Gilgit-Baltistan:18th Amendment Causes Backlash to Tourism Industry in GB

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GILGIT (ET): In the past two years, the 18th Amendment has had a far greater negative affect on tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) than the constant threat of terrorism.

The Ministry of Tourism was abolished after the amendment was passed in April 2010, devolving control of tourism, forests and minerals to the provinces. However, the devolution afforded little benefit to G-B as the control of these subjects went to the G-B Council, a body headed by the prime minister himself.

Additionally, the power to issue trekking permits to tourists also fell under the prerogative of the council under Article 33 of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order of 2009.

The G-B Assembly cannot make laws on subjects falling in the domain of the council, which is represented by six nominated parliamentarians from the federal government, and representatives of the federal government are yet to be appointed to the council by the caretaker government.

“The devolution of the federal powers of the Ministry of Tourism has not served its purpose, at least for G-B,” said Secretary Tourism Akhar Hussain Rizvi on Thursday. The secretary was speaking at the end of an Italian-funded refresher course for porters organised by the non-profit association Ev-K2-CNR at a hotel in Gilgit.

“A lack of coordination between provinces and the centre has been the biggest issue since the ministry was abolished.”

Rizvi acknowledged the role the G-B Council had, but maintained it was limited and fell short of the powers afforded to the Ministry of Tourism in the past. “The deteriorating law and order condition aside, the responsibility for the decline of tourism in the province lies with both G-B and the federal government,” he added.

Rizvi claimed plans were being made at the regional level to boost tourism, which used to be an integral part of the area’s economy until a decade ago.

Last year, the G-B Assembly passed a resolution seeking powers to legislate issues pertaining to tourism. However, the centre is yet to approve the delegation of powers described in the resolution.

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