Month: December 2013

Gilgit-Baltistan: Deployment of Army Till the Decision of Boundary Commission

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KOHISTAN (ET):  After four days of standstill, the Karakoram Highway (KKH) saw resumption of traffic on Friday as tribesmen from Gilgit-Balitstan (G-B) and Kohistan agreed to end their separate protests.
Residents of Diamer Valley and Kohistan had blocked KKH in protest from Monday over a disputed 10-kilometre area near Basri check post, which separates Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and G-B. Claiming separate ownership of the area, hundreds of people from both sides had blocked the highway for four days “to defend their land”.
According to official sources, both sides agreed to vacate the disputed area and end their protests after agreeing to the deployment of army troops till the decision of the boundary commission, constituted by the government on the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
“Both parties have agreed to hand over the disputed strip to military troops till the boundary commission’s decision,” Kohistan District Police Officer Akbar Ali Khan told The Express Tribune.
He said tribal elders from both sides also agreed to hold jirgas to work out a permanent solution to avoid the problem in the future.
“We’ve restored our bus service today,” said an official of a transport company, adding locals had been suffering immensely owing to closure of the crucial link between G-B and the rest of the country.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Kohistan’s Claim Termed a Conspiracy to Oppose DB Dam

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GILGIT (ET): With the row over the territorial boundary between Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Kohistan district still lingering, lawmakers from G-B have decided to seek assistance from ‘top’ lawyers to fight out their legal battle.
The bone of contention between the people of the two regions is a 10-kilometre stretch of land on either side of Basari check post, which separates Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) from G-B. Residents of Diamer valley and Kohistan have clashed in recent times, with each claiming the disputed area.
In wake of the unrest which also put the future of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam at risk, the federal government stepped in to mediate between the two sides and formed a commission for a resolution of the issue.
“We have decided that the best available lawyers would be engaged to defend the land before the commission,” G-B opposition leader Janbaz Khan said while chairing a meeting attended by residents of Thore in Diamer valley on Saturday. Minister for Works Bashir Ahmed, Parliamentary Secretary Ayub Shah, G-B Council member Amjad Hussain, Public Accounts Committee Chairman Raziuddin Rizvi and Minister for Water and Power Didar Ali were also present among others.
Legislators assured residents ‘all-out support’ to “end the injustice being done to them by Kohistan’s residents.”
The meeting also termed Kohistan’s claim over the disputed land as a ‘conspiracy’ hatched by the K-P government in an attempt to oppose the Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
Earlier this month, hundreds of residents from both Kohistan and G-B blocked the Karakoram Highway for four days to lay claim over the disputed property. The protests had temporarily disrupted traffic from G-B to the rest of the country.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Security Officials have Nominated 20 People for Inciting Violence in GB

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GILGIT (ET): Lawmakers of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) have proposed that the government try those found involved in fomenting sectarian clashes under the ‘Code of Conduct’ (CoC) law.
The G-B Legislative Assembly enacted the CoC last year as a law to curb sectarian violence in the region. “This is our recommendation to the government to deal with troublemakers,” said Amjad Hussain, an assembly member from the Pakistan Peoples Party, on Thursday. Recently, spontaneous violence in Gilgit had left three people dead and four injured in separate incidents.
The CoC states that prayer leaders will not be allowed to issue edicts against each other’s sect, especially during Friday and Eid sermons. It further states that clerics will not demand their respective sect’s share in jobs and other government matters.
Hussain said the recent spike in sectarian violence might be linked with the elections next year as it would help certain parties. “There are certain sectarian outfits that wish to contest elections next year. They will naturally be in a better position to win if the sectarian issue keeps flaring up,” he said, adding the committee has also proposed the government to resist arresting people under the maintenance of public order and instead register an FIR.
Meanwhile, security officials have reportedly nominated 20 people, including clerics, for directly or indirectly inciting violence in the region. “Those nominated will be arrested soon,” said a police official, requesting anonymity.
Deputy Inspector General Ali Sher, however, said targeted action would be initiated against those who violate the law. In addition, the police have registered fresh cases against a dozen individuals for taking the law into their own hands during the recent violence in Gilgit.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Maiden Driving School Established by GB Police

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GILGIT (ET): A driving school set up by Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) police will soon start lessons for residents of Gilgit, becoming the first public institute in the region to offer such a service.
“The registration process has been completed and classes will be held soon,” said police spokesperson Mubarak Jan on Wednesday. “The good thing is that women have outnumbered men in seeking admission.”
Of the 28 enlisted for driving lessons, 23 are women from Gilgit who will undergo the 21-day training session.
According to Jan, those signed up will be taught theory lessons on traffic laws in addition to hands-on training.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Tahira Yasub has been tasked to supervise the course and will also perform duties as a lecturer. Though participants would be awarded letters of recommendation on completing the course to help them obtain their driving licences, the issuance of a license will be subject to the clearance test administered by relevant authorities.
A similar driver’s education training course has also been launched in Skardu, and police is planning to introduce it throughout G-B, including Diamer valley.
G-B Inspector General of Police Mohammad Saleem Bhatti has expressed keen interest in the programme to raise awareness about driving and traffic regulations.

Gilgit-Baltistan: 10 GB Students to Participate in Global Exchange Program of USEFP

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Islamabad (PT): Ten undergraduate students from GB will participate in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program through United States Education Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP). The students of GB are part of the hundred and forty undergraduates selected from different Universities of Pakistan. These students will Experience the US culture and attend regular classes at the US institutes for one semester in the spring 2014. The students are excited to participate in one semester Exchange Program.

“I am really excited to visit States and feel fortunate as I am selected after a long process of documentation, TOEFl and several interviews. After meeting the students coming from all over the country at pre-departure orientation session in Islamabad, I realized that Pakistan has a great talent and diverse culture to represent in the host country. I am Student of Civil Engineering at Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology Karachi and I will attend the Missouri State University, Springfield in United States”, Said Muhammad Yasir, Exchange Nominee from Ghanche District of Gilgit Baltistan,

These Hundred and forty students are from various universities of the four Provinces, Federally Administrated Areas, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. The students attended the Orientation session at Serena Islamabad meet the officials from the US Embassy, advisors from the USEFP in connection to their departure in first week of the next month.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Poverty Alleviation through Women Empowerment

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GILGIT (ET): The last seven years have been life-changing for Meher Parwar, a resident of Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) scenic Hunza Valley. From being dependent on men in a patriarchal society, she has become a skilled trainer who imparts vocational training to other women. The 30-year-old master trains, and so helps empower, the region’s women at a gemstone cutting and polishing centre in Hunza.

The venture is one of two well-equipped centres established under a USAID-funded programme titled ‘Technology Transfer and Skill Development in Gems Sector’. The project is being executed in Hunza and Chitral by Rupani Foundation, an NGO working to alleviate poverty by enhancing marketable skills of women.

G-B is rich in rubies, emeralds, sapphires and topaz, to name a few. According to experts, more than 60 types of precious and semi-precious stones are found in the region.

“I got interested in gemstones nearly seven years ago,” said Parwar, who completed a four-month extensive training course on gemstone cutting and polishing in 2013 under the supervision of a Sri Lankan expert in Hunza. Nine other women also completed the master trainers course, which enables them to further train a workforce of around 100 people in the science of gemstone cutting and polishing.

“This is not just a mere training course; it is much more. It gives one a feeling of inner satisfaction,” said one recently trained woman.

“Helping out so many families by passing on skills we learn is a great feeling,” she added. After becoming a master trainer, she earns a salary of Rs20,000 per month.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Maiden Chinese Language Center Established in Gilgit

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GILGIT (ET): The first ever Chinese language centre established in Gilgit by the Chinese government in collaboration with the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) education department will begin enrolling students from January.
Set up inside the Gilgit High School building, the initiative of the G-B Chinese Overseas Association is meant to broaden the human resource base between the two countries.
An official of the association, Abdul Rahman said: “In our meeting with [representatives of] the G-B education department, it was decided enrolment will begin from January. Those interested in learning Chinese will be offered admission in the centre.”
Stressing a number of people would benefit from the facility, Rahman added, “When someone is visiting China for any reason, language is the biggest barrier to effective communication.”
The official insisted the skill of knowing Chinese would be of immense importance in the future, referring to the proposed railway track project meant to increase the volume of trade between the two countries.
He added a number of Pakistanis from G-B have sought admissions in Chinese universities for higher education and the centre could benefit them too along with local businessmen involved in trade with China. This the first project of its kind in G-B. A similar programme was announced by Karakoram International University in 2011, but it never materialised. 

Gilgit-Baltistan: The Land Dispute Between GB & Kohistan is Threatening DBD Dam

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GILGIT (ET): The protest is continuing over a piece of land on both sides of the Basari check post, which separates Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). The status of the 10-kilometre stretch is not clear, often leading to unrest between residents of Diamer Valley and Kohistan, as it involves compensation and royalty in the long run.

The issue flared up again on Monday when residents of Kohistan gathered near Shatyal, threatening to dismantle the check post by force. Kohistan’s representative body, the Kohistan Jirga, had reportedly refused to be part of talks with the K-P and G-B governments if the check post remains intact.
Subsequently, residents of Kohistan blocked the KKH, disrupting traffic between G-B and Rawalpindi.
In reaction to this, over 300 people from Chilas town marched to Basari check post to reportedly ‘defend the place’. The protesters also condemned the ‘encroachment’ from Kohistan. An official delegation from G-B has reached Chilas to hold dialogue with officials from Kohistan in order to defuse the tension.
“We are hopeful about a positive settlement,” said Gilgit DIG Ali Sher, who is a part of the delegation. “At the moment we are holding talks with the protesters in Chilas as well to get the KKH cleared for traffic as soon as possible,” the DIG added. G-B Home Secretary Attaur Rahman is also a part of the delegation.
The issue over the boundary has been repeatedly debated in both G-B and K-P assemblies in the past. Both sides have accused each other of encroaching upon their land.
Police and Frontier Corps officials remained deployed, however, the protesters could not be convinced to end the blockade.
The land dispute started between Kohistani people and the residents of Thordas village of G-B when the government announced Bhasha Dam project. The area of Basri Nala, according to Kohistanis, would be inundated by the dam and compensation was their right.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Differences Surfaced within the Ranks of PMLN Leadership of GB

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GILGIT (ET): Four senior leaders including opposition leader Janbaz Khan, PML-N Gilgit President Abid Baig, Jafarullah and Shafiquddin issued a press release criticising the regional chief of their party, Hafizur Rahman, for ‘misleading the PM regarding issues being faced by the region.’
Rahman should have discussed the party’s and region’s issues with the PM instead of promoting himself, said the leaders who are aspirants of being the next governor, replacing the existing governor of PPP, Pir Karam Ali Shah.
Nawaz Sharif was on his first official visit to G-B after becoming the premier for the third time. However, he reportedly failed to spare enough time for party issues due to other commitments. Though he did address party workers, Sharif avoided talking about recruiting a governor.
The PM was about to nominate a new governor but could not do so because of Rahman, claimed the PML-N leaders, alleging the opportunity was lost because of the regional chief.
When Rahman hinted at replacing the G-B governor in July after PML-N’s victory in the general elections, the four leaders volunteered themselves for the slot, asking the regional chief to forward their names for the replacement. The list, even though forwarded, did not garner much attention.
After the statement appeared in newspapers, the regional PML-N office suspended the memberships of Baig, Jafarullah and Shafiquddin while a written complaint was sent to the PM against Janbaz Khan.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Jirga Warns Government to Remove Check-Post Established by GB Government

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MANSEHRA (News): A grand jirga of the Kohistan district has warned the government to remove a check-post established by the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) government in the territory of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province or else they would forcibly remove it after expiry of the deadline.

A grand jirga, held at Dassu, the district headquarters of Kohistan, was largely attended by elders of all clans and tribes along with officers of the district administration. The jirga, convened to evolve a strategy, demanded the two governments to settle issues as people wanted their rights at all cost.

The elders took a strong notice of the checkpost established by the GB government and warned the federal and GB governments to remove it before December 18 or else they would storm it. “The GB government has set up a checkpost in an area which, according to a notification issued by survey of Pakistan in 1955, is the ownership of KP,” said Member Provincial Assembly Abdul Sattar Khan.

The jirga was told by local elders and lawmakers that 8km disputed boundary area between KP and GB was already part of Kohistan and people had received land compensation from Wapda.

The official said he was in contact with Wapda over honouring its commitments with the locals. “You should keep in mind that these projects are highly important for the development and prosperity of the country and if work is suspended over these projects, it would cause irreparable loss to national exchequer,” said Muhammad Shah.