Month: March 2013

Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistan Does’t Need NOC for Projects in GB

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ISLAMABAD (Nation): Pakistan rejected reports that India wants Pakistan to seek NOC for construction of water reservoirs in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan including Diamer-Basha Dam.

“Pakistan doesn’t need any NOC from India regarding construction of dams,” Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Ahmed Khan told the weekly press briefing.

Under the Indus Water Treaty, India was however under an obligation to inform Pakistan if it wanted to carry out any water-related project on rivers allocated for Pakistan, he said.

Gilgit-Baltistan:State Bank of Pakistan to Establish its office in GB

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GILGIT (Dawn): The State Bank of Pakistan will establish its office in Gilgit to resolve financial matters of the region.

Sources in the administration said a three-member delegation comprising Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah, Senior Minister Mohammad Jaffar and Chief Secretary Sajad Salim Hottiana met the SBP governor in Karachi to discuss the possibility of opening the branch of the central bank in GB.

They said matters pertaining to finance and other related issues came under discussion.

They added that all provinces were entitled to have an overdraft from the SBP, but GB was lacking this facility.

The officials said the SBP governor assured the GB representatives of ensuring an overdraft of Rs5 billion to the GB government in order to meet financial demands of the area.

Sources said the GB delegation also discussed possibility of setting up region’s own bank like other provinces. The SBP head also assured to extend help in this regard.

FINANCIAL PACKAGE: The federal finance minister has assured to release Rs5 billion package for Gilgit-Baltistan before the interim government is installed in Islamabad to help end financial woes of the region.

This was disclosed by GB Finance Minister Mohammad Ali Akhtar while talking to Dawn.

He said those speaking of rolling back the political reforms package to GB lived in fool’s paradise. He said his meeting with the federal finance minister was fruitful.

He said soon the region will have its own Public Service Commission as well as Services Tribunal which were the result of the political reforms package.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Security Forces on High Alert

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GILGIT (ET): While senior police officers say they are cognizant of security threats and are taking measures to avert incidents of terrorism in towns and on the Karakoram Highway, people do not share their confidence.

A wave of panic swept across Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) following warnings that militant groups had infiltrated the region. A roadside bomb that ripped though a pushcart earlier this week and injured two people was taken as a precursor.

“This seems to be a preview,” Muhammad Raza, a resident of Kashrote told the media soon after the blast. “God forbid we may see even worse in the days ahead as warnings have already been shared with the public through the media.”

A day before the incident, the regional government had pointed out that incidents like the twin blasts in Karachi could not be ruled out in Gilgit.

“There are chances of such incidents here. We urge people to remain alert and immediately report to the authorities if they find a suspicious bag or a person,” said Home Secretary Faisal Zahoor during a meeting held in Gilgit recently. The information was reproduced in a section of G-B’s Urdu press, which also mentioned that a militant outfit headed by ‘Tariq Gidar’ had infiltrated G-B.

In view of the threat perception, security has been reinforced around mosques, public places and educational institutions in Gilgit, Skardu and Astore valley, said Zahoor.

Besides keeping a strict check on the vehicles entering G-B, residents and visitors without identity documents will be deported from the region. To avert terror incidents on the highways and in towns, the home secretary said an anti-terrorism force would be formed that would be headed by a deputy commissioner and a superintendent of police in Gilgit.

Army commandos would be stationed near Bunji and forces led by a captain would be put on high alert along the Karakoram Highway at Chatial, so passengers travelling by bus can be provided protection. Buses running between G-B and Rawalpindi will have to cross ‘sensitive areas’ before 5pm.

“We are aware of the threats and are on high alert to foil any terrorist activity in the region,” Senior Superintendent of Police Ali Zia told ET.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Tourism Session in Germany Focuses GB

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Islamabad (PT): Institute of Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) locate din Berlin, Germany, held a session to discuss the opportunities of leisure and tourism in Pakistan, with a particular focus on the Gilgit-Baltisan region.

The session was attended by Pakistan’s envoy, Abdul Basit, MLA Raja Azam Khan and the Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan, Sajjad Saleem Hottiana.

Traditional items like Chugha  and traditional caps from Gilgit-Baltistan were offered to the organizers of the session by the Pakistani delegation.

The Chief Secretary and MLA Azam are visiting Germany currently along with a delegation of Pakistani tour operators to attract tourists in Pakistan.

Pakistan, in general, and the Gilgit-Baltistan region, in particular, have immense tourism potential in the areas of mountaineering, cutlure, religious heritage, environment, mountain sciences and archaeological sites. However, without improving the law and order situation in Pakistan, including Gilgit-Baltistan, the efforts to attract tourists will remain futile.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Counter Terrorism Unit Established in GB

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GILGIT (SAAMA): The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) government March 6 announced that it had formed a counter-terrorism unit to thwart any possible terrorism, the GB Home Department said.

The government formed the 90-member unit to face an increase in threats, the Home Department said, adding it had received tips of a possible terrorist attack in Gilgit or Skardu. Terrorists might target an important installation with a bomb-laden vehicle, it said.

The Home Department decided to put security forces on alert and to check suspicious persons, SAMAA reported.

Gilgit-Baltistan: SMEDA will Support Development of GB SMEs

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LAHORE (News): The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) will extend full support to develop SMEs in Gilgit-Baltistan through exploitation of regional development potential of the province on fast track basis.

This assurance was given by Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera, chief executive officer of Smeda in a meeting with Sajjad Saleem Hotiana, chief secretary Gilgit-Baltistan at SMEDA head office on Monday.

He said that tourism, minerals, small hydel and horticulture sectors have a great potential to spur economic development process in Gilgit-Baltistan.Sukhera expressed the hope that SMEDA, by developing sectoral strategies for the province, would be able create new SMEs. The SME development plan would also help fill the missing links in value chain of the potential SME sectors of Gilgit-Baltistan, he added.

Earlier, Hotiana identified regional potentials for economic development by identifying tourism, minerals, horticulture and small hydel projects as the priority sectors in the region.He assured that Smeda teams, working on the SME development of his region, would be provided with the best possible collaboration and cooperation between Smeda and the local stakeholders of the SME sector.

Gilgit-Baltistan: India Asks to Get NOC for Projects in GB

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ISLAMABAD (News): India has asked Pakistan to get no objection certificates (NoCs) from New Delhi for building all the hydropower projects being completed in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and AJK involving funding of international donor agencies.

India has also asked Pakistan to provide detailed information about all hydropower projects being built in Gilgit-Baltistan with the funding of these international donors.

This has been communicated to Pakistan in the latest correspondence in which India has again declared Gilgit-Baltistan as its integral part.

The World Bank currently believed to be under the influence of the Indians who occupy top slots, has already refused the funding for the most strategic project of the Diamer-Bhasha dam linking it with an NoC from India.

The most revealing and perturbing disclosure is that this is the same bank that has leaked the information to New Delhi that Pakistan is building hydropower projects in Shebratan and Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan, the correspondence reveals.

In a letter of the Foreign Affairs Director General South Asia of the Foreign Ministry written on November 28, 2012 to the Ministry of Water and Power, of which a copy is available with The News, it has been revealed that India has sought detailed information about the hydropower projects being built in Gilgit-Baltistan as New Delhi is of the view that Pakistan needs its NoCs for building all kinds of hydropower projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK as the said areas are ‘integral parts of India’.

However, the letter’s excerpt shows that the Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi has rejected the Indian assertions about Gilgit-Baltistan being an integral part of India. The Pakistan high commissioner, however, asked the authorities in Islamabad to provide information about the projects and the donor agencies from which assistance has been sought.

The high commissioner of Pakistan, according to the letter, has recommended to the Ministry of Water and Power to discourage donor agencies from seeking India’s concurrence for projects in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The letter written by Zehra Akbari, DG South Asia in Foreign Affairs, to Nargis Sethi, the then Secretary of Water and Power, on November 28, 2012 says: “Our high commissioner in New Delhi has conveyed vide his telegram of 23 November 2012 that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has made a verbal demarche to protest Pakistan’s plans to build hydel power projects at Shebratan and Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan and also to seek donors’ assistance for these projects. They had learned about these projects from the World Bank. Indians said that the area was an integral part of India. Our high commissioner rejected the Indian assertions about Gilgit-Baltistan being integral part of India. The high commissioner has requested information about the projects and the donor agencies from which assistance has been sought. The India high commission has also recommended that the concerned ministry should discourage donor agencies from seeking India’s NoC for the projects in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan.”

Gilgit-Baltistan:Tree Plantation Campaign in GB

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Gilgit (ET):A day after the Gilgit-Baltistan’s Forest Department formally kicked off tree plantation campaign in the region, staff members and students at the Karakoram International University [KIU] planted more than 2,000 saplings.

The plantation drive on the campus was spearheaded by KIU Vice Chancellor, Dr Najma Najam on Thursday.

Addressing the students and faculty members, the vice chancellor said that crown canopy and trees were crucial for clean environment. She asked every member of the university to plant at least one sapling.

 “We have introduced a cohesive system of irrigation and that is why the survival rate of trees on the campus has been more than 90 percent,” she said. She also announced a cash prize for gardeners in recognition of their hard wok.

Convener of Garden Committee Dr Abdur Razzaq said that more than 6,000 trees have been planted so far inside the campus and adjacent hills and this year, 2,000 saplings of fruit and other trees were planted.

Project Director Shabbir Hussain talked of water shortage in the KIU but said that they would utilise all available resources to make the plantation drive a success.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Gilgit-Baltistan Forests Department announced planting of 1,100,000 saplings in the region this year. “We have a target of planting more than 1 million trees this year,” Khadim Hussain, Secretary Forests, said.

He said that last year the forest department planted slightly less than 1 million trees despite financial crunch. Conservator Forests, Mohammad Ismail, termed plantation the most effective tool to counter climate change issues.

Like elsewhere in the country, thousands of trees are planted every year in this mountainous region however their survival rate is very low.

Gilgit-Baltistan:NAB Investigates Illegal Appointments in Education Ministry of GB

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Gilgit (PT): The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has started investigating the alleged illegal appointment of around 600 teachers in the education ministry of Gilgit-Baltistan. Statements of a number of officials from the education department have been recorded, while one Kacho Fayaz, an alleged mastermind fraudster, has been asked to appear in front of a NAB court in Gilgit.

There are reports that the officials of education ministry, with the connivance with the minister, have sold positions of teachers to at least 600 undeserving, unqualified, persons, on payment of RKR 300,000 for each position.

NAB has started investigations after a hue and cry in the regional media about the alleged crime of serial corruption that has deprived hundreds of competent candidates.