Month: August 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan:Need for an Impartial Interim Set-up in GB

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SKARDU (Dawn): Speakers at a seminar held stressed the need for an impartial interim set up in Gilgit-Baltistan in the light of the 20th amendment to ensure that next elections are free, fare and transparent.

The seminar titled “free, fare and transparent elections” was organised by Strengthening Democracy through Parliamentary Development (SDPD) in collaboration with the UNDP.

Representatives of all political parties, social organisations and elders of the city attended the seminar.

The speakers said, the chief election commissioner must also be impartial. They suggested that to constitute electoral circles and prepare electoral rolls, impartial officials should be
appointed from the judiciary. And it should be ensured that one voter’s name was not enlisted in several circles as was experienced in the last elections.

They further said distribution of BISP funds should be stopped as it was being provided to workers of only one party. Similarly, allocation of funds from the national kitty in the name of development schemes should be stopped as it was a tactic to influence the voters

Gilgit-Baltistan:GB Government Prepared Security Plan for KKH

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Gilgit (D.Times): The government of Gilgit-Baltistan has finalised a security plan for the safe journey of KHH travelers government sources told. According to details, a meeting of security officials, representatives of transport companies and other stakeholders was held in Gilgit City.

Home Secretary Fazal Zahoor and IGP Usman Zakaria jointly led the meeting. After detailed brainstorming and discussion, it was decided that passengers buses would run in Convoy between Bisham and Basri Check Post and the security forces will be escorting the vehicles.

The transport companies will also be asked to provide private security guards in the passenger buses. All the passenger buses from Rawalpindi will be required to reach Bisham by 4:00 P.M and same would be the time to arrive for buses travelling from Gilgit.

GB KKH Task Force will be responsible for the security of passengers in its jurisdiction while Police of KPK will be responsible to ensure the safety of passengers in their jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Gilgit, once again, blamed foreign agents to be responsible for creating unrest in GB. Addressing a meeting with notables and Ulema of Astor, he said, “Foreign agents are involved in spreading the unrest in the region in order to achieve their nefarious goals.”  He said that the government is determined to nab the terrorists.

“Government is well aware of its duty and responsibility. Every possible step will be taken to ensure safety along the KKH.” he said.

Shah disclosed that the GB government has decided to recruit 120 personnel for the safety of KKH who will be deputed in the passenger’s vehicles.

Talking to the families of martyrs of the recent barbaric incident along the KKH, the Chief Minister ruled out any demand for launching Army Operation in the trouble areas.

“It is not feasible and, not a right time, to take such action. It will only complicate things for the peace initiatives.” He said.  

Gilgit-Baltistan: Travelling to GB is a Herculean Task

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Karachi (Dawn): TRAVELLING by road to Gilgit Baltistan is tantamount to inviting dangers to one’s life. This is because of the recent terrorist activities. You must be aware of the gruesome Gestapo-style murders in Kohistan and Chillas. Travelling on this road is like presenting the terrorists with your life. The government has failed to provide any security to the transport on the aforementioned route. Amid such circumstances the only alternative we, the people of GB, are left with is to travel by air but this too mostly is like performing a Herculean task.

First, there are not many flights on the route and then these flights are subjected to weather or the whims of PIA.

Just to give you an idea I am citing my own example. I haven’t visited my family for over a year. So I planned to visit my family, and the planning literally started like a month earlier. I booked a ticket from Islamabad to Gilgit on a date: a month down on the timeline because of the aforementioned dangers in road travel.

Because of the heavy traffic and scarce number of flights to Gilgit, there was no booking available on an earlier date. I consequently applied for leave from my job for a week, starting on the day I had to travel. Now after waiting for a whole month, what I get from PIA, the day before my departure, is that I can’t travel on the scheduled day because of the pending flights.

For extra money I am given a higher class seat on the plane scheduled to set off the day I was to take off and been waiting for about a month.

I even put up with this and reached the airport and checked in. Just before the departure we are told that the flight is delayed because of bad weather but I myself and many others were in contact back home and had been told by our families that the weather was all clear. The weather in Islamabad was all right because in the meantime planes took off for Karachi and Lahore.

PIA thus delayed the flight to Gilgit and we are asked to wait for about two hours. After two and a half hours we are told that the flight had been cancelled due to the bad weather.

This was beyond our comprehension because the weather was fine in Gilgit . It was fine in Islamabad and still there is no flight. I don’t know whether it was the weather or the whimsical behaviour of the flight captain. There was no one to answer. We were then told that the same flight had been rescheduled for the next day.

Helpless at the unprofessional behaviour, we agreed and got our tickets rescheduled for the next day but at night we are told on phone that the flight has been delayed even a day further, for reasons God knows .

The passengers comprised children, women and the handicapped too.

It is also pertinent to mention that the fares have already been raised too much and then these futile visits to the airport make the cumulative amount much higher. Also, if passengers are late or fail to turn up, they have to put up with fine but are not compensated for the time and money loss.

The authorities concerned should take measures to lessen the misery of the people who suffer much because of extremely dangerous road travel.

There are two possible solutions to the problem. In the short term, the number of flights from Islamabad to Gilgit and back be increased and, in the long run, Gilgit airport be upgraded for bigger planes that can fly in every weather. (written by Mir Hassan)

Gilgit-Baltistan:Government Imposes Ban on Diplomats Travelling to GB and Quetta

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ISLAMABAD (News): The federal government has imposed a ban on the travel of foreign diplomats inside the country without permission, in view of increasing dangers of terrorism.

Sources in the Interior Ministry said diplomats would have to seek permission from the Foreign Affairs Ministry before going to any area of Pakistan. On the advice of the Interior Ministry, diplomats, residing in Islamabad, were suggested not to visit Quetta and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The sources said applications of 29 diplomats to visit Quetta were rejected by the Foreign Affairs Ministry because they could not provide suitable justification to visit the city.

In the same way, the Foreign Affairs Ministry also turned down the request of three other diplomats to visit Gilgit-Baltistan.

The ministry has also imposed a ban on the travel of diplomats posted to consulates in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore without prior permission.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Belgian Paraglider Became the First Person to cross Karakoram Range

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ISLAMABAD (ET): A Belgian paraglider recently spent 20 days flying solo through the mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), in the process of which he became the first person to cross the Karakoram mountain range on his own.

At a press conference on Saturday, Thomas de Dorlodot spoke about parasailing, while talking about his adventures in the air and stories about the people he met along the way. “There is always the excitement about where one will land and how people will react,” he said.

In addition to achieving this great feat, Dorlodot shared his unique insights on G-B with The Express Tribune. The adventure sports enthusiast has been coming to Pakistan every year for the past four years and has been staying in the quaint, pastoral village Hushe, a five-hour drive from Skardu. Dorlodot has witnessed the development of the village from egalitarian and self-sufficient to more modern.

“When I first visited Hushe, there was no electricity or information technology but now they have water supply, televisions and next year they will probably have cell phone signals and internet access,” said Dorlodot. Sarabastal, a Spanish organisation that he is supporting, has built four schools there.

He stated that the late arrival of amenities was double-edged for residents as the village is losing its indigenous quality because of migration to cities and bringing about a class disequilibrium. Resentment may also ensue, Dorlodot fears, as they might not be able to match the aspirations instilled by the media considering the scarcity of resources. “Each family has about 10 children and the crop yield is not enough to feed everybody,” he added.

Conversely, Dorlodot seems to be fulfilling all the aspirations he had as a young boy by practising adventure sports the world over.  He dabbles in skydiving and base jumping as well and said that the experience of jumping across high-rise buildings is a novel one.  He states that paragliding is something anyone can do with a few days’ training and that Pakistan should employ their resources to make paragliding more accessible.

“I always have such a wonderful time in Pakistan. Breaking away from the world for a few days and then coming back to it is exhilarating,” Dorlodot commented.  He hopes that the media will show the real face of Pakistan to the rest of the world and clarify misconceptions. “The people I have met here are the most hospitable.”

The fascination with being airborne was reinforced at the age of 15 when Dorlodot was finally able to see what the world looked like from above on his first paragliding flight. The Belgian’s hunger for adventure fuelled his expeditions including the distinction of being the first paraglider to fly over Machu Picchu in 2008. He also set the world distance record for his flight from Brussels to Istanbul the following year.

His achievements do not end there. He conquered the three biggest glaciers on earth, Hispar, Biafo and Concordia and K-2, the second highest mountain in the world. He has signed up for the 2013 edition of a commercially sponsored Alps expedition and says he is already looking forward to his trip to Pakistan next year.

Gilgit-Baltistan:100 Million Allocated for the security of KKH

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MANSEHRA / ISLAMABAD (ET): Interior Minister announced on Friday that a sum of Rs100 million has been allocated for the security of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) a day after 19 Shia passengers were mowed down by masked men near Babusar Top in Kaghan Valley.

The minister, condemning Thursday’s killing of Shias in Babusar Top Pass, insisted that the main routes along the Karakoram Highway were safe. Terrorism incidents, according to him, are taking place on the short cuts taken by bus drivers. These short cuts are being used by militants to target their prey, he explained.

The minister appealed to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to remain patient and help law enforcement personnel to foil those attempting to destabilise the country.

“Though there is no compensation of life, the government will announce a package for those killed in the tragic incident,” said Malik, adding that he intended to visit Gilgit-Baltistan. The minister said that the responsibility to maintain overall law and order situation was transferred to provinces after 18th constitutional amendment.

However, the interior ministry is providing logistical support and sharing intelligence with the provinces from time to time.

FIR lodged

Mansehra police on Friday lodged a first information report (FIR) against the assassins of. The FIR was registered on the complaint of Inspector Aurangzeb Khan of Kaghan police station.

District Police Officer Sher Akbar Khan said that senior investigation staff have begun a probe into the matter in collaboration with intelligence agencies.

Khan said that every aspect of the incident is being probed to confirm whether the attackers were the same who had earlier shot dead 18 Shia Muslims after forcing them off four buses in Kohistan on February 28, or whether they really belonged to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Waziristan based group.

According to the FIR, around 30 to 35 assailants dressed in military uniform stopped four vans and a Shehzore truck loaded with broilers, heading to Gilgit from Rawalpindi.

The attackers who were masked and heavily armed, asked each passenger to show their identity cards, while the Shia passengers were hauled off and lined on the road side with their hands tied behind their backs. They were forced to lie on the ground and were sprayed with bullets.

The FIR further states that the attackers also damaged the vehicles before leaving the crime scene.

The case was registered as FIR No 143 under sections 6, 7 ATA, 302/34, 148, 149 and 427 of the PPC.

This was the second attack on Shia passengers in Gilgit, under the territorial jurisdiction of Hazara division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in six months.

Gilgit-Baltistan: HRCP Demands Explanation on Naran Killings

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LAHORE (P.Today): The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Friday condemned Thursday’s killing of 25 Shia Muslims pulled out of buses headed for Gilgit Baltistan, as well as target killing of three Shias in Quetta and demanded that the authorities explain why the killers roamed free and how the government planned to ensure security for the citizens targeted because of their religious belief.
In a press statement, HRCP said that it was appalling that terrorists have once again succeeded in targeting Shia Muslims without facing any difficulties. The Commission likened Thursday’s attack to a similar one carried out in Kohistan in February. The latter had caused people to switch to Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad route instead of the Karakoram Highway.
Furthermore, HRCP expressed concern over the suffering of Hazara Shia community in Quetta and said that such target killings are no longer an anomaly in Pakistan.
HRCP also stressed that the target killings in Quetta had only been possible because of government’s negligence and its inability to capture and punish the culprits of earlier target killings in Quetta and Kohistan.
HRCP said that the killings had obviously been the work of anti-state elements in Pakistan but if the government fails to capture and punish these culprits, it would only serve to destroy the country, giving the terrorists exactly what they want. Furthermore, HRCP pointed out that the attack on Kamra airbase only showed that Taliban is no one’s friend.