Gilgit-Baltistan spoke about the longstanding partnership between GB wildlife department and WWF Pakistan for nature conservation in the region, and “provision of uniform and other necessary equipment to the department’s staff is another step towards mutual collaboration”, he added.

Mr.Muhammad Ismail Zafar Conservator Forest, Gilgit during his speech explained mutual collaboration between WWF-P and Gilgit-Baltsitan Forest Wildlife and Environment department since early 1990s and he admired the WWF-P’s interventions for conservation of protected area in the region and hoped for better future cooperation.

Mr.walayat Noor, Conservator, Wildlife and Parks, Gilgit-Baltistan also attended the ceremony and shared his views about the event. He emphasized on developing management plans for Qurumbar and Hunderab-Shandoor National Parks, in addition to taking necessary steps on implementation of the management plans of Deosai National Park. He also suggested taking some steps to add Nangaparbat area under the net of protected areas in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The event was also attended by other senior officials of GB Forest and Wildlife Department including the Deputy Secretary, DFO Wildlife and others.


Gilgit-Baltistan:Funds Allocated for DBD and KKH Expansion

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ISLAMABAD (News): The federal government, in its upcoming financial year 2012-13, will spend Rs55.52 billion on two major infrastructure projects including Diamer-Basha dam and Neelum-Jhelum power project, while on improvement of Karakoram Highway (KKH) about Rs3.8 billion will be expended.

According to the working paper of Public Sector Development Program 2012-13, out of this, Rs28.3 billion will be spend on land acquisition and construction work of Diamer-Basha dam which is the largest project ever executed in the country’s history; and will store 8.1 million acre feet (MAF) water and generate 4,500 megawatt (MW) of low-cost hydel electricity on its completion.

In addition to providing water for agriculture, the project will also contribute 18 billion units of electricity per annum to the national grid.

According to the official document, for completion of Mangla Raising Project and impound water during the next rainy season Rs6 billion and Rs6.84 billion Golan Gol Hydropower Project in Chitral has been earmarked, the working paper said.

Under Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), Rs2.069 has been earmarked for Allai Khawar hydro project in KP, Dubir Khawar Hydropower project KP Rs3.943 billion, Bunji Hydropower project Rs150 million, Keyal Khawar power project Rs544 million and for rehabilitation of Jaban hydro electric power station Rs1.155 million has been proposed.


Gilgit-Baltistan:Annual Sports Day at Government Postgraduate College for Girls

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Gilgit (ET): With competitions and meticulously rehearsed parades, the annual sports week at Government Postgraduate College Gilgit was the much-needed relief for the town’s residents.

More than 150 girls on Thursday participated zealously in an array of sports activities, including races, tug-of-war and cricket and volleyball matches, and showed great sportsmen spirit.

The event was attended by Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Chief Minister Mehdi Shah, the guest of honour, along with G-B Chief Secretary Saifullah Chatha, G-B Minister for Education Dr Ali Madad, female lawmakers Mehnaz Wali and Sadia Danish, and other dignitaries.

“We wanted to do a lot more for the region and particularly for the education sector, but the deteriorating law and order situation has been a stumbling block,” the chief minister said in his address.

He said that in developing countries the process of imparting education continues “throughout the year and around the clock”, but regretfully in G-B schools are forced to stay closed for weeks and at times month.

Shah said that the government spends around Rs2 to 3 million on each student till the time he/she graduates from college, adding that such interruptions are a loss for both the student and the government. However, he assured that efforts are being made to ensure peace in the region.

Shah announced the approval of the much-awaited timescale formula for the promotion of schoolteachers, along with the construction of a water purification plant and a medical facility in the college. He assured that priority will be given to complete the pending construction of the college’s classrooms.

Shan also called on the teachers to help improve the quality of education, and the students to play their role in maintaining peace in the region.

The college principal, Uzma Haroon, highlighted the issues being faced by the administration and the students. She said that the college lacks teaching staff and is also in need of a hostel for students of remote valleys.

Postgraduate College Gilgit was constructed during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s rule and currently enrols over 1,400 students.

Gilgit-Baltistan:PTI Demands Release of Political Activist

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Karachi (News): Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Secretary General Dr Arif Alvi has pledged support for the demand for the release of Baba Jan Hunzai and his fellow activists of the Labor Party Pakistan who had been languishing in jail for months.

During a meeting with the Labour Party leader Farooq Tariq, Dr Alvi condemned the alleged torture of the arrested, saying that the treatment meted out to the political activists was a clear violation of fundamental human rights.

He said the alleged torture of Baba Jan Hunzai was in complete contradiction with the PPP government’s claim that there were no political prisoners in the country. The PPP had continually mistreated political activists including the people of Gilgit-Baltistan who had been struggling for their political and economic rights, he added. Dr Alvi expressed support for the petition demanding the immediate release of the political activists.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Code of Conduct for Prayer Leaders in Gilgit

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Gilgit (ET): The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government has linked the opening of the mosques sealed in the aftermath of sectarian violence with the acceptance of the code of conduct that bars prayer leaders from making hate speeches.

The code of conduct, prepared by a parliamentary peace committee, binds prayer leaders of both central mosques not to malign each other’s beliefs or to use foul language against the rival sect’s revered personalities. It states that prayer leaders and their deputies should not issue inflammatory decrees, especially during Friday and Eid sermons.

Clerics will not demand a share in government jobs and other privileges for their respective sects under the new code of conduct. If they violate it, they will be liable to be tried under the anti-terrorism act, the code states.

The peace committee comprising Adviser to the Prime Minister Attaullah Shahab, G-B Legislative Assembly, Deputy Speaker Jamil Ahmed, Member G-B Council Amjad Hussain, Adviser Forests and Wildlife Aftab Haider and others was constituted by the government in the wake of sectarian bloodshed that led to the closure of central mosques of both sects in Gilgit. Over 20 people were killed and scores of others were injured last month.

“The code of conduct aims to achieve long-term peace in the region,” said Hussain on Tuesday.

The parliamentary committee on Monday handed over the code of conduct to the Masjid Board that is represented by 20 members, 10 each from Shia and Sunni sects, who will be responsible for ensuring that the code is implemented.

According to a source privy to the board’s affairs, central mosques of Sunni and Shia sects will only be opened if the clerics guarantee they will not issue decrees condemning the other sect. “What has been banned is foul language against revered personalities besides branding each other infidel,” said the source. The board will take a final decision today in this connection, he added.

The Masjid Board is responsible for implementation of the 15-point code of conduct which is binding on prayer leaders in Gilgit. “If they refuse to accept the conditions, the mosques will remain closed for an indefinite period,” he said.

Following sectarian bouts in early April, the government sealed the doors of central mosques, barring people from offering prayers there.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Mountaineering in GB

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Gilgit (ET): In spite of deaths by avalanches and mountaineers losing their lives while scaling the treacherous peaks of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), the youth of Skardu remain steady in their conviction to mountaineering.

Mountaineering is a common sport in G-B, which houses some of the world’s highest peaks, including Karakoram-2 (K2), the world’s second highest peak. Tourists and climbers from across the globe flock to the region, especially in the summers, attempting to scale the peaks and all the while providing much-needed job opportunities to the hundreds of locals involved in the profession.

“The mountains in G-B are a challenge as well as an opportunity for the youth of the region,” said Sakhi Hassan, a trainer who runs Khurpa Care, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that provides trainings to local porters and climbers. “If they excel in the sport they can earn fame as well as money, as did many others in Skardu in the past,” said Hassan. Nisar Sadpara and Hassan Sadpara are two fine examples of porters who became internationally acclaimed climbers. He said that aside from the fame, the monetary rewards are also quite fulfilling, adding that a senior porter earns around Rs150,000 in one mountaineering season.

Hassan said that a rock climbing competition recently organised by Khurpa Care in Skardu attracted a staggering number of youth from Balti, who aspire to become climbers and porters. They know that their lives are at risk, but the inspiration from the achievements of local heroes is one strong factor that keeps them motivated, he said.

Recently, a famous high-altitude porter from Skardu, Nisar Sadpara, along with three other climbers went missing while attempting to scale Gasherbrum-I peak in the Karakoram region of the Himalayas. Nisar was Pakistan’s youngest mountaineer to climb K2. Moreover, 138 people including army troops and civilians were buried under a massive avalanche in Giari, Siachen.

“It is refreshing to see that the youth of Skardu are interested in climbing despite the risks involved,” said Hassan.

He said that his NGO has trained over 400 men, including high and low altitude porters in Skardu, enabling them to pursue careers in the filed. The trainings are certified by International Mountain Leadership Institute, a US-based mountaineering school, to maintain the quality and standards of the trainings.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Peace can only be restored in GB if the people of the region stand up and work for it

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By D.J. Mathal

Speaker Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA), Wazir Baig, while speaking at a peace conference in the Gilgit city, acknowledged that terror and criminals elements rule the roots in the region. “Criminals roam around freely and the government, as such has, no writ”, he said.

He said that during the recent sectarian killings and violence, five innocent people belonging to the Ismaili community lost their lives. The speaker warned that if the Ismailis could beat back the enemy at the border and get Nishan-i-Haider, surely they can repulse those who endanger their lives in the streets of Gilgit City. Well, that, however, would be a, senseless vendetta one could rationally be sucked into. Mr Baig said he respected religious leaders and Ulema but he had no room in his hearts for those who propagate and promote hatred and sectarianism among the masses. The speaker also said that those who do not like the present government should wait for another two years and, during this period groom educated youngsters for future leadership who can assume a role to lead the nation whatever way they want.

He speaks his heart and what he has said is true. This was not the first time he raised these apprehensions —he, on many occasions, had come hard on the government. The speaker has held Mehdi Shah Government responsible for all the troubles in Gilgit-Baltistan.

It apparently irks the speaker: why the government has failed to provide protection of life to the people despite spending billions of rupees each year on the deployment of security forces in the region? He also feels ashamed of the grave reality that the region has been polarized and divided on the basis of Shia-Sunni faultlines.

Keeping aside the sincere feelings expressed by the speaker, what one can do when the regime led by Mehdi Shah and his coteries is not ready even to acknowledge the realities on the ground. It is because of their criminal negligence, incompetency and lack of vision that the whole nation is passing through these hard days. For the last over three yeas, sensible people from all walks of life had been warning and advising the regime that a lava was boiling in the region and could anytime burst out, bringing irreparable destruction but the rulers hardly paid any heed to such warnings. Instead, they continued the mantra of ‘all is right’.

When the time came when the people were being killed in the streets of major cities and public property was being destroyed, the rulers turned their backs to the public sufferings.

Instead of accepting responsibility and doing something for the resolution of the issues, the dummy chief minister and his stooges tried to put all the blame on the nationalists of the region. He even closed some mosques saying provocative speeches made there were causing tensions among the people. The government is even running after the Khateebs of two mosques in a wishful thinking that this would help control the situation. One of them has been rounded up and the other is on the hunt-run. People can see the contradictions here: if the nationalist were behind the law and order problems why the Khateebs of mosques are being arrested? Secondly, linking the nationalists with the fundamentalist religious elements is another proof of the rulers’ sick mind to find a bogeyman and put all the blame on it.

One figure in the government who belongs to a religious party has also come out with an almost similar claim and these people are, in fact, the one who never want peace in the region and always work to save the law breakers and create confusion among the masses by pointing fingers at others, especially the nationalist parties. These elements also work to promote extremist forces in order to achieve their own agenda.

This is also a fact that very recently the chief minister had, perhaps in a slip of the tongue way, declared that about 2,800 were on the payroll of secret agencies. We do not need rocket science to understand what these 2,800 people have been doing and what is their agenda? Had these people been working on a good cause like promoting sectarian harmony in the region we would not have seen the frequent killings of innocent citizens and the speaker of the legislative assembly would not have come to the open to declare that the whole region runs under a law of jungle. It is these people who work against the interests of the nation at the behest of agencies and then accuse the nationalist of all the mayhem. In fact, these people working at the behest of the agencies of the enemies of peace and tranquillity in the region. If such people are removed from the scene, there region can once again become cradle of peace otherwise we would continue killing one another for decades to come.

It is time everyone in the region, especially the elders, realize that if they continue doing politics and journalism on Shias and Sunnis, the region would continue fast heading towards destruction and mayhem and there will be no prospects of peace in the area. But if they want peace, prosperity and cohesion, they have to come out of the menace of sectarianism and start thinking towards all issues as a nation by discarding the thought of being Shia, Sunni, Balti, Gilgit etc. and save themselves from the conspiracies of the people working on the payroll of secret agencies. Also, it should be kept in mind that peace can only be restored in the region if the people of the region stand up and work for it instead of relying on what the government of the day might do.

Thw writer is Chief Editor of Bang-E-Sahar and he hails from Yasin Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan.