Month: September 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan:Danyore Cut-off from Gilgit City

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GILGIT (ET): Despite being blocked for traffic, passengers travelling from Danyore to Gilgit forced their way through the dilapidated Danyore Bridge on Saturday, risking their lives on the suspension bridge that was declared unsafe for travelling earlier. However, it was shut down once again when authorities found out about it three hours later.

The 510-feet-long bridge that connects Danyore to the capital city of the mountain region was shut down for traffic on July 24 after a team of engineers inspected it and declared it unsafe for traffic. According to an official at the Gilgit Control Room, no decision had been made to resume traffic since then.

However, defying government orders, people removed the barriers and started using the bridge which has been weakened by heavy traffic.

“We want the authorities to know that the bridge is important to us and it should be repaired,” said one of the passengers while criticising the delay in repair work.

Dubbed as “Pul-e-Sirat”, the bridge connects to a 10-metre curved tunnel that tests a driver’s nerve more than his skills as an abrupt stop can leave a vehicle stranded in the middle of the stream. It was built around 40 years ago, and has served as the only route to Gilgit for thousands of people in Danyore, Bagrote and Jalalabad after the China Bridge collapsed four years back. Currently an alternate bridge, built four months back near the former China Bridge, is the only link to the capital city.

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Gilgit-Baltistan:Declaring GB Tax Free Zone

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GILGIT (ET): An independent legislator has asked the federal government to declare Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) a tax-free zone and allow duty-free import of essential commodities from China.

The proposal was floated by Syed Raziuddin in a resolution that he tabled during the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) session on Thursday. Tax issues dominated the third-day of the 24th session of the house.

“The region should be declared tax-free considering the level of poverty and backwardness of the region,” said Raziuddin while speaking on his resolution.

He added that transportation cost skyrockets prices of essential commodities and most of the daily use items are brought to the region from down country.

Other lawmakers also supported the resolution. However, Speaker Wazir Baig referred the matter to a committee headed by the law minister to assess its viability.

The issue of tax collection and disbursement by the federal government was also discussed. Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) legislator Mirza Hussain pointed out that the federal government receives Rs26 billion in taxes from G-B. However, he lamented that very meager portion of that amount is given to the region.

“Steps should be taken to collect taxes at the regional level as it is being practiced in other provinces,” he stated.

In his reply, the speaker said that levying of tax was the domain of the G-B Council (GBC). The issue could be discussed in a joint session of the GBLA and GBC. He added that the governor should summon a joint session of the GBLA and GBC and take up the issue for discussion.

Nawaz Khan Naji, a nationalist member, said the biggest threat to the country was not any external force, but the corrupt rulers who are “plundering the national wealth and resources”.

The lone outspoken legislator said that the rulers should pledge to curb corrupt practices. He said that the overall situation of the industrial sector is on the verge of collapse, except for the “industry of Jihad”. He urged the government to take measures to help revive the industrial sector.

Law Minister Wazir Shakeel Ahmed tabled the child welfare and protection bill, which was referred to the select committee for review.

Baig maintained that the Accountant General Pakistan Revenues (AGPR) has failed to submit financial reports for the past two years to the assembly.

Rehmat Khaliq, a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam lawmaker, said the importance of Defence Day has been overlooked by declaring it a working day. He called for dedicating the day to pay tributes to those who have rendered sacrifices for this nation.

Gilgit-Baltistan:PML-N Chief Lashes out at GB Governor and CM

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GILGIT (ET): Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif, who visited Gilgit on Tuesday, voiced concern over growing incidents of sectarian killings in the region and criticised the government for failing to take any effective action to ensure peace.

“Unfortunately, incidents of terrorism are on the rise while the government is doing nothing to stop them,” he told a ceremony at a hotel in Gilgit.

He lashed out at Gilgit-Baltistan’s governor and chief minister for not paying due attention to regional issues, saying that instead of spending time in the region to settle the crises, the top officials prefer to stay in Islamabad. “Under these circumstances it is illogical to expect them to maintain peace,” he said.

Nawaz, who was accompanied by his wife and other family members, distributed cheques for Rs500,000 among 53 families of victims of the Siachen avalanche tragedy, which claimed the lives of over 135 people in April.

The PML-N chief also met with Sunni and Shia clerics and urged them to work towards peace and tranquility in the region. “Those shedding the blood of innocent people do not deserve to be called Muslims,” he said, while urging the clerics to not issue decrees against each other.

About the issue of new provinces, Nawaz said that they would not accept the formation of new provinces on ethnic basis.

Earlier Hafizur Rehman, the regional president of PML-N, and other leaders received Nawaz and his family at the Gilgit airport and briefed him about party activities in the region

Gilgit-Baltistan:Provinces Agree to Finance Hydel Projects

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Islamabad (INP):The provincial governments have agreed in principle to finance major hydel power projects in order to overcome the crisis of load shedding.

A decision to this effect was reached here on Monday during meeting of the Committee on energy which was formed by the Council of Common Interest.

The meeting was chaired by Minister for Water and Power and attended by Chief Secretaries of the four provinces, AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan, Secretary Water and Power and senior officials.

It was consensus at the meeting that energy crisis was a national problem which could be overcome only through joint efforts of the Federation and Provinces. WAPDA and PPIB officials gave a detailed briefing to the meeting about major hydel projects.

All the provinces agreed to the proposal to finance major hydel projects, allocate resources for the power projects in the annual development plan and extend cooperation to check theft of electricity through police.

The meeting asked the KESC to make the closed plants functional.

Issues relating to handing over of administration of distribution companies to the provinces, national electricity conservation bill, participation of provinces in Thar coal project also came under consideration.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Conservation of GB Wild Life urged

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Hunza (APP): The people of Gilgit-Baltistan can earn very good revenue through taking care of wild life. If they will save their wild life then the government will give them the amount earned from trophy hunting.

This was stated by Program Manager Wild Life Conservation Society Mayor Khan while talking with APP here on Sunday said that every year several foreign hunters come to Pakistan and get the license for hunting wild life in different places. The govt charges them in dollars and the 70% amount goes to the local community and the remaining 30% goes to the government treasury.

He said that if the local people contribute more for saving their wild life then the number of foreign hunters will be increased and the revenue will also be increased. This will help to develop the community of that area. SAP schools teacher demands for rights: The SAP schools’ teachers of Gilgit-Baltistan demanded for their rights. “ We will close the schools if the government will not give proper rights to the teachers of SAP schools,” this was stated by General Secretary SAP Schools Association Gilgit-Baltistan, Shagufta Maqpoon while talking with APP here on Sunday.

Gilgit-Baltistan:PTI Chief Meets Clerics in Baltistan

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Skardu(D.Times): Chairman Pakistan Tehreek Insaf on Sunday met with religious leaders of different sects in Skardu and discussed issues related to law and order.

According to details Imran Khan called on renowned Shia scholar Sheikh Hassan Jafri and assured him that his party would play its due role for restoration of religious harmony.

Lauding the efforts of Sheikh Hassan Jafri for peace in the region, Imran said that Sheikh Jafri played important role in maintaining law and order in the region after Kohistan,Chilas and loluser tragedies.

“People could become aggressive on the killings of innocent passengers but Sheikh Jafri controlled the sentiments of public. This helped keeping the public temper cool.”, Imran Said.

Meanwhile talking to media Imran Khan asked Chief Justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Chaudhry to take suo motu action of Shia’s killings in different parts of the country. He said that the government had completely failed in controlling the law and order situation in the country.

Later Chairman PTI met with Sunni scholar Mulanna Ibrahim Khalil and Noor Bhakshi scholar Sufi Muhammad Imran Khan also addressed a public meeting and promised that PTI will continue its efforts for making Gilgit Baltistan a constitutional province of Pakistan

Gilgit-Baltistan:Proactive Role of Judiciary and LEAs Urged

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ISLAMABAD (ET): While expressing concern at the apathy of the government towards the rising tide of religious extremism and sectarian violence in the country, participants of a roundtable on Thursday called for a proactive role of judiciary and law enforcers (LEA) to improve the situation.

The select gathering of intellectuals, legal experts, security analysts, media persons, academics and civil society activists exhorted the progressive, liberal and secular forces to rise to the occasion and launch a unified struggle against the obscurantism, sectarianism and retrogressive forces, who are hell bent on destroying the social fabric of the society.

They also questioned the role of establishment and security agencies and their complicity in unleashing sectarian violence in various parts of the country, especially in Quetta, Karachi and Gilgit-Baltistan.

“The state is threatened by those who commit violence and murder in the name of religion,” said Maulana Tahir Ashrafi of the All Pakistan Ulema Council at the roundtable titled “Reversing the Tide of Sectarian Violence in Pakistan”, organised by the Jinnah Institute.

He distributed copies of a compilation of edicts by Pakistan’s leading religious schools condemning and declaring the murder of unarmed civilians of any sect or religion un-Islamic. He urged the organs of the state to clamp down on the activities, particularly the fundraising efforts of banned outfits.

Imtiaz Gul, a security analyst, said that Shia killings threaten the very foundations of Pakistan. But, he said, the political and state actors seem more concerned about political mileage than curbing the wanton killings.

He claimed that there is a radical mindset within the judiciary and bureaucracy that provides protection and patronage to extremist outfits. He cited examples of land allocated for greenbelts in Islamabad being handed over to seminaries and mosques. He said that until we are able to end the culture of protecting and patronising the groups involved in spreading sectarian hatred, we will not be able to end the growing faith-based violence in Pakistan.

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa urged for the empowerment of law enforcement agencies so that they could take on powerful and armed groups responsible for sectarian violence. She also said that civil society in Pakistan needs to engage with Islamic jurisprudence and discourse and find inherent messages of peace and pluralism in order to change public mindset on the issue of sectarianism, violence, terrorism and militancy.

Fawwad Chaudhry, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Human Rights, acknowledged that an atmosphere of fear exists in society and in the public due to the recent violent events.

Tahira Abdullah, human rights activist, noted that it is not just fear but also the lack of unity amongst civil society that prevents them from coming together as one cohesive unit capable of demanding change.

Justice (retd) Ali Nawaz Chohan said that while judges do operate in an environment of fear and with minimum resources, writing judgments in accordance with the law is their duty. He said he had authored two judgments in favour of people incorrectly accused of blasphemy without any harm to him, his family or property. He said the judgments are now a part of Pakistani case law. He urged the present judicial leadership to refer to them for context.

Farman Ali, City Editor at The Express Tribune, said that the judiciary needs to play a more active role in clamping down on and punishing extremist and sectarian outfits operating with impunity across the country and even in the federal capital. He also referred to the economic underpinnings of violence in Gilgit-Baltistan and elsewhere and called for a review of state policy in this arena.

Nadir Hassan, columnist, noted that sectarian violence has been treated as a law and order issue for too long while it is one of political identity: growing sectarian violence in Pakistan stems from increasing political schisms between groups for control of land and resources as well as identity.

Dr Farzana Bari, an academic-activist, said that growing intolerance and violence towards minorities stems from an increasingly biased and sectarian discourse being pedalled in society that needs to change.

Raza Rumi, Director Policy at Jinnah Institute, concluded by saying that a short-to medium term set of recommendations will be made to the government and civil society actors. In the short term, focus on state capacity for law enforcement and de-radicalization is required and in the medium to long term Pakistan has to move towards a plural, inclusive state as envisioned by Jinnah. In the meantime, Shia killings had to be stopped through stern state action.