Month: September 2013
LAHORE (ET): An intelligence agency has picked up at least 22 students of a seminary in Gujranwala to quiz them about the Chilas incident. Among the detained students 20 were released after questioning while two have been shifted to Gilgit-Baltistan for further interrogation, sources said.
The action follows the arrest of the prime suspect of the murder of two Army officers and a police official from Kohistan. Hamidullah was accused of killing Colonel Ghulam Mustafa, Captain Ashfaq and SSP Diamer Hilal Ahmed on August 6.
The three were investigating the June 30 massacre of 10 foreign and one Pakistani tourist at the Nanga Parbat Base Camp in Diamer.
The intelligence agency officials, along with about 500 personnel of the local police and the Elite Force, descended on the two madrassas, Jamia Darul Aloom and Madrassa Anwarul Aloom in the wee hours of Sunday.
“The officials separated 22 students belonging to Chilas and other parts of Gilgit-Baltistan after checking their identities and took them away,” said the administrator of Jamia Mazharul Aloom Qazi Murad.
The Superintendent of Police (SP) City, Captain (retd) Liaquat Ali Malik headed the police team that went along with the intelligence agency’s officials for their security as well as to avoid any untoward incident.
He said that the contingent including six vehicles of Elite Force, SHOs of 30 police stations of Gujranwala encircled the seminaries to carry out the early morning raid.
The agency has raided these madrassas on the information Hamidullah, the chief of TTP Chilas chapter, gave during interrogation.
The madrassas’ records are being checked and tallied, while during the raid the agency personnel also searched rooms and asked the whereabouts of some suspects from the madrassa administration.
Qazi Murad said that there were no foreign students in these madrassas. “If the students are not released, we will protest,” Murad said.
GILGIT (ET): An anti-terrorism court (ATC) sentenced two people to death on Tuesday on charges of assassinating DSP Muhammad Ibrahim in Gilgit last year.
In addition to the death penalty, ATC Judge Raja Shahbaz Khan also handed down a 10-year imprisonment sentence to Azhar Hussain and Shaukat Hussain alias Major for the high-profile killing. The offenders are residents of Barmas and Khomer.
Two others charged in the case include Wajahat Hussain and Sajid Hussain and were sentenced for life imprisonment and fined Rs300,000 each.
Wajahat and Shaukat are yet to be arrested, while Azhar and Sajid are in police custody. Advocates Manzoor Hussain and Ansar Ali were representing the offenders.
Lawyer Imran Hussain said those charged for the offences can submit an appeal to the court within 10 days.
DSP Ibrahim, a resident of Astore valley, was killed on January 4, 2012 in front of his house in Nagral area while returning home from office late night. He had been posted in the investigative wing of the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) police and was working on cases involving sectarian killings at a time when sectarian bloodshed in G-B was on the rise.
GILGIT (ET): Rama polo festival ended on Thursday, with the Diamer team clinching the trophy and beating Gilgit 10 – 1.
According to a rough estimate, more than 25,000 spectators attended the final which was held in the scenic Astore valley’s tourist hotspot Rama – around 110 kilometres from Gilgit.
“It was a match worth watching. Both the teams played well, but luck was not on Gilgit’s side,” said Afridi, a resident of Astore. There was immense energy and excitement among both the players and spectators, he added.
Thousands of people had made their way to Rama from Diamer valley to support their team.
Gilgit – Baltistan’s (G-B) government organised the three-day festival with much fanfare to make up for the cancellation of the Shandur polo festival. Floods triggered by monsoon rains in G-B and Chitral in August had resulted in cancellation of the festival held annually at the world’s highest polo ground in Shandur.
The match was attended by G-B Force commander Hafiz Masroor Ahmed, advisor to chief minister Sadia Danish and DG Gilgit Scouts, among others.
The winning and runner-up teams were awarded cash prizes by commander Masroor. The chief guest lauded the performance of the players and the enthusiasm of the participants. “I love the people of the area as I have spent quite a long time here during my service,” he said at the closing ceremony.
Danish said she was impressed with the enthusiasm shown by the residents to make the event a success. “We worked hard to make this event successful, especially after the Shandur festival was cancelled.” The event was attended by a large number of women from Rama and its surrounding areas.
A special polo match on donkeys was among the festival’s many attractions.
ISLAMABAD (ET): The glaciers in Karakoram ranges are more stable than the ones worldwide but more data and research are needed to understand their complex behaviour.
These views were expressed by local and foreign experts at a scientific conference on “Karakoram Resources and Climate Change: Glacier, Water and Ecosystem”, organised by EvK2-CNR — an Italian research organisation that has been working in Gilgit-Baltistan for the past 25 years. The conference was part of a two-day centennial celebration of Italian explorer Fillippo de Fillippi’s 1913 expedition to Central Asia and the Karakorams. The event included a photo exhibition and a mountain film festival.
During a session on glaciers and the hydrological cycle in G-B, glaciologists discussed the “Karakoram Anomaly” — a term coined by geography professor Kenneth Hewitt to describe the expansion of glaciers in central Karakoram in contrast to declining glaciers around the world. Pakistan has around 5,218 glaciers and water from the glacial melt is crucial for the country’s water requirements but very little data are available about the glaciers.
Christoph Mayer, a glaciologist from the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, said glacial changes in the Karakorams are mostly due to “searching” — when a glacier changes its position but does not necessarily loses or gains mass.
“Glaciers in the Karakorams are more stable than other regions,” Mayer said.
Dr Matthias Winiger, a professor at the Germany’s Bonn University, said unlike the Himalayan glaciers, which are clearly receding, the glaciers in the Karakorams are not.
“It might be due to higher precipitation levels in the mountains in winters,” Winiger said. But he added that different data sets have given different results about the Karakorams in the past — which means more research is required to provide clarity.
While Winiger suggested localised studies are essential to understand the unique nature of individual glaciers, Mayer proposed a new approach to study the Karakoram glaciers.
Based on his and his team’s work at the Baltoro glacier since 2004, he said debris cover — the rocks and soil that cover snow and ice and prevent the glacier from melting — increases toward the glacier and “ablation” area goes down to zero. Ablation areas are where the meltdown of the glacier takes place.
“Debris-covered glaciers will never show any climate signal in changing its area because the snout has no ablation,” Mayer said. “That is the main problem with Karakorams: most of the large glaciers are debris-covered”.
Mayer predicted the glacier would succumb if the debris cover goes away.
“If the debris cover is removed, you would have more than 12m ablation at snout, this tells you that the Baltoro glacier is only there because of its debris cover,” he said. “If you remove the debris, the Baltoro glacier will just disappear in a few years for the first 15-20 kilometres”.
He said change in elevation should be looked at for loss of glacier mass, not just changes in area. Both Winiger and Mayer agreed that more “mass-balance” studies were needed for the Karakoram glaciers.
Pakistan Meteorological Department Chief Meteorologist Dr Ghulam Rasul pointed out that the snow accumulation in the Karakorams has shifted to February instead of November to January. He said late accumulation means the snow might melt before becoming part of the glacier. He said changes in climate in Pakistan are likely to affect weather patterns around the world.
The conference, which was opened by the Italian Ambassador Adrioano Chiodi Cianfarani, also included sessions on biosphere, climate change, disaster management and natural resource management with talks by Italian, Pakistani and German scientists.
ISLAMABAD (ET): A three-member team of the Khan Research Laboratories’ Hiking and Mountaineering Club has successfully completed a trek of the Biafo and Hispar glaciers in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) via Snow Lake and Hispar La pass.
Team leader Qazi Iqbal Ahmed and members Khawar Hussain and Kamal Mazhar Khan completed the grade-E trek in eight days with the help of just two porters, according to the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP).
A grade-E trek, defined as “very tough”, is the highest difficulty level in an international five-level trek grading system.
The team camped at the top of Hispar La on August 24.
The Biafo and Hispar glaciers are located in the Karakoram mountain range and the trekking route is surrounded by 12 7,000-metre peaks. The 63-kilometre-long Biafo glacier meets the 49-kilometre long Hispar glacier at the Hispar La pass. The pass is located at an altitude of 5,151 metres.
But most geographers consider the two glaciers to be one, according to the Alpine Club of Pakistan — an assessment that makes Biafo-Hispar the second longest glacier in the world after the 100-kilometre Lambert glacier in East Antarctica.
On its own, the Biafo glacier is the third longest glacier outside the polar zones, after the Fedchenko Glacier in Tajikistan and the Siachen Glacier, which is also in G-B.
GILGIT (ET): Khaplu Palace in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has received an Award of Distinction in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards 2013 for cultural heritage conservation.
The ceremony was held earlier this month in Bangkok to award initiatives which restored and conserved structures that are at least 50 years old.
The palace, built in the 1840s by Yabgo Raja of Khaplu, is now known as Khaplu Palace and Residence and is managed by Serena Hotels. It also won commendations in Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards’ ‘best for poverty reduction’ category in November 2012.
The selection of the palace for the UNESCO award was made in June this year after a panel of eight international conservation experts congregated from June 10 to June 12 in Bangkok to review and deliberate on 47 entries received from 16 countries across the Asia-Pacific region.
The winning team
“By the grace of God, our project has won this honour,” said Salman Beg, the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The NGO renovated Khaplu Palace which is located north of Khaplu Town, about 400 kilometres from Gilgit.
“Recognition through such awards points to the cultural richness and plural heritage of Gilgit-Baltistan, where myriad influences such as Buddhist, Tibetan, Central Asian, Mughal, Kashmiri, and Iranian combined and brought into harmony a very unique Karakoram culture,” Beg told The Express Tribune.
The winners were selected based on the projects understanding and application of various criteria, such as articulation of the spirit of place, technical achievement, appropriate use or adaption, and the project’s contribution to the surrounding environment and the local community’s cultural and historical continuity.
“The jury highly commends your achievements and hopes you will continue to share the lessons learned from the project to encourage heritage conservation efforts in your country and the Asia-Pacific region,” UNESCO Bangkok Chief of Culture Unit Tim Curtis wrote in his letter to Beg.
The other projects which received Awards of Distinction included ‘The Great Serai, Kabul, Afghanistan’ and ‘Lal Chimney Compound, Mumbai, India’.
AKCSP, which is part of Aga Khan Development Network, won the first international award after it restored the historic Baltit Fort in 1996. Since then, it has won 16 awards, including 11 consecutive UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation, two Pacific Asia Travellers Association Awards, two Virgin Responsible Tourism Awards, and two British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.
GILGIT (ET): Professors and lecturers across Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) have launched a ‘token strike’ against the suspension of their colleagues, threatening to intensify their protest if their demands are not met within four days.
“This is the first phase of our strike and we will expand it if our demands go unnoticed,” G-B Professors and Lecturers Association President professor Muhammad Zaman told The Express Tribune.
Teachers attended classes, but wore black bands on their arms in protest. The ‘strike’ was simultaneously observed across all government colleges in the region. Zaman added they will boycott work duties in the second phase.
Last week, Professor Rubina, the principal of a women college in Skardu, was suspended along with seven male teachers ‘for inciting students to protests against the government’ last month. The teachers included professor Mir Ahmad Khan, associate professor Hashmat Ilhami and assistant professor Hasan Shad among others.
Zaman claimed the Skardu administration forcefully tried to vacate official residences of principals of women and boys degree colleges on August 27. Though the professors did not leave their homes, the action provoked teachers and students to take to the streets.
“Charges against the professors were leveled by the Skardu administration after they boycotted classes on a call from the professors and teachers association against trying to evict the principals,” said Zaman. He, however, denied inciting students to protest.
Zaman maintained the association took up the case with the chief secretary and secretary of education and also showed them evidence, but to no avail.
“It was an insult to the profession of teaching,” he added, referring to the attempt of the police to vacate official residences. “Government teachers have also assured us of their support if our demands are not met within the stipulated time