Month: June 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan: Promoting Tolerance and Respect for women in Society

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GILGIT (ET) : Women themselves are responsible for their suppression in the rural society of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). This was discussed at a seminar titled “Promoting tolerance and respect for women in society” held here on Sunday. 

The participants discussed the issues being faced by women in far-flung areas and shared their experiences.

They also enacted skits to represent how women often deprive other women by giving preference to men in the society.

The chief guest and adviser to the chief minister Sadia Danish said that they were planning to move a bill in the assembly to ensure the protection of women rights.

However, she said, unless they women collectively, they will always face exploitation from the male-dominated society.

Zohra Saba, a woman who came from Ghangche district of the Baltistan region, said that in her area women have no clue to what are their rights at all.

“It is the women who have to do all the work including agriculture, wood cutting, cooking and washing while the man only rests,” she said. She said that the local women are illiterate for the most part.

Public School Chilas Principal Rohi Gul said that the male-dominated society offered little opportunities for women in education. Wajih Nayab, a woman from Astore, said that her area was far behind in education as compared to the rest of the valleys of G-B.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Strengthening Media for Development

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Islamabad (APP): Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan said that his government was determined for promoting and strengthening media in the region for development.

He stated this while talking to the office bearers of newly formed Gilgit Baltistan Journalists Association (GBJA) led by its Chairman renowned journalists Akbar Hussain which called on him here.

President of the Association Karim Madad, Vice Chairman Rashid Arshad and its General Secretary Shafqat Hussain, Governing body member Rizwan Mirza, Vice President Alam Noor, Ali Sher Joint Secretary, Manzoor Hussain Finance Secretary and other office bearers were also present on the occasion.

Syed Medhi Shah welcomed the delegation and appreciated the journalists of Rawalpindi and Islamabad for establishing a platform for the welfare of the journalists from Gilgit Baltistan.

He assured the GBJA of his full support within available resources and work for welfare of the journalist community.

He informed the delegation that Information department has been upgraded and Rs 25 million have been allocated for providing equipments to the ministry including vehicles, computers in order to facilitate the journalists and disseminate informations to the general public about the polices and development activities being under taken for the welfare of the people. He added that the journalists of Gilgit Baltistan would be given training opportunities in other provinces in order to help interact the media persons to other media persons of the country.

Syed Mehdi Shah added that for capacity building of the journalists from Gilgit Baltistan, efforts would be made for their visits abroad. He also assured that soon he would also arrange a meeting the new Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting after the formation of the cabinet adding that he would personally attend oath taking ceremony of the GBJA in Islamabad.

The Chief Minister said that his government has taken a number of steps for development of the area during his tenure for welfare of the people. He further informed that a manifesto committee headed by expert from the area, Ghulam Nabi Raikoti would meet to the prime minister to present three proposals including complete provincial autonomy of Gilgit Baltistan, or be given representation in the parliament on the patron of FATA or allow to form a government on the patron of Azad Jammu and Kashmir cabinet.

He added that new Assembly Hall cum Chief Minister Secretariat would be shifted to newly constructed building in Jutyal (Gilgit). Syed Mehdi Shah urged the journalists form Gilgit Baltistan to play their role in promoting healthy journalism , protect rights of journalists of the region and its people and harmony among the communities.—APP

Gilgit-Baltistan: Participation in Shandur Polo Festival

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Gilgit (ET): Whether the Gilgit team will participate in the upcoming Shandur polo festival this year remains to be decided.

The dilemma springs from the longstanding  boundary dispute between Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) over the area located between Ghizer valley and Chitral, official sources told .

“Despite the lingering issue, we will soon decide on whether to partake in the tournament or not,” said a ruling party leader on the condition of anonymity. He said that the G-B government believes that if their polo team participates in the tournament, their stance over the issue will soften, which might encourage K-P to further its grip over the area. On the other hand, if G-B does not participate, it runs the risk of being isolated and losing the share of revenue generated from the area, the party leader added.

In 2010, the G-B polo team boycotted the event to register its protest against K-P’s claim over the area. The boycott, however, robbed G-B of its share of revenue. The G-B government, reviewing the decision of boycott, took part in the tournament in 2011.  The boundary issue was sent to the boundary commission but no decision has come thus far, leaving the ties between the two neighbours strained.

Meanwhile, in the view of the revenues, G-B Chief Minister Mehdi Shah is being advised by the cabinet not to boycott the tournament, which was won by Gilgit last year.

According to government officials, G-B will only participate if it has equal share as that of K-P in all matters ranging from administrative to finance and revenue. The officials said another condition is that the chief ministers of G-B and K-P will both address the audience in the opening or closing ceremonies.

The Shandur polo tournament attracts a large number of foreigners as well as domestic tourists, giving a boost to the local economy which, in the absence of industries, depends mostly on tourism. The concluding ceremony of the event is attended by the head of state or a prominent dignitary designated by the president or prime minister.

G-B Assembly Deputy Speaker Jamil Ahmed said that Shandur was part of G-B and that it would play the annual tournament from July 6 to 9. “We would raise voice for our right even if we have to go to the presidency,” he said.

The traditional polo was first played in the 12,200-feet high (3,700m) Shandur in 1930 when Colonel Evelyn Hey Cobb, the then British resident, played it under moon light. The sport is still played in accordance with rules introduced centuries ago. In addition to polo, the festival also includes events like tug-of-war, paragliding and musical chairs.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Budget for 2012-13 to Generate Employement

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Astore (APP): Deputy Speaker Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly Jameel Ahmed said that up-coming budget of fiscal year 2012-13 would bring more development and prosperity in the region as many more projects would be started. Talking to APP he said that the government was taking steps on priority basis to provide employment to people of GB and to raise their living standard. “Generous funds would be allocated for the development projects in up-coming GB budget 2012-13 which ultimately would bring advancement in the region”, he said.

He said that jobs in various government sectors would also be created in order to meet unemployment in the region. It is also under consideration, the Deputy Speaker said, to give loan to unemployed youth with-out any interest so that they could start their own business.

A number of development projects were underway in the region which will be completed soon, said Member Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly and Parliamentary Secretary Abdul Hameed Khan on Wednesday. Addressing a press conference in a local hotel here he said as many as 80 developmental projects were in progress in the district including District Complex, Rattu Power Project, two 50- bed hospitals in Gorikot and Eidgah, Employees Residence Colonies at Gorikot, Rama road, and many others. He said keeping in view the importance of the district regarding tourism the government was planning to provide state of the art facilities to the tourists.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Traders want Drainage of Ataabad Lake

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By Muhammad Ali, President GBIE

Gilgit (News): I want to highlight a problem which the dwellers and businessmen of Gilgit-Baltistan have been facing since January 2010 after the formation of an artificial lake at Attabad in District Hunza Nagar. The people of upstream areas remained cut off from the rest of the district for several months and this would have continued if not for the local businessmen who provided some relief by starting a ferry service. Patients, students and other affected people who use this ferry service are still provided free transportation. The 19-km long Karakoram Highway (KKH), the sole overland connection between China and Pakistan, was submerged. Due to this catastrophe, cross-border trade between the two countries has declined badly. The local businesses are ruined while the business community has gone bankrupt due to huge loans. The Sost Dry Port (SDP), which used to generate income from taxes, customs duties and other levies, is now on the verge of collapse, causing a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer.

The federal and provincial governments are showing reluctance to drain the lake and realign the KKH. A huge amount was reportedly given to the Frontier Works Organisation to lower the lake’s surface and restore the KKH, but they have failed to do so till now. It seems the FWO has neither the machinery nor the technical expertise to handle this problem. On behalf of the Importers and Exporters Association of Gilgit-Baltistan, I request the authorities concerned to pay heed to this situation and resolve this problem.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Call for Making GB a Province

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GILGIT (M.Post):  Because of the Kashmir issue, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) have suffered for over six decades. It is time that the issue be resolved and G-B be declared a constitutional part of Pakistan.

This was stated by the G-B Qaumi Movement President Abdul Waheed during a press conference at the Gilgit Press Club on Monday.

Waheed argued that the international powers wanted to carve a new region comprising G-B, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and part of China to protect their economic interests.

Flanked by other party leaders, including General Secretary Haroon Khalid, he said that the recent visit of the US diplomats to Gilgit was part of the larger plan, which, if success, will deprive Pakistan of at least two regions – G-B and AJK. “Pakistan should take note and immediately declare G-B a province,” he added.

The speakers also highlighted the geostrategic location of G-B, which links Pakistan to China, India and the central states. Khalid said that Pakistani state had almost gone bankrupt but said they would still prefer to be part of it.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Passing Out Ceremony of 1122

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Lahore (News):RESCUERS trained for Peshawar & Mardan (KPK), Gilgit & Sakrdu (Gilgit Baltistan), and Taunsa & Rojhan (South Punjab) shall pass out on June 16, 2012 from Emergency Services Academy Lahore.

The rescuers have been trained at the Rescue 1122 Academy, so that modern Rescue 1122 emergency ambulance, rescue and fire services could also be provided to citizens of other disaster prone provinces of Pakistan.

The Fire and Safety Association of Pakistan appreciated the special initiative for establishment of Rescue 1122 in other provinces by Chief Minister KPK Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan Syed Mehdi Shah and Chief Minister Punjab Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif.

These 726 passing out rescuers include 313 rescuers from Khyber Pakhtoon Khwa, 186 rescuers from Gilgit-Baltistan and 227 rescuers for two tehsils of South Punjab have been given specialised medical, rescue, firefighting and rescue from height training in the first phase then specialised training courses were arranged for rescuers in the fields of Communication, Medical First Responder (MFR), Collapsed Structure Search & Rescue (CSSR), Communication Enhancement and Incident Command System.

The quality training of such a large number of rescuers with limited resources was a gigantic task achieved through close monitoring and weekly tests. The emergency staff will be deputed in hospitals at their respective districts for hands-on skills in emergency department of teaching hospitals before final posting.

Gilgit-Baltistan: 13 Hydro Projects Approved for GB

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Gilgit (ET): In a bid to subdue the ongoing power crisis, the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government has approved 13 hydro-power projects for the region, it has been learnt.

The projects, which will cost over Rs7 billion, were approved during a high-level meeting chaired by G-B Chief Minister Mehdi Shah on Wednesday, said an official in the chief minister secretariat. The chief minister asked the water and power secretary to complete the projects within the stipulated time, the official added.

G-B Chief Secretary Saifullah Chatha also attended the meeting, which was focused on resolving the ongoing power crisis. The participants also decided to construct a grid station to allow for equal distribution of power to all districts of G-B and called for efforts to control power pilferage.

Talking to The Express Tribune, the official said that if the power department controls power theft it can save at least 48 megawatts electricity.

Gilgit-Baltistan: ADB Team Visits Onsite and Engineering work of DBD

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ISLAMABAD (News): In a positive and remarkable development, a three-member review team of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that is to give Pakistan $5 billion for the most strategic Diamer-Bhasha dam visited the project site and appreciated on-ground engineering and social work being done by Wapda, a senior official in the Ministry of Water and Power told The News.

The United States has also intimated that it would give $1 billion for the dam in five years — $200 million each year, the official said. To a question, he said, the US agreement to give $1 billion would pave the way for major international financial institutions to provide more funding for the project.

The official said the World Bank, which was earlier hesitant to fund the project, is now very much willing to fund it because of the US willingness to provide $1 billion. The top management of the World Bank has in principle agreed to extend a loan for the project, he said, adding that when the new president of the bank takes charge, Pakistan would pursue its case more vigorously.

 To a question, the official said, the Manila-based ADB would remain the leading donor institution. He said the purpose of the ADB review mission’s visit was to witness on-ground engineering and social work being carried out by Wapda. It visited the work on 12 local contracts for construction of Wapda offices, colonies, contractor camps, road infrastructure, etc. The team visited the community seminary and first-ever school for girls in Chilas built by Wapda and appreciated the social services being provided to locals, he said.

 The ADB mission also visited Shatial in Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Thor Valley, Khanberi Valley and DHQ Hospital Astor in Gilgit-Baltistan as well as witnessed the functioning of the Mobile Health Unit provided by Wapda for the population affected by the project, the official said. It was impressed by the social change in the area because of the project, he said, adding that the project would help end of bonded labour (locally known as Kalang) in Khanberi Valley.

 The official said the land acquisition for the project is in progress while 12 contracts for the construction of Wapda offices, infrastructure, etc, in the project area have already been awarded.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Amnesty Scheme for NCP Vehicles

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ISLAMABAD (ET):  A parliamentary panel has recommended an amnesty scheme for the owners of non-customs paid vehicles to pay the import duty and get their cars registered.

The Senate Standing Committee on Finance, headed by Senator Nasreen Jalil, took the decision on the recommendation of Baluchistan senators. The suggestion comes on the heel of a government decision to confiscate all non-customs paid vehicles in Baluchistan to improve law and order situation in the restive province.

It is common to see cars brought in from Iran and Afghanistan cruising along Baluchistan’s roads sans registration plates or any sort of legal papers.

The panel recommended constituting an inter-ministerial committee to draft rules within a month to give effect to the amnesty scheme. The committee will consist of officials from ministries of industries, finance, commerce and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Giving broader guidelines, the committee recommended waiving off penalties and charging duties lower than normal rates.

The National Assembly, currently debating next year’s budget, will consider the Senate panel recommendation.

The three senators from Baluchistan have suggested resolving the issue, as the government’s announcement of confiscating vehicles has caused panic among the owners of these vehicles.

FBR Chairman Mumtaz Haider Rizvi told the committee that being an important stakeholder the commerce ministry was resisting a similar move initiated to legalise non-customs paid vehicles in Gilgit-Baltistan. The additional secretary at the commerce ministry said that the automobile industry was pushing to block the move, as it may hurt the local industry’s interests.

Rizvi said that currently no data is available on exact numbers of non-customs paid vehicles plying in the country.

The commerce ministry also opposed allowing import of ten-year-old used cars from existing five years. “We have to strike a balance between consumer protection and industry protection,” the official added.