Month: February 2013

Gilgit-Baltistan:Simultaneous Dissolution of GB Assembly along with NA/Provincial Assemblies Demanded

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ISLAMABAD (ET): A key leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) on Friday pushed for the simultaneous dissolution of G-B’s Legislative Assembly along with the National Assembly and provincial assemblies so that elections could be held in the region under a caretaker set-up.

The appeal — directed at the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led federal government — was made by chief organiser Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman at a news conference. Siddiqul Farooq, the party’s chief coordinator for G-B, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad, was also present.

“The elections in G-B have always been manipulated by the ruling parties in the past. And it is key to hold the polls in G-B under a caretaker government so that transparency and fairness can be ensured,” Rehman said.

He claimed that in the past, every ruling party had rigged the elections in G-B by using official machinery and bureaucratic tactics and warned that it would continue in the future if they were not held under an impartial government. “We have not been given a level playing field for contesting elections in the past and every time the ruling party has interfered to manipulate them,” Rehman noted.

He also called for amending the Constitution to establish a circular office of the Supreme Court in G-B to ensure appointments in the superior judiciary are made under the Supreme Court rather than through the ministry of Kashmir Affairs and G-B.

Rehman alleged that the federal minister for Kashmir Affairs and G-B was demanding Rs20 million for appointing a judge in the Chief Court and Supreme Appellate Court of G-B. According to him, this is why there is only one chief judge of the Chief Court and the posts of four fellow judges have been lying vacant for many months as candidates could not arrange for the money.

Criticising the poor state of healthcare in G-B, he said the people were frustrated and disappointed as free treatment is provided in government hospitals all over the country, but the G-B government has introduced Rs250 in the name of doctor’s fee in every government hospital.

At the same time, Farooq pledged that PML-N had incorporated the recommendations received from the party’s G-B chapter in its manifesto and pledged to implement them if PML-N comes into power.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Establishment of Language Authority in GB Demanded

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Gilgit (PT): The Shina Language and Culture Promotion Society has demanded establishment of a Language Authority in Gilgit-Baltistan region, for preservation and promotion of the region’s many languages.

According to a statement shared with the media, the SLCPS made the demand today at a gathering held in connection with the International Mother Language Day,observed throughout the world annually on February 21.

The SLCPS has also demanded establishment of a Shinalogy department at the Karakoram International University. The have also urged the authorities to establish a Shina Language Academy.

They have also demanded to declare Balti and Shina as national languages of Pakistan, in line with a national assembly resolution passed unanimously three years back.

The press statement furthers says that Shina, Balti and the other languages spoken in the Gilgit-Baltistan should be declared national languages and arrangements should be made to impart education in local languages at the primary level of education.

Renowned cultural activists and linguists, Shakil Ahmed Shakil, Abdul Hafeez Shakir, Ghulam Abbas Naseem, Ishtiaq Ahmed Yaad, Salman Ali, Tufail Abbas, Ameer Haider, Muhammad Jameel, Abdul Sabur and Asim Bashir were present at the occasion.

They also urged the UN organizations, civil society activists and relevant NGOs in the Gilgit-Baltistan region to play an active role for fulfilment of the demands.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Chief Court of GB Dysfunctional due to Struggle by Power Brockers

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ISLAMABAD (ET): Want of judges has rendered the Chief Court of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) dysfunctional. Four out of five of the judiciary posts have remained unoccupied for the last two months. The provincial government failed to appoint new judges after two of the court’s members were promoted to the Supreme Appellate Court (Supreme Court) of G-B.

According to sources, the cause of the crisis is the struggle between various power brokers to get their hands over the lucrative positions.

“Unlike other parts of the country, the judicial commission doesn’t have any role in the appointment of the judges for the superior judiciary in Gilgit-Baltistan,” said Advocate Ahsan Ali, former president and a senior member of Gilgit-Baltistan Bar Council.

“This is the basic reason why every judge in the superior judiciary in G-B has been appointed on political grounds so far by ignoring merit and competence.”

Under the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Order Rule 2009, the governor recommends names for the office to the Prime Minister for the final selection via the ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan.

As per the Gilgit-Baltistan Governance Order 2009, a person qualifies for appointment as member of chief court only if he has three years of experience as a sessions judge or ten years of experience as a lawyer in High Court. However, some of the persons recommended for the post don’t meet these criteria, Ahsan added.

“Providing justice is a sensitive issue and judges must be appointed on the basis of merit, integrity and impartiality.”

The advocate said that petitions have kept piling up as the court remained closed for the last two months.

Initially, the court had three judges and now with two judges promoted to the Supreme Appellate Court, only one is left to serve the court.

According to Ahsan, the system of induction in the higher judiciary is not transparent in G-B.

Also, he said, the G-B Bar Council demands appointment of at least seven judges in the chief court to avoid any such crisis in the future in case judges retire or are promoted.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s G-B chief organizer Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman, while addressing a press conference on Friday alleged that some top brass at the ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan demands Rs20 million for elevating a candidate to the post of judge in the chief court. He cited it as the reason for the deadlock in the appointment of judges.

Hafiz also demanded establishment of a circle office of Supreme Court in G-B and appointment of judges through judicial commission to ensure transparency.

G-B Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah was contacted several times for his view on the issue. His personal secretary Syed Akber Hussain replied that the governor had no time for talks. When the secretary was asked to comment, he also refused to respond.

The G-B law minister Wazir Shakeel is one of the front-running candidates for the position of judge in the chief court.

While defending his candidature as judge for the superior judiciary despite being a cabinet member, he said that such examples existed in the past. Also he said that he had submitted his resignation to the chief minister on February 11 which would be approved if he is appointed a judge.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Absence of Modern Telecommunication Services, People of GB Depend on Postal Services

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ISLAMABAD (ET): In the absence of telecommunication services, people in far-flung areas of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) depend solely on the postal service.

However due to the heavy snowfall this season, the people have been finding it hard to send and receive letters. The post offices have been grossly understaffed due to postmen being unable to come to work due to heavy snow.

“The postal service comes under the federal government and despite repeated requests, the Ministry of Postal Service is delaying the approval to recruit more people and make more post offices in far-off areas,” said Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Ayub Shah.

He added that the locals are finding it extremely difficult to stay in touch with others via email, due to disrupted services. To make things worse, the snowfall has blocked the routes of postal staff, dealing a blow to the postal services.

He lamented the fact that in times when people are constantly connected, people in G-B are lacking even the basic facility of postal service.

An official of the concerned ministry, wishing to remain anonymous, said that there is need of increasing staff and establishing more post offices in different parts of the country. However, the concerned minister does not interest in any area except Balochistan, where he is from, the official added. He said that the sitting minister and his predecessor, both from Balochistan, worked a lot to develop the postal infrastructure in their province.

Federal Minister for Postal Service Sardar Muhammad Omar Gorgage did not respond despite repeated attempts to contact him on his cellphone.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Proposal to Convert Newly Build College into Prison Rejected

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Gilgit (ET):GB Chief Secretary Sajjad Saleem Hotiana rejected a proposal to turn a shiny new college building into a jail.
The proposal was presented by Ministry of Housing and Works Secretary Zafar Abbas on Thursday to provide better facilities to prisoners.
“It will make a mockery of education,” Hotiana commented and directed officials concerned to ensure the building is immediately completed and classes begin soon.

“The building is at the final stage of completion and officials were seeking Hotiana’s consent to convert it into a prison,” said Shehzad Ahmad, a senior government official.
Ahmad added the chief secretary rejected the idea and called it “the worst joke of the century”.
While inspecting incomplete projects, Hotiana blamed the delay in development projects on ‘corrupt mafias’ and ill-planning by engineers.
The college building was initially supposed to be completed in three years, but remains incomplete even after seven. Hotiana underlined the need for an efficient monitoring system so projects are completed on time.

The chief secretary also expressed displeasure over the use of substandard material in construction and directed Secretary Abbas to take appropriate action.
Last year, authorities faced stiff resistance from students and teachers when a school and a college in Gilgit were turned into makeshift police stations. Security forces had to vacate the buildings after protests.

Gilgit-Baltistan: People Visit Hospitals for Entertainment?

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Gilgit (GB Times): The secretary Health Gilgit-Baltistan, Sikander Khan stated that people of Gilgit-Baltistan visit to Govt. hospital for entertainment purpose that is why we are charging fees to stop patient to visit Govt. Hospital.

In Gilgit-Baltistan which has lesser health facilities as compared to the rest of Pakistan and people economically belongs to poor section of the society are now deprived of the basic right of provision of health. The Govt. of Giglit-Baltistan has decided to charge the poor patient for visiting Government Hospitals and it has fallen like a sky on poor people who are already suffering from poor economic conditions and lack of economic and job opportunities in the area.
‘People of Gilgit-Baltistan Visit the Hospital for Entertainment Purposes not for Treatment’

In order to cover up the money in fact collected to be put into the pockets of senior govt official and minister for health the secretary health states that ‘People of Gilgit-Baltistan Visit the Hospital for Entertainment Purposes not for Treatment’. It has irked so many people and in coming days protests are planned around Govt. Hospitals. The people of the area and civil society organization are of the view that the health department is already selling in the black market the medicines meant for the patient and now they are also charging fees.

It is to be noted in the rest of the country all over the patient in the govt. Hospitals are not charged any fee

Gilgit-Baltistan: KKH Will be Completed in 2014

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Gilgit (Voice of Vienna): The portion of Karakoram Highway destroyed due to the damming of Hunza River will be completed in the year 2014.
Seven tunnels, five bridges and a 17 kilometer stretch of the KKH will be constructed in Gojal Valley as part of the project. This was stated by Mr. Lee, an official of the China Roads and Bridges Corproation. He further said that three of the tunnels will be constructed this year while work on the remaining two will be completed in 2014.
It is pertinent to note that the same company has been working on the KKH repair and expansion project since 2007.
The expansion and repair project from Khunjerav to Thakot had to be completed in 2013, according to initial plans. However, the project was delayed due to floods and the Attabad landslide disaster that struck in January 2010.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Integral Part of Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD (The News): Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is an integral part of Pakistan and its native population is totally loyal and patriotic to the country, authoritative sources in the federal capital have stated while reacting to a propaganda campaign launched to prove otherwise.

The propaganda launched in foreign countries not only distorts the historical truth about the GB and Pakistan but also instigates separatist notions for the target audience.

The elements sponsoring the campaign, while advocating resumption of traffic and trade across LoC (from GB to Ladakh), oppose building of dams, expressways, railways and gas pipelines by government of Pakistan, propagating that it will damage the ecosystem.

“We are closely monitoring the psychological operations being carried out from abroad,” said the sources while adding that the chief aim of the exercise was to make Gilgit-Baltistan controversial and its people disconcerted.

The sources pointed out that the exercise, whose chief patrons were foreign elements and expatriate Pakistanis, was an indirect approach to exploit the petty issues and local rivalries with a view to damage the national interests of Pakistan.

“We have found that the element of sectarianism in the region is not an isolated phenomenon; it is being spread to create chaos.”

Sources said following the decision of handing over the Gwadar Port to China, they expected a new campaign to target the sensitive region that borders China.

The sources added there was no question about Gilgit-Baltistan being a part of Pakistan and its people had taken part in three wars with India.

Gilgit-Baltistan:MoU Signed to Initiate Youth Policy in GB

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Gilgit (PT): Department of Tourism, Sports, Youth and Culture, the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has signed a Memrendum of Understanding with Bargad-Organization for Youth Development to initiate the process of youth policy development in the region.

The MoU was signed between Secretary Tourism, Youth, Sports and Culture, Mr.Syed Akhtar Hussian, and Executive Director Bargad, Ms. Sabihha Shaheen.  Bargad and UNFPA will provide technical assistance to the Department.

The ceremony took place at Islamabad hotel in which Ms. Sadia Danish, Advisor for Tourism, Sports and Culture-GB, chaired the session. She said that it is the need of the hour to have a comprehensive youth policy that can channelize youth energies and the government can provide best environment for  youth development. She also told that Bargad has been selected after a very competitive process on merit basis because of organization’s expertise and experience on the issue.

Mr. Wazir Shakeel, Minister Law said that the government will lead and facilitate in the formulation and approval of the policy and its implementation. Mr. Syed Akhtar Hussain said that the demographic transition and considerable youth population of the province needs a policy to empower youth and the current process will keep into consideration the diversity and culture of different districts of the province. Ms. Sabiha Shaheen informed that the youth policy formulation process will be participatory in which youth groups, youth organizations, media and related stakeholders will be taken on board and also welcomed all civil society organizations and media to be the part of the policy and to support the process.

Dr. Shahbaz, while presenting the process explained that along with formal consultative sessions with youth, youth groups, Civil Society Organizations, Media, parliamentarians and related stake holders in all districts of the GB, in-depth interviews and survey will also be conducted to map out youth issues, rights, responsibilities and entitlements. Input of hundreds of youth will be taken during the process and the policy will truly reflect the needs of youth and will be framed for social, economic and political empowerment of youth in the province. The ceremony was also attended by civil society organizations and representatives of the Agha Khan Foundation and media.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Bio Diversity is Threatened by Climate Change

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Karachi (Heaven GB): Gilgit-Baltistan benefits from a unique, rich and diverse nature. Yet, its biodiversity is seriously threatened by climate change.

Climate is not a stationary phenomenon, it varies from time to time. It is a product of weather which always experiences variations over space and time (Rasul, 2012). Climate change is resulting from a growing concentration of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and uses of fossil fuels and other anthropogenic activities has become a major worldwide concern (Khan, etal 2012). Anthropogenic activities affect the atmosphere and climate in the course of air pollution of greenhouse gases and aerosol, particulate matter, and through land changing. Anthropogenic emissions of GHFs like CO2, CH4, (CFCs) and nitrous oxide have has led to increases in their atmospheric concentration and cause warming of the lower atmosphere (Rosenthal,. et al 2007).

The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) of Pakistan formerly known as Northern Areas (NA) Pakistan has a unique and vital role in sustainable development of Pakistan. GB has  geographic range of an area of 72,971 km² (28,174 mi²), lying in the extreme north of Pakistan (75 08 48.12 E & 37 00 47.33 N to 77 41 11.82 E & 35 27 26.06 N) (Khan 2012). Nature has gifted this area with high mountainous ranges, massive glaciers, glorious rivers and splendid valleys and full of precious and industrial mines. Gilgit-Baltistan serves as a major water catchment for the Indus River Basin (IRB) upon which majority part of Pakistan depends for hydroelectrically and for irrigation proposes. Gilgit-Baltistan is a politically sensitive location because of its special territorial status. And are administered directly by the Government of Pakistan (GoP) (IUCN 2003). Nature has gifted this area with high mountainous ranges, massive glaciers, glorious rivers and splendid valleys. Gilgit-Baltistan serves as a major water catchment for the Indus River Basin (IRB) upon which majority part of Pakistan depends for hydroelectrically and for irrigation proposes. Gilgit-Baltistan is a politically sensitive location because of its special territorial status. And are administered directly by the Government of Pakistan (GoP) (IUCN 2003). It borders with Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor to the north, China to east, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK) province to the west and India to the south east. The region is divided in to seven districts; Gilgit, Skardu, Hunza-Nagar, Ghanche, Ghizer, Diamer and Astore.  Gilgit-Baltistan has an estimated population approaching 2000,000. The regions administrative headquarters are located in Gilgit city.  Gilgit-Baltistan is rich for biological diversity. It contains most important forests, extensive mineral resources and host for many endangered species of the world. The Gilgit-Baltistan is dominated by one of the most important landscape on the world, joint by Hindu Kush to the west, Karakorum to east, and mighty Himalayans to the south and Pamir to the north. It contains 101 peaks which are found to be above than 7,000 meters (IUCN 2003) like Nanga Parbat, K-2 (Mt. Godwin Austin) the second highest mountain after Mt. Everest. The mountain valleys of GB are usually narrow, profound and steep in appearance. The high mountains are behaving like resistance to the monsoon rains to reach in GB. That’s why most of the places in GB receive less rainfall and are fall cold desert. Natural beauty, largest mountains, unique biodiversity, topographic difference, and a larger variety of cultures and languages have been a good concern for scientist to conduct research in Gilgit Baltistan.

Climate changes and its impact on biodiversity is currently an important issue of whole world.  In Gilgit-Baltistan, some NGOs like World Wild Fund (WWF) has been struggling to protect and conserve biological resources of the GB, and are wishing to implement the adaptation and mitigation strategies for the Gilgit-Baltistan. Like other mountainous area of the world, climate changing is also taking place in Mountainous areas of Pakistan such as in Gilgit-Baltistan. Climate change is posing serious threats to the fragile ecosystems and poor communities. All most all the natural ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change in GB. The rapidly melting of glaciers causes habitat loss of many species and it causes damage in migratory routs of many migratory species. In Gilgit-Baltistan the climate stations in Gilgit, Skardu, Gupis and Bunji show increase in the total temperature in last two decades from 1980 to 2006 which has been observed increasing by 0.440 C per decades (Khan and Ali 2011).

It was discovered that change in climate caused flash floods and river bank erosion in Skardu district GB. The flash floods emanating from glacial melting and leading to river bank which causes erosion and flooding of fields (WWF-P Brochure 2012). The impact of climate change is expected to increase in future. Most of the species are moving towards poles and to higher elevations (FRANCO, etal., 2006). The general overview about the climate change and their associate hazards in Gilgit-Baltistan are loss of habitat, species extinction, less grasses in pasture, pest attacks, increased frequency of glacial melting, high turbid water, cold spell, GLOF, and destruction of water bank infrastructure are common ideals of the communities (Ali, 2010).

According to Ahmad (2010) the loss and deaths of Markhor in Chitral are occurring due to disturbances and variations in the local environmental conditions, possibly triggered by climate change.

Recommendations:

Communities of GB are prone and poor, they are unable to response such massive destructive events caused by climate change such as floods and droughts. They need long term projects for their capacity building and preparedness. There should be long term projects or community based disaster risk management, adaptations and mitigation enhancing activities to save life livelihoods, ecosystems, biodiversity and infrastructure of Gilgit-Baltistan.