Month: April 2013

Gilgit-Baltistan: Despite Budget Constraints, GB Police Doing Well, Says IGP

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GILGIT (ET): Complaining about a lack of funds, Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Zakaria on Monday said personnel will not be provided complete uniforms this year.

Addressing a gathering of policemen and officials at Police Lines, Zakaria said the department has been allocated the same budget since the past five years, without accounting for inflation. “Jackets, boots and oil (fuel) could not be given to the police this year and I want to bring this to your attention,” he said.

“Even then, we have managed to do remarkably well,” said Zakaria, adding 160 proclaimed offenders were arrested for six months by the force.

“When I was posted here nine months back, the force was divided along sectarian and regional lines, but it transformed into a single, strong unit,” claimed the IGP, saying the improved security situation was proof of his commitment.

G-B Chief Minister (CM) Mehdi Shah was the chief guest, while ministers, army, police and civil officials also attended the event.

Speaking on the occasion, CM Shah appealed to the finance ministry to increase the budget for the police force. He added development cannot take place if there is no peace, and appreciated the improvement shown by the police.

Talking about compensation packages for families of policemen killed in terrorist activities, Shah claimed the amount offered by G-B was the highest compared to the rest of the country. “In addition to Rs3 million, the widow of a martyred policeman is also paid full salary. One heir is given a job in the department and education expenses of the others are borne by the government. Previously, police officials used to collect donations to pay to the family of a martyr.”

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Gilgit-Baltistan:Climate Change and Karakorams

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ISLAMABAD (ET): Spread over around 10,000 square kilometres, the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is home to the largest glacial land mass in the world outside the polar region.

Thirty-eight per cent of the park’s land mass is covered with glaciers, which provide freshwater to the park,local communities and much of the rest of Pakistan via the Indus River.

But climate change is beginning to adversely impact the mountain ecosystem of the park.

“The severe impact of climate change is being experienced in the form of floods, droughts, higher average temperatures and changes in precipitation, and all these are projected to affect the availability of water resources in the CKNP area,” said Daniela Giardina, a scientific coordinator for the Socio Economic Environmental Development (SEED) project in CKNP. “These factors are also expected to cause faster deterioration of water quality.”

Giardina was speaking at the launch of a SEED water management policy brief in Islamabad on Friday, which aims to highlight water issues in the CKNP and spell out research-based remedies.

The brief recommends that the communications gap between scientists and policymakers must be bridged for better water management. It also suggests raising awareness on water quality, water protection and hygiene among local communities. Finally, the policy brief states that the risk of water pollution should be reduced through water safety plans at the communal level.

Project Director Raffaele Del Cima said SEED intends to improve the quality of life of 230 village communities living on the park’s outskirts by diversifying their livelihood options.

At the same time, the project is helping in the development of a sustainable park management protocol and conducting scientific research about the park’s natural resource, Cima said. A water laboratory has been been set up and a team of Italian researchers have tested water quality in the area.

Their analysis of 19 samples from the different locations showed that water in the villages, especially in the Karimabad area of Hunza, is contaminated and contains elevated levels of E Coli and other forms of bacteria.

On the other hand, water in the central part of the CKNP was found to be safe for drinking. The experts believe that the presence of animals near water bodies in the villages and lack of wastewater treatment is degrading the water quality.

Water quality is crucial to the health of G-B residents, especially given that G-B’s infant mortality rate is higher than the rest of Pakistan, according to an Asian Development Bank survey from 2011.

Giardina explained that, as part of the project, glaciologists are compiling an inventory of the glaciers in the area, hydrologists are looking to answer questions about water availability and researchers are testing the water for contamination.

“We do believe that through applying scientific research, we can provide policymakers with the knowledge needed to make important decisions and promote better governance of natural resources,” she said.

Karakoram International University (KIU) doctoral students are contributing to the research as well, KIU Vice Chancellor Najma Najam said. The university’s students are working on at least 48 projects focused on the CKNP region, Najam said.

Chief Guest Javed Malik, the food and agriculture member at the Planning Commission, said awareness is critical for environment conservation and climate change mitigation.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Display of Traditional Items in GB

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GILGIT (ET): An arts and handicrafts exhibition was held in Gilgit on Saturday, allowing local organisations from Gilgit-Balitistan’s (G-B) remote valleys to display traditional items.

More than 50 stalls were put up in the exhibition organised by the Trade Development Authority (TDA) in a hotel.

“This is an attempt to promote local art and culture,” said Khalid Baig, a TDA official. “The local products are excellent and don’t have competitors elsewhere, which is why they can fetch good prices.”

Women and children showed up in large numbers and took a keen interest in items, including clothes, food and other decoration articles.

Local handicrafts like caps, jewellery and wooden utensils were also on display.

Saeeda Parveen, who came from Ghizer valley and had a handicrafts stall set up, said she saw a good number of buyers at the event. “It’s encouraging to see people coming out and buying items.”

Gilgit-Baltistan: Boycott of Assembly Session Exposed Fault Lines in GB Cabinet

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Gilgit (PT): In a unique, unprecedented and bizarre, incident the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, along with key members of his cabinet boycotted the 27th session of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

The session had been requisitioned by the Speaker, Wazir Baig, on the request of 15 members of the assembly, including provincial ministers, parliamentary secretaries and members of the opposition.

There are reports that the CM wanted the session to be called in the mid of May.

The members of assembly who attended the session included Deputy Speaker Jameel Ahmed, Raziuddin Rizvi,Maulana Sarwar Shah, Mutabiat Shah, Ayub Shah, Mehnaz Wali, Abdul Hameed, Gul Mira and Mirza Hussain.

Others believe that various incidents during the last couple of months had turned many members of the assembly against the CM. For instance, the Speaker and CM had directly or indirectly exchanged harsh words over delays in the notification of the headquarters of Hunza-Nagar district. The Speaker had also termed the creation of Kharmang and Shigar district to be illegal, inviting the rage of legislators and political leaders from Baltistan. Some people were expecting a repeat of the tussle.

Similarly, MLA Raziuddin Rizvi, who is known for his hot temper, was also expected to challenge the CM in the assembly for not making him a minister.

Whatever be the reason, the boycott of the assembly session has exposed the fault-lines in the regional cabinet. The Speaker and members of the assembly, who were present in the session, termed the boycott to be tantamount to ridiculing the legislators and the house.

The Speaker said that action will be taken against the CM according to the laws of the assembly.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Fan of Musharraf Dies of Hard Attack

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GILGIT (ET): A staunch supporter and fan of former president Pervez Musharraf suffered a heart attack and died after hearing the news of the ex-army chief’s arrest orders.

The retired general has been facing legal challenges since he returned to Pakistan in March.

Kacho Nisar, 30, was watching the events unfold surrounding the arrest orders issued by the Islamabad High Court on his television from Basho village, a valley in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), when he suffered a heart attack, said Gulam Ali, a resident of Skardu. The incident could not be immediately reported due to poor communication facilities in the village.

“We were informed about the tragedy by the relatives of the deceased,” said Manzoor Yoltar, the chief organiser of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), the former president’s party.

Musharraf’s arrest was ordered after his bail plea was rejected in the judges’ confinement case. He was later taken to his Chak Shehzad farm house in Islamabad, which was declared as a sub-jail.

In Basho village, which is about 250 kilometers from Gilgit and 50 kilometers from Skardu, TV programmes are accessible through dish antennas. The village lacks mobile or telephone services, however.

As the news of Nisar’s death got out, APML’s regional leaders, including Muzaffar Parvi, Ali Arman and Ali Haider, paid a visit to Nisar’s house for condolences and to pay tribute.

“The former president is being humiliated and this is something Musharraf’s fans and lovers cannot endure,” said Yoltar, adding the plight of Musharraf shocked Nisar and he died out of grief.

During Musharraf’s rule, G-B witnessed mega-development projects, including the establishment of the Karakoram International University.

Gilgit-Baltistan:SMEDA Finalized New SME Development Plan

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LAHORE: The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) has finalised its new SME Development Plan comprising 13 potential sectors targeted to create 10.14 million new jobs during next five years.

The plan was reviewed by Zafar Mahmood, Federal Secretary Ministry of Industries in a meeting held at SMEDA head office on Tuesday. SMEDA Chief Executive Officer Sardar Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera briefed the Secretary that 13 sectors, having wider scope for creation of new employments and investments with high growth potential to integrate into global supply chain, had been selected for the plan. The sectors include information technology, construction, dairy & livestock, energy, tourism, minerals, horticulture, engineering, leather, textile, fisheries, logistics and tourism. These sectors have fair representation across the country ensuring equitable SME development in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fata, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The Secretary was further informed that the plan will be followed up by a parallel strategy for promoting entrepreneurial culture in the country by encouraging youth, especially the young educated women, to join SME sector as active partners to the national economy.

For instance, there are 0.20 million new women entrepreneurs in the country at present creating 0.16 million jobs only. Whereas, the successful implementation of SMEDA strategy will raise the number of new women entrepreneurs up to 0.35 million with creation of 0.60 million jobs within five years.

Gilgit-Baltistan: 10 Days Folk Festival Concludes

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Islamabad (News): The 10-day folk festival Lok Virsa, which started on April 12 concluded on Sunday with a prestigious award ceremony. The mega cultural event was organized by Lok Virsa (National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage) in collaboration with all the provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

People from different walks of life attended the festival for 10 days in a big way, which featured artisans-at-work exhibition, provincial cultural pavilions, folkloric song and dance performances, cultural evenings, craft bazaar, NGO stalls, theatre performances and special entertainment for children and families.

Federal Secretary Ministry of National Heritage Gul Muhammad Rind said the folk genius of the people is the basis of their identity.

“It is therefore the sacred duty of a nation to pay homage to the perpetuators and promoters of its cultural heritage.” Earlier in his speech, Lok Virsa’s Executive Director Khalid Javaid thanked all provincial governments, sponsoring agencies and other institutions for their unstinted cooperation to Lok Virsa for making this national event a great success. “I am also indebted to our own administrative ministry, in particular federal minister Shahzada Jamal Nazir and Secretary Gul Muhammad Rind for their all-time support and guidance for organizing the festival”.

Describing the mandate of Lok Virsa, chief executive Khalid Javaid said although Lok Virsa was primarily a research-oriented organisation, it organised folk festivals in order to project traditional cultural heritage, so that young people are not overwhelmed by the onslaught of Western culture and lose touch with their own traditions. At the end, cash awards sponsored by different national organizations and individuals were given to the most authentic craftsmen and craftswomen on the recommendation of a jury of experts constituted by Lok Virsa. Jury held detailed meetings over the last three days and minutely observed working of each participating artisan so as to arrive on a just and fair decision.

Craftsperson who is crippled as a result of work was also awarded at the event in addition to those who demonstrated excellence and standard setting of high quality in craftsmanship; creative and successful alliance of traditional skills and innovation in material design. There was also a category for young budding educated craftswomen.

Among the sponsors, Royal Norwegian Embassy took the lead by contributing cash awards worth Rs500,000 for the craftsmen/craftswomen and folk artists participated in the festival from all over Pakistan. Other sponsors include THAAP NGO, Azad Kashmir Small Industries, Balochistan Small Industries, Sindh Small Industries, Right to Play NGO, Directorate of Culture Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Arts Council.

In total, sixty five cash awards worth over Rs700,000 were distributed among the winning artisans. Artisans from Punjab got 23 awards whereas Sindh 14, Balochistan 6, Kyber Pakhtunkhwa 12, Gilgit-Baltistan 6 and Azad Jammu and Kashmir 4. Ten cash awards were also granted to the folk artists and singers by the organizers.

Exotic cultural and musical performances were also presented during the ceremony, which were highly enjoyed by the audience. A large number of art, craft and music lovers, cultural personalities, diplomats, media persons and general public attended the event.