Month: March 2014

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Government Completes Interviews of Political Appointees

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GILGIT (ET): Authorities in Skardu completed re-interviewing teachers who were believed to have been inducted through back channels in the past.
The decision to redo the interviews was taken by Chief Secretary Younus Dagha and Chief Minister (CM) Mehdi Shah after reports suggested more than 450 teachers had been appointed without fulfilling required protocols. A director education and his deputy were among those fired by the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government in 2014 after an enquiry proved them guilty.
A committee comprising G-B Secretary Education Muhammad Nawaz Naseem and Secretary Services Saad Khan conducted the interviews. At least 23 teachers did not submit their credentials to the committee and did not they turn up for the fresh round of interviews, said those familiar with the matter.
“The interviews have been completed and results will be announced shortly,” Naseem told journalists in Skardu. “The committee will decide who should continue on the job and who shouldn’t on the basis of these interviews,” he explained.
Earlier, teachers in Skardu protested, and demanded the new round of interviews be cancelled as it would be an injustice to them. Eventually, many opted to appear before the interview committee.
Apart from that, at least 24 more employees from the G-B Excise and Taxation department have been fired as the regional government expedites its drive against corruption.
In January, 69 other employees from same department were suspended after the CM Inspection Commission, on directives from Dagha, launched an investigation into allegedly illegal appointments in government departments and submitted its recommendations.
Those sacked include inspectors and clerical staff who were appointed after bypassing formalities.
“The vacant posts will be advertised and appointments will be made on merit,’ said an official in the G-B information department.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Local Jirga Succeeds in Ceasefire over Boundary Dispute Between KPK and GB

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ISLAMABAD / KOHISTAN ( ET): A jirga succeeded in brokering a ceasefire between rival Kohistan and Gilgit-Baltistan tribes whose members had clashed over a thorny land dispute.
It convinced the warring tribesmen to put down their guns and leave the boundary dispute for the government to resolve.
At least seven people had lost their lives and nearly a dozen were injured in firefights between the two sides that began Wednesday after villagers from Thor Valley, in G-B’s Diamer district, claimed that Kohistanis forcibly took away 400 goats that were grazing on the disputed land.
The conflict is mainly over a strip of land stretching nearly 10-kilometres on both sides of the Basari check post, which separates Kohistan from Gilgit-Baltistan. This is among the areas being demarcated for acquisition for the Diamer-Bhasha dam project.
The villagers from Thor claim that the land belongs to them and the GB’s government had set up a check post on the Karakoram Highway near Basri in 2006, which had sparked tension between the two sides.
However, following the recent exchange of fire, the provincial government had decided to constitute a tribal jirga comprising former adviser to G-B’s chief minister Haji Amar Jan, tribal elders of G-B Maulvi Wakeel Shah and Haji Shaghraf, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s MPA Abdul Sattar, and Kohistan tribal elders Malik Mukhtiyar and Malik Siraj.
They visited the rival tribesmen in their bunkers and convinced them to cease fire. The truce, according to Malik Siraj, will remain in place for the next 40 days. The government, during this period, would ensure that the boundary commission reaches a decision, he said.
The government had held a high-level meeting in Islamabad the same month and decided to deploy Rangers at the Basari check post as well as appointed a judicial commission to decide the ownership of the land.
The land dispute exacerbated following the announcement of the dam’s compensation as people from Kohistan claimed that the area upstream up till the Basari check post fell under Kohistan’s jurisdiction. On the other hand, locals of the Diamer district maintained that the area downstream up to Kohistan’s Harban Valley belonged to them.
Interestingly, the disputed area is part of an unsettled territory without proper revenue records.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Boundary Claim between KPK and GB Costs 7 Lives

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KOHISTAN / GILGIT (ET): The death toll from bloody clashes between residents of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa over a territorial border dispute has risen to seven with over a dozen more injured. The clashes erupted on Wednesday when residents from both regions took up arms against each other over a swath of land near the site of Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
The nearly 10-kilometre stretch of land on both sides of the Basari check post, which separates Kohistan from Gilgit-Baltistan, has long been a bone of contention between Diamer and Kohistan. The disputed land is among the areas being demarcated for acquisition for the much-awaited Diamer-Bhasha dam project.
“The total number of casualties is four,” Diamer Deputy Commissioner Shahbaz Bhatti told The Express Tribune. “But the situation is under control as warring groups have descended the mountains.”
However, DPO Kohistan Akbar Ali Khan confirmed the death of three more people from his area.
The boundary issue flared up a week earlier when villagers from Harban Nala, Kohistan, reported that some goats of farmers belonging to the Thor area, Diamer district, went missing from the disputed territory. The goats were grazing on the land that both regions claim. The farmers accused Kohistanis of forcibly herding away 400 goats.
A police official, requesting anonymity, said the Kohistanis had forcibly taken away the goats from the G-B side last week and warned that they would seize more of their cattle if they did not desist from grazing their goats on the disputed territory.
People in Chilas, G-B, blocked the Karakoram Highway in protest and registered a case with the local police station against the theft.
Angered by the incident and vowing to defend their land, armed residents from the Thor valley took positions in the mountains. A similar situation was witnessed in Harban as people took up arms there as well. According to Diamer residents, both the parties exchanged fire Wednesday night.
According to other accounts, at least 15 people have gone missing since the clashes. However, the veracity of this claim could not be verified.
“It’s more than a four-hour trek up to the place where the shooting took place. We will have more information once people return to the town,” said Mujeebur Rehman, a Chilas-based journalist. A jirga comprising clerics and politicians have reached Harban Valley to pacify the enraged men.
While the issue was referred to a boundary commission for permanent settlement, Rangers have been deployed in the disputed territory to defuse the tension until the commission reaches a decision. However, the commission has reportedly failed to convene even a single meeting.
Kohistanis claim that the land belonged to them according to the official records of 1955, but the protesters from Diamer insist that they have owned the land for generations.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Festival on Culture for Peace and Pluralism

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ISLAMABAD (D.Times): The people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral are holding a two-day festival of their cultural life, covering their arts, crafts, literature, language and cuisine in the federal capital.
The mountain communities of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral have diverse and unique cultures that are very different from those of other Himalayan people. They are also distinct in the sense they have remained in virtual isolation due to their inaccessibility and therefore possess a pristine purity untainted by urban life of the plains.

The “Culture for Peace and Pluralism” festival is being organised by the Initiative for Promotion of Pamiri Arts and Culture (IPPAC) in collaboration with the Capital Development Authority, to mark the International Mother Tongue Day.
The objective of the festival is the promotion of understanding, peace and harmony at a time when these values have suffered immensely at the hands of extremist forces and to highlight the challenges that the culture and languages of the Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral face. Renowned poets, linguists, singers and musicians of Shina, Balti, Khowar, Brushaski and Wakhi languages from across Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral will highlight the importance of preserving and promoting indigenous cultures and languages. There will be live performances of these arts and crafts for the residents of the twin cities, the diplomatic community and especially aficionados of remote cultures.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Contract Employees Boycott Against the Decision to Regularise Through FPSC

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GILGIT (ET): Scores of government employees working on contract in various departments in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) boycotted their workplaces to press the high-ups into regularising their jobs.
Nearly 100 employees gathered outside the chief minister’s (CM) office in Gilgit to convey their grievances to CM Mehdi Shah. “We are here to protest this grave injustice against us. We will go to any extreme to obtain our due rights,” said Arif Hussain, a government employee.
The G-B government recently decided to regularise contractual employees of grade 16, 17 and 18 through the Federal Public Service Commission. The decision, however, made it compulsory for the officials to pass a test to justify the conversion of their terms of employment; this did not bode well with the officials.
A total of four grade-18 employees, 125 grade-17 employees and eight grade-16 employees will have to pass the test in order to have their jobs regularised.
The appointment of these employees had taken place up till 2007 in the departments of agriculture, fisheries, environment protection agency, veterinary and the CM’s inspection commission, among others.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Summary to Appoint New VC for KIU Presented to President

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Islamabad (News): President Mamnoon Hussain has received revised summary carrying five names for the post of the vice chancellor of Karakoram International University (KIU) with senior academician Dr. Najma Najam pushed out of the race on political pressure from the Gilgit-Baltistan government, sources said here on Sunday.

Sources said the summary now carries names including Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad, chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Dr. Asif Khan from Peshawar University, Dr. Muhammad Memon from Aga Khan University, Dr. ZA Hilai of Peshawar University and Dr. G Raza Bhatti, director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation at Shah Abdul Latif University.

They said the Search Committee constituted by Higher Education Commission (HEC) initially sent four names to 15-member Senate of KIU that rejected the name of Dr. Najma Najam and forwarded three other names to the president who was supposed to select one of them for the post of the KIU vice chancellor.

“The president directed the KIU Senate on January 28 to include more names in the list of the candidates after which interviews were again conducted by the Search Committee that increased the number of candidates to five in its revised list. After receiving revised list, the KIU Senate forwarded it to the president who would now give his final decision in this respect,” sources said.

An official who is believed to have close working relationship with present vice chancellor of KIU Dr. Najma Najam claimed that the majority of members of Senate of KIU enjoy cordial terms with the high-ups of the Gilgit-Baltistan government that was why they used their influence to get her out of the race for the slot of the vice chancellor.

The official record showed that Vice Chancellor of KIU Dr. Najma Najam completed her four-year term on June 10, 2013 after which she was given six months extension by the president on the recommendation of the KIU Senate. The president then directed the HEC to constitute a Search Committee and forward names for the post of the vice chancellor through Senate of KIU within six months.

Expressing her inability to comment on the issue, Dr. Najma Najam told this correspondent that “I can offer no comments on this issue.”

Gilgit-Baltistan: German and Hong Kong Companies to Invest in GB Power Sector

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ISLAMABAD (APP): Federal Minister for Gilgit-Baltistan said the government was focusing to make a policy for establishing industrial zones in Gilgit-Baltistan in order to utilize locally produced cheap power.
He was chairing the meeting of GB Power Development Board on Wednesday in which Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan Syed Mehdi Shah and Chief Secretary Muhammad Younas Daga also participated. He emphasized the need of a local grid for Gilgit-Baltistan and extension of national grid to the region to get benefit from the cheap resource of energy. Board’s basic Structure and service rules were approved in the meeting.
The minister was informed that German Agency, GIZ, was agreed to provide financial assistance to develop hydro power in GB.
Secretary Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Division, Shahidullah Baig, informed the members of the meeting that a French Company was ready to help developing a regional grid for Gilgit-Baltistan.
The meeting was also informed that a Hong Kong based group under the name of Tri-GEN was also keen to establish a 1450 MW captive power plant in Hunza.  The Board also approved various proposals to attract foreign investors in the field of power generation.
Barjees advised the members to make arrangements so that electricity provision to the people of Hunza and Nagar could be made possible as early as possible.