Month: April 2014

Gilgit-Baltistan: Building Codes Will be Initiated for the GB

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Gilgit (PT): The Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan, Yunus Dhaga, has directed the Secretary for Law to initiate the legislative process to develop building codes for the mountainous regions. He also asked the Law Secretary to consult with all the stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive law.

The instruction was given today at a high level meeting held at the Chief Secretary office in Gilgit. The mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan region is prone to numerous natural hazards, including floods and landslides which has in the past led to numerous deaths in urban, semi-urban and rural settings in all districts. The need for having and implementing building codes in the hazard prone region has been an overdue exercise.

Experts have, in the past, recommended that all buildings in the Gilgit-Baltistan region should earthquake resilient and constructed at sites that are safe from landslides, flood paths, river beds and avalanche sites.

It is pertinent to note that a study in 2011 had revealed that around 80% of school buildings constructed in the region by the Gilgit-Baltistan administration and government are unsafe and prone to disasters.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Three Day Karakoram Festival Held at LCCI Lahore

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LAHORE (News):  A Three-day Karakoram Festival was held at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) to showcase diverse cultural, heritage and tourism attractions of Gilgit-Baltistan. The social, economic and environmental development (Seed) project under the framework of Pakistan-Italy Debt Swap Agreement in collaboration with the LCCI and Tourism Development Corporation Punjab organised the gala.

Provincial Minister for Industries Chaudhry Muhammad Shafiq and LCCI President Engineer Sohail Lashari jointly inaugurated it. The event featured an exhibition of flora and fauna of the central Karakoram national park, International Mountain Film festival and a conference.

The minister said that the numbers of foreign tourists would go up as the law and order situation was improving. The LCCI president said that lack of proper infrastructure was affecting some of the finest tourist sites. He said that tourism was a billion dollar industry and had played a very vital role in the economic wellbeing of several countries. Lashari said Nepal, which is not a developed economy, is taking full advantage of tourism.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Germany to Assist Social Health Protection Program in GB

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Gilgit (ET): Germany has pledged Rs140 million for supporting social health protection schemes in Gilgit-Baltistan, said a press release.
German Development Bank (KfW) Pakistan Office Head Dr Anna-Christine Janke, Gilgit-Baltistan Health Secretary Ali Rizvi and Economic Affairs Division Joint Secretary Ali Reza Bhutta signed an agreement to this effect.
“We are glad to be able to support social health protection in Gilgit-Baltistan. Healthcare remains one of our main fields of development cooperation,” Dr Janke said.
The five-year project totals an amount of Rs1.4 billion, 90 per cent of which will be utilised in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The overall goal of the programme is to improve the public health by providing a safety net and reducing out-of pocket payments for health expenditures.
The health protection scheme includes a cashless system for service delivery from public and private healthcare providers as well as hospitalisation services up to an annual limit of Rs25,000 per person. It covers 21 per cent of the poor households in the region.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Lawyer Bodies Propose Three Solutions on GB Constitutional Limbo

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Gilgit (PT): Representatives of various lawyer bodies met in Gilgit to discuss the constitutional issues being faced by GB. Participants of the meeting regretted and showed great disappointment on the   66 year’s continuous deprivation of the people of GB from their fundamental right to govern themselves through their chosen representatives guaranteed under a “Constitution” since independence and  keeping the area under remote controlled Colonial Governing System through issuance of Executive Orders by the Ministry of K A & GB Islamabad.

The meeting termed this policy of Federation of Pakistan as not only gross violation of decision & directions of the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan given on 28th May, 1999 in the case titled Aljehad Trust etc. Versus Federation of Pakistan Etc. (1999 SCMR 1379) but also a negation to United Nation’s International Charter of Human Rights due to discrimination with the people of GB and violation of UNCIP Resolutions on Kashmir as well, which provides commitment of Pakistan & India to give the parties to issue, including GB, a constitutional local authority till final settlement of Kashmir Dispute.

The meeting showed deep concern that apart from the people of Gilgit Baltistan, even the highest Apex Courts of GB Supreme Appellate Court & GB Chief Court are being treated as second grade institutions as the Ministry of KA & GB Islamabad has been refusing even to rename the apex courts as GB Supreme Court and GB High Court so far despite GB Bar Association’s utmost efforts.

Lawyers from the Gilgit Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court Bar Association, GB High Court Bar Association,  Baltistan Circuit High Court Bar Association,  Bar Associations of Gilgit District, Skardu District, Diamer District, Ghizar District, Ghanchae District, Astore District &  Hunza Nagar District were present at the meeting which was co-chaired by Shehbaz Khan Advocate President GB Supreme Appellate Court Bar Association and Mr. Basharat Ali Advocate President GB High Court Bar Association.

The meeting also discussed in detail on the various out standing issues of undefined constitutional status of Gilgit Baltistan, matters pertaining to judiciary and the legal fraternity.

It was noted with deep concern about the bitter fact of denial of constitutional rights to self liberated Gilgit Baltistan in the name of Kashmir dispute by making it a sacrifice goat till date but the constitutional & social rights enjoyed by the actual disputed parts of Kashmir conflict Indian occupied J & K since 1949 and Pakistan liberated AJK since 1974 makes the minds of GB people more frustrated. In pursuance of UNCIP resolutions, the Indian Government has already given all kinds of constitutional & social rights to the people of Indian held Jammu & Kashmir by providing them representation in the Indian Parliament, Central Government and all federal constitutional institutions, in addition to declaring the Jammu & Kashmir as a Special Constitutional State by inserting Article 370 in the Indian Constitution in 1949. Later on, the people of Jammu & Kashmir got further protected their all rights guaranteed under Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir 1957 as well passed by their chosen representatives  of J & K Constituent Assembly.

The people of Azad Kashmir are also enjoying their fundamental rights guaranteed under an Act known as Interim Constitution Act 1974 though not a constitution but enjoying surely a better status than those of the people of Gilgit Baltistan. Unfortunately even in 2014, the people of GB are not having those constitutional and social rights which are enjoyed by the people of Indian Held J & K since 1949 and AJK since 1974.

The people of Azad Kashmir are also enjoying their fundamental rights guaranteed under an Act known as Interim Constitution Act 1974 though not a constitution but enjoying surely a better status than those of the people of Gilgit Baltistan. Unfortunately even in 2014, the people of GB are not having those constitutional and social rights which are enjoyed by the people of Indian Held J & K since 1949 and AJK since 1974.

 The meeting demanded Government of Pakistan to take serious notice of the situation & its effects on the minds of the people of GB and also to keep in mind about the fast socio political changes  prevailing in the entire region as a result of  Great Game being played around Pakistan. The meeting emphasized the GOP to realize Pakistan’s strategical & economical interest in the bordering Region of Gilgit Baltistan and also to keep in mind the probable results of prolong, continuous deprivation and willful denial of constitutional rights to two million human beings of Gilgit Baltistan since 1st November 1947.  Moreover, the meeting took serious notice of continuation of policy of “divide and rule” and factually govern the area through bureaucratic monarchy, resulting tremendous frustration in the area up to its maximum level which will surely be against the interests of Pakistan in this sensitive region if not resolved at the earliest.

Thus the  meeting demanded Federation of Pakistan to take serious decisions on this issue with out further delay in the light of Declaration of GB Lawyers Conference held on 01st November, 2013 by giving the people of GB right to have an access to  “independent judiciary” and a governing system through their chosen representatives Guaranteed under  a CONSTITUTION either by giving:

  1. 5th Constitutional Province of Pakistan either temporarily or permanently, or
  2. AJK Like Parliamentary Form of Government or J & K  like Governing System, or
  3. Conditional amalgamation with AJK guaranteed under a constitution

The meeting categorically rejected any kind of elections to be held under the Executive Order of GB (Empowerment & Self Governance) Order 2009 by making some cosmetic changes and amendments in it to give the people of GB a loly pop but keep remaining the actual powers with the Ministry of KA & GB Islamabad either itself or in the name of GB Council which infact is second name of KA & GB Ministry.

The Meeting decided to hold an All Parties Conference in this regard at a convenient date in near future to get support of political parties and other stake holders as well.

The meeting further decided to make arrangements for filing of petition before the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan for immediate implementation of Aljehad Trust Vs Federation of Pakistan case.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Revamping and Remodeling of Tourist Information Centers in Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD (BR): Government is revamping and remodeling Tourist Information Centers of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) and plan is to establish Tourist Facilitation Centers in Provincial Headquarters to promote tourism.

Special discounted tour packages have also been introduced to encourage students, families and groups to explore the country.

Besides, PTDC is reviewing National Tourism Policy and participating actively in international and domestic tourism events to attract local and foreign visitors.

“A total of 28,333 foreign, 1,844,000 local tourists have visited GB during 2007-10”, official sources at PTDC told APP.

Underlining various steps for promotion of tourism, an official said tourists of 26 countries have been granted one month validity and multiple entries for group travel through designated Tour Operators.

Pakistani Missions abroad have been authorized to grant tourist/visit visa for three months validity and stay with double entry and other, he added.

He said PTDC’s tourist resorts in Gilgit-Baltistan were Chinnar Inn, Gilgit, PTDC Motel, Hunza, PTDC Motel, Sost (Pak-China border), K-2 Motel, Skardu, PTDC Motel, Gupis (Distt. Ghizer), PTDC Motel, Phandar (Distt. Ghizer),PTDC Motel, Stapara Lake, Skardu, PTDC Motel, Khaplu, Skardu, PTDC Motel, Astak (Gilgit-Skardu Road), PTDC Motel, Rama Lake (Astor).

Gilgit-Baltistan: Lawmakers Demand To Follow the CEC Appointment Procedure in 18th Ammendment

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GILGIT (ET): Lawmakers of GBLA demanded on Friday that the appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC) in GB should be made in consultation with the leader of the house and opposition and that elections are held only after the five-year term is completed.
The demands were made through two separate resolutions tabled and passed with a majority in the session chaired by deputy speaker Jamil Ahmed.
“After the 18th Amendment, the CEC’s appointment should be made in due consultation with the leader of the house and opposition,” read one of the resolutions signed by various legislators.
However, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Fida Nashad declined to support the resolution, saying the decision should be taken in light of the 2009 Governance Order as the 18th Amendment is not applicable to GB.
In another resolution, also signed by many lawmakers, the federal government was asked not to hold elections in GB before December this year. The resolution was presented in the assembly after some PML-N leaders claimed that elections would be held in October this year.
“It is the constitutional right of the GB government to complete its five-year term that will end in December,” said Ayub Shah of Pakistan Peoples Party, reading out the resolution, “Any attempt to hold elections before that would be tantamount to breach of law.”
Nationalist leader Nawaz Khan Naji urged the government to preserve archaeological sites in GB that reflect the region’s rich history. Naji said the DBD Dam project would cost GB thousands of its ancient carvings. “Legislation should be introduced in the assembly for their preservation,” he added.

Gilgit-Baltistan: KPK Blamed for Annexing the Land of GB

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Gilgit (PT): GB Minister for Works, Bashir Ahmad has said that the recent escalation in violence over an 8 kilometers long stretch of land is part of a conspiracy to derail the the DBD Dam. He accused KPK of not allowing Kalabagh Dam and now creating hurdles for construction of the DBD. He also suggested to Islamabad to shun the dam project or move it somewhere else if it wasn’t interested in resolving the local people’s issues.

He made the statements yesterday while addressing the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

Earlier, MLA Ayub Shah from Yasin Valley Ghizar had presented a resolution demanding formation of a Boundary Commission to resolve the land dispute between the residents of Thor Valley (Diamer) and Harban (Kohistan). Tribes from the two regions had clashed two weeks back and as a result more than half a dozen people were killed while scores were also injured from both side.

Both regions claim the disputed patch of land. An uneasy calm prevails in the region after a truce was reached with the help of religious and political leaders.

Backed by legislators from all district, the resolution also expressed solidarity with the residents of Thor valley and Diamer district.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Drive Against Corruption and Upholding of Meritocracy in GB

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Gilgit (ET): CS GB on flouting of merit said that there is a  “ray of hope” for many in a region where a constitutional package [self governance order] led to the formation of an indigenous government for the first.
As a war against corruption goes on, the establishment of anti corruption cell is on the cards while a CM inspection commission has already been activated. Nearly 1,000 illegal inductions were reversed in education and excise department, and now they are going after those responsible for the illegal inductions.
“To start with, Planning and development [P&D] was the department that lacked planning and monitoring,” said Dagha while sharing the progress of the past eight months since he took charge.
Work is also underway to make a ‘GB development forum’ to ensure better coordination with donors besides streamline planning of the indigenous projects. In addition, monitoring has also been given top priority to ensure better utilisation of funds in the development projects.
Similarly in the recent past, at least 200 contractors were blacklisted for either flawed work or leaving the projects incomplete and a dozen engineers were suspended.
Like mineral policy, forest working plan has also been revised and sent to federal government for approval.
With the tourist season coming up, Dagh said that the overall situation of law and order was comparatively better than last year with a crackdown on criminals. “If we are sincere with ourselves, we shouldn’t compromise with merit,” he said.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GIS Mapping for All Villages of GB

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GILGIT (ET): Chief secretary has said that the government intends to start GIS based mapping of all villages in GB. In a briefing to journalists, Dagha said the mapping would help point out infrastructural lacking in every area of GB.
“One of the new initiatives is that we are going to conduct is GIS based mapping of all villages in G-B, which will tell us which villages lack infrastructure like hospitals and schools.” As the markets in much of GB closed on Tuesday to protest the withdrawal of the wheat subsidy, the chief secretary hinted at bringing back ration cards to mitigate shortages.
“The data of every family is being collected from NADRA in this regards,” said Dagha.
To minimise corruption and theft in food department, Dagha said they were working on introducing “targeted subsidy” to better help the poor.
Development works. Speaking about up coming development works in GB, Dagha spoke about projects which are due to be completed and others which will begin soon. He said that they are setting up a day to day monitoring of under construction power project to ensure 10 megawatts of power are added by June.
Further, Dagha said they intend to link GB to the national grid to overcome the power crisis permanently .
To improve the sewage system of Gilgit, a plan worth Rs1.5 billion is expected to commence from March 31. In health sector, more than 80 per cent households in G-B have been accessed to ensure vaccination of children.

Gilgit-Baltistan: 418 Teachers Failed to Validate Their Induction in Service

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GILGIT (ET): At least 418 teachers in GB lost their jobs after they failed to validate their induction in government service during a re-interview.
On March 4, a committee comprising G-B Education Secretary Muhammad Nawaz Naseem and Services Secretary Saad Khan re-interviewed as many as 734 government school teachers accused of being appointed through backchannels in the past three to four years.
According to a district government official, only 316 out of the 734 interviewed teachers managed to pass and were able to retain their jobs, while the rest are no longer government employees.
The official who was aware of the results requested anonymity, saying he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The committee that re-interviewed the teachers and verified their degrees found that 267 out of the 418 sacked teachers did not have the required qualifications for government service, shared the official. Similarly, 48 teachers lost their jobs because they did not show up for the second interview.
“These 418 posts will be advertised and filled on merit after a test and interview,” the official added.
In January, the education director and his deputy were fired by the G-B government after an inquiry proved they were involved in illegal appointments in the education department.
The decision to re-conduct interviews was taken by G-B Chief Secretary Younas Dhaga and was backed by Chief Minister Mehdi Shah after another enquiry report proved several teachers had been appointed by bypassing the set protocol.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2014.