Month: December 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan: Blocking Newly Build KKH Portion

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Gulmit (PT): Local people in Gulmit, the Tehsil headquarters of Gojal Valley, have announced to block a newly constructed road, an alternate to the Karakoram Highway linking Gulmit with Hussaini village in the upper Hunza region, from tomorrow. The road blockade will lead to suspension of delivery of goods brought from China. It had been constructed after the submergence of KKH in the dammed Hunza River.

The affected people maintain that their land was used without following the legal formalities and without compensating to the people for the loss of land.

The role of Gilgit-Baltistan Chamber of Commerce and its president Javed Hussain is being criticized for constructing the road illegally even before the tenders were out.

It is pertinent to note that the tenders for construction of the road were published in regional papers at least one month after the road had been constructed.

The local people told this scribe that the finance minister Muhammad Ali Akhtar had promised to compensate the loss of land but failed to deliver on his promise, forcing them to take this step.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Early Vacations Announced in Six Districts of GB

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Gilgit (PT): The Secretary Education has ordered government run schools in Gilgit-Baltistan, except Diamer district, to observe “winter vacations” from December 21, 2012 to January 31, 2013.

According to a notification (No. Sec. Edu. 2(58)/2012), the decision has been taken with the blessings of the Education Minister, at a meeting of the Coordination Committee of the Education Department, presided by Syed Hadi, the region’ s Secretary for Education.

Ironically, the schools in Diamer District have been given the exception of following the “past practice”.

The major reason for early vacations in other six districts has been mentioned as “chilly cold weather”. However, it is believed that the unstated reason for closing the  schools in six districts with mixed sectarian population, is the volatile law and order situation and the increased indulgence of youth in sectarian debates and violence at schools and colleges.

It is pertinent to note that the Karakoram University has already been closed till the third day of March, 2012.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Workshop on Reporting Natural Disasters for Journalist of GB

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GILGIT (ET): Journalists from seven districts of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) were guided through the process of reporting natural disasters at a three-day workshop on Monday. The workshop aimed to educate the participants about the essentials of disaster reporting and personal safety techniques during disasters.

“The communities living in valleys of G-B are prone to natural disasters, with the climate change already taking a toll on the lives and property of many of them,” said Ghulam Abbas, regional head of Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) while addressing the participants.

He elaborated that the workshop is designed to help journalists understand the complexities associated with the nature of disasters, enabling them to effectively report such incidents. “We reached out to some 87,976 people affected by disasters and provided them relief,” he said, referring to the calamities including Attabad floods and Talus landslides which claimed lives and damaged property.

Abbas said in G-B the PRCS has a network of 7,371 registered volunteers, of whom most are trained in emergency response. They provided free medication to some 14,713 patients during emergencies in the region, he added.

Furthermore, he said they provided first aid training to transporters, individuals from educational institutions and paramilitary forces to better and timely respond to the calamities. “They are at least 3,000 men who are trained and capable of helping people in distress.”

Gilgit-Baltistan: Vacant Posts in SAC and Chief Court of GB

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GILGIT (ET):  Lawyers have been boycotting their duties for the past three days to press the government to fill vacant posts in Gilgit–Baltistan (G-B) courts.

“The government needs to be reminded of its duty to fill vacant posts in the Supreme Appellate Court and the Chief Court of G-B,” said Imran Hussain, a local lawyer, while talking to The Express Tribune on Saturday.

He said numerous cases are pending in courts due to lack of judges and the backlog will further increase after the three-month-long winter vacations in G-B end.

Earlier on Friday, lawyers organised two rallies simultaneously in Gilgit and Skardu, demanding immediate appointment of judges in the courts. They termed the delay “a joke with the judiciary.”

The Supreme Appellate Court, the region’s apex court, has been dysfunctional since June, after the contracts of Justice Mohammad Yaqub and Justice Jafar Shah expired. Justice Rana Mohammad Arshad Khan is the only judge serving at the court, however, he is barred from hearing any appeal singlehandedly.

According to G-B Self Governance Order 2009, a minimum three-member bench is needed to hear an appeal, said Musrat Jamal, another local lawyer.

The G-B government has sent various summaries to the federal government to appoint two judges in the Supreme Appellate Court, but the posts remain vacant.

Lawyers have raised concerns over the procedure of appointing judges on contract, saying that G-B’s highest judiciary has been “contracted out” and that justice cannot be achieved under “such a temporary system.”

They have vowed that bar associations will continue their struggle to get flaws removed from the system.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Targeted Operation in GB

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ISLAMABAD (ET): In a bid to eradicate sectarianism, the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government is set to launch an effective targeted operation to deweaponise Gilgit city.

G-B’s capital city is in the grip of sectarian clashes for over two decades, as a result of which many precious lives have been lost and the peace of the area has been disrupted.

Amid the deteriorating law and order situation, the government has decided to launch a targeted operation to collect illegal weapons from key locations of the capital.

“At this stage, military operation is not the solution to the problems, but we have decided to launch an effective targeted operation in certain localities, as per authentic intelligence reports,” a senior police officer in GB told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.

The political leadership favoured the idea of a targeted operation and directed the civil administration and local military leadership to press ahead with the plan, it is learnt.

In recent meetings held in GB’s Force Commander Office, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister G-B Syed Mehdi Shah, it was decided that the issue must be dealt with immediately to establish order.

According to a police officer, intelligence reports reveal that huge catches of sophisticated weapons have been smuggled to Gilgit, through different entry points of the area, particularly during summers when borders remain opened.

The officer added that the administration is refraining from carrying out a military offensive in the area to avoid unnecessary botheration to the citizens. However, he said that they “know where the ammunitions are, and how to reach them.”

“Previously, there was [just] sectarianism and target killings. Now the menace is transforming into large scale terrorism, and timely action is crucial to nip the evil in the bud,” the officer said.

A fresh wave of sectarianism started at the beginning of the year, when unidentified assailants targeted a passenger van at the Dassu area of Kohistan, followed by the killing of passengers at Chilas and a similar incident at Lulusar Top.

Commenting on the situation, Speaker G-B Legislative Assembly Wazir Baig, who is active in efforts to bring peace in GB, stated that the government is taking measures to bring normalcy in the area and are involving religious scholars and the wider community.

“We have established Masjid Boards and now efforts are underway to establish Ulema Boards by engaging religious scholars from across the sectarian groups,” Baig said.

The government is also concentrating on the strengthening of law enforcement agencies by increasing their numbers and effectively equipping them.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Sectarianism Major Cause of Tourism Downfall in GB

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By Khalida Khan

A study survey was conducted in Gilgit-Baltistan, to investigate the major cause of rapid turn down in the inflow of tourists, which has adversely affected the tourism sector, since last decade. They analyzed tourists’ inflow data, obtained from Foreign Registration Office, Gilgit.

A significant reduction, in tourist inflow data, was observed since 1998, when inflow was 1,13,399 tourists, with minimum inflow i.e., 2,000 tourists in 2002,  and 2,544 in 2009. Further, the linkage of this reduction in tourist inflow with sectarianism was investigated by conducting surveys on cultural diversity; influences of sectarian clashes; war and terror; and consequent changes in the ratio of incoming tourists, to reach the final conclusion.

The findings of the study showed, that the prolonged local sectarian clashes seem to be the major causes of tourism down fall. In addition to the sectarian clashes, political instability; and war against terrorism in country, are the apparent causes, which contribute to nonconstructive marketing for the distressed area.

Revitalization of collapsed tourism sector and opening of sustainable community-based ecotourism initiatives through reformed policies, that address the mountain concerns and cooperative action of all stakeholders, can tackle challenges for tourism, which will ultimately root out unfavorable circumstances that cause tension in this region.

The author is Incharge, Centre for Integrated Mountain Research, University of the Punjab, Lahore – Pakistan

Gilgit-Baltistan: Establishment of Aga Khan Hospital in Gilgit

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Gilgit (PT): A delegation of the Ismaili Regional Councilfor Gilgit met the Chief Minister today at his office. The CM said during the meeting that a state-of-the-art Aga Khan Teaching Hospital will be established in Gilgit with the help of Aga Khan Foundation to ensure provision of health facilities for the region’s populace.

According to a press release shared by the CM Secretariat, Mehdi Shah congratulated the Ismaili community on the occasion of the Salgirah of His Highness the Aga Khan and praised his services for the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

Gilgit-Baltistan:11,630 People Imparted Teaching, Management and Leadership Trainings

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Gilgit (PT): The Professional Development CenterNorth, Gilgit, has imparted teaching, management and leadership training to 11,630 teachers from across Gilgit-Baltistan. The importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD) is being used across the world to develop interest in education. Teachers from government, ngo-operated and private schools have benefited from the state of art training facilities available at the PDCN. The ECD programme is currently being run in 124 schools across GB.

This was stated by Dr. Maula Dad Shafa, head of the PDCN, today, while talking to a group of legislators who routed the facility under the leadership of GBLA Speaker Wazir Baig.

The legislators also visited training sessions and saw the facilities available.

Speaking at the occasion GBLA Speaker Wazir Baig said that efforts will be made to make legislation for introduction of ECD based education in schools across the region. He said that the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) had advised each and every Muslim to gain education but majority of the Muslims across the world are faced with abysmal poverty and chaos because of lack of education. He also lamented the lack of educational programmes on television channels.

The PDCN had been inaugurated by His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and the then KANA Minister, Abbas Sarfraz, more than a decade ago. It is part of the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED).

Gilgit-Baltistan: Faith Based Healthcare Policy in GB

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By Dr. Aziz Baig

There was a time when people used to call Gilgit-Baltistan the land of peace, love and happiness, but today a cloud of gloom hangs over the region.

Because of the recent wave of sectarian violence in Gilgit Baltistan, hundreds of people have died and the economy is on the verge of collapse. The education and healthcare sectors are among the worst hit.

As the government and the security agencies find out and address the causes of sectarian violence, there is also a need to revisit our current policies and reevaluate our current system of governance. Decent, acceptable and long-term coping strategies should be devised to address the grave issue of sectarian violence.

Being a health professional, I believe some of the most important challenges will be in the healthcare sector. The existing healthcare policies and strategies have not been developed professionally and scientifically. These ill-conceived, narrow minded and misguided policies are also essential contributing factors to the sectarian violence in Gilgit Baltistan. In an ideal world, hospitals are constructed to provide the highest quality of care to all people regardless of their faith. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals are committed to helping and assisting everyone everywhere irrespective of their sect, race and color. But the public healthcare resources in Gilgit Baltistan seem to have been divided along sectarian lines.

The District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) in Gilgit is the oldest public hospital in Gilgit Baltistan and was built in a Shia dominated area more than 50 years ago. It served people from all across the region. People living in the vicinity of the hospital helped the poor patients and attendants coming from far off districts, often giving them food and clothing. Sometimes they also accommodated them in their houses. Shia and Sunni health professionals worked together and provided best possible services to the population despite of the scarce resources.

Today, things are different. Sunni patients are reluctant to visit the DHQ hospital. Even Sunni health professionals have declined to work in the hospital. Instead of pacifying tensions and finding a pragmatic solution to the issue, the government built another hospital in Kashrote, a Sunni dominated area, just three kilometers away. Sunni health professionals have been deployed to this new hospital and it largely serves the Sunni community.

At a distance of a few yards from the Kashrote City Hospital, the Aga Khan Health Services have also set up a well-equipped hospital. The hospital is neither located in an Ismaili dominated area nor meant to serve the Ismaili population only, but some people still assume that a good number of health professionals and majority of patients coming to this health facility are Ismailis.

Is there really a need for so many hospitals in Gilgit city? Are we not wasting our resources? Can’t we set up one large well-equipped hospital in Gilgit that can provide quality healthcare to everyone regardless of their faith? Will the sectarian based healthcare approach end violence in Gilgit Baltistan? On the contrary, it might deepen the sectarian rift. We cannot fulfill the dream of a pluralistic society by dividing our healthcare system along sectarian lines.


Gilgit-Baltistan:Officials Suspended and Judicial Inquiry Ordered

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GILGIT (ET): The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government suspended six jail officials and ordered a judicial inquiry on Thursday, a day after two under-trial prisoners, including a key suspect in a high-profile murder case, escaped from a prison.

“The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mehdi Shah and attended by the G-B Scouts commander, home secretary, DIG police, and senior officials of Rangers and FC on Thursday,” Sajjadul Haq, a spokesman for the Chief Minister Secretariat, told The Express Tribune.

“Four policemen and two jail wardens have been suspended for negligence,” said the official, adding that they would be questioned over their possible role in the jailbreak. Haq also said that all exit and entry routes have been sealed to catch the prisoners.

Shakirullah Jan and Arifuddin escaped from the jail late Wednesday night after reportedly intoxicating the security personnel on duty.

Jan, who is from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, had been facing a trial in an Anti-Terrorism Court in Gilgit for the murder of a cleric, Agha Ziauddin Rizvi, in January 2005. The assassination of the eminent cleric had led to the killing of nearly 20 people in the days that followed.