Month: June 2014

Gilgit-Baltistan: Government Directed to Lift Ban on Gemstones Trade

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Gilgit (ET): On a point raised by Wazir Hasan of PPP, the speaker directed the government to lift the ban on trade of gemstone for residents of GB till laws are formulated by the assembly. “There is no justification to keep people associated with the gemstone business jobless in the name of making laws,” said the speaker.
Moreover, the speaker also directed the government to transfer Skardu DIG police for making derogatory remarks about the lawmakers. The DIG had allegedly warned a lawmaker from Baltistan, Sultan Ali, against “interfering in matters pertaining to police”.
Wazir Baig has sought details of Rs10 million sanctioned last year for sports and tourism.
“Tell me who pocketed the money. If I ask these questions, it is said I play the role of opposition,” said Baig, known for making blunt comments. He asked the minister for information to conduct an enquiry and submit a report to the house.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GBLA Unanimously Condemns Police Attack on Ismaili Leader

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GILGIT (ET):  The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly on Friday unanimously condemned the attack on the president of the Ismaili Regional Council by a police official, which has triggered protests across the region. Colonel (Retd) Ubaidullah Baig sustained injuries on his head on Thursday evening after he was allegedly hit by a police constable. Baig was reportedly trying to refrain police from demolishing a boundary wall of a graveyard in Zulfiqar colony when he was attacked.
Followers of the Ismaili sect protested and blocked roads in Gilgit, Ghizer and Hunza-Nagar valleys, demanding the arrest and punishment of the culprit. “Is this the reward for increasing salaries of police?” Fida Nashad of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) asked during the question hour on the third day of the G-B Assembly proceedings chaired by speaker Wazir Baig. “Instead of improving law and order, they themselves are creating a situation of lawlessness,” said Nashad.
Maulana Sarwar Shah of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) also condemned the incident and termed it an attempt to widen the sectarian divide between communities living in the region. Criticism also poured in from lawmakers, including Mirza Hussain, Bashir Ahmed and Amina Ansari of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, Janbaz Khan and Sultan Ali of PML-N, Ayub Shah, Shireen Fatima and Wazir Hassan of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), who termed it ‘police terrorism’.
Replying to the onslaught, the law minister said the culprits would be taken to task as soon as the chief minister takes up the matter.
Wazir Baig, in his ruling, directed the government to arrest the police officer before conducting an enquiry so as to cool the tempers of those on roads. “The accused should be arrested first,” said the speaker. “This is not an ordinary incident. The president of the Ismaili Council is a representative of his Highness Aga Khan.”
Meanwhile, protesters dispersed on Friday after Ismaili Council leaders were assured of action against the accused.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Shandur Polo Will Start on June 20, 2014 after a Lapse of One Year

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GILGIT (ET): The celebrated Shandur Polo Festival is set to start from June 20 with arch-rivals Gilgit and Chitral preparing for their annual showdown 12,000 feet above the sea at the highest polo ground in the world. The festival, thronged by thousands of locals and tourists, was cancelled last year as heavy rains damaged major roads linking Shandur to the rest of the region.
“The dates for the festival have been confirmed and we are looking forward to it,” said Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) tourism and culture minister, Sadia Danish, on Thursday. “All possible steps are being taken to make the event a success and worth remembering for all visitors,” she told The Express Tribune. The minister, who is also head of the festival’s steering committee, hoped the event would help project a soft image of G-B, which was tarnished last year when 10 foreign tourists and their local guide were shot dead in a ghastly attack at the base of Nanga Parbat.
The so-called ‘game of kings’ is played between Gilgit and Chitral every year and witnessed by sports and travel enthusiasts, both local and foreign.
In Shandur, the game is played under the ancient rules that governed it when it was first invented by the Persians and later adopted by the British, with a complete duration of an hour separated by a 10-minute break.
The tournament was initiated in G-B by Colonel Evelyn Hey Cobb, a British political agent in the area in the 1930s, who was a keen polo player himself. It has morphed into an annual event since then and is a major tourist attraction for the region. The three-day festival, now an integral part of the culture of Chitral and Gilgit, is not just about polo – other events include tug of war, paragliding and various other sporting competitions. A camping village is also set up next to the polo ground for visitors to have a memorable experience.
In 2010, Gilgit boycotted the event in protest against the federal government’s decision to assign the management and organisaton of the event to Khyber-Pakthunkhwa (K-P) and over a dispute as to which government has ownership rights over Shandur, which lies between G-B’s Ghizer Valley and Chitral.
In 2011, the boycott was reluctantly ended and Gilgit won the tournament 7-4. However, the following year, Chitral reclaimed the title in a 10-5 victory.
The governments of G-B and K-P hold the event together, with the government in Gilgit allocating approximately Rs6 to Rs7 million for the festival against K-P government’s allocation of over Rs22 million.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Govt. Revised Salary Package of Doctors Equivalent to Federal Doctors/Staff

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GILGIT (ET): The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government has approved the federal government’s salary package for doctors and other paramedical staff in G-B, accepting their long-standing demand.
The announcement was made through a notification issued by the regional finance department on Wednesday, mentioning that the decision will be retroactively in effect from January, 2014. Heath allowance and increment in pay will be given to doctors of BPS-17 and above along with nurses of BPS-16 and above of the G-B health department, stated the dispatch.
“With it, pay of doctors will increase by at least 35%,” said a doctor, adding up to 250 doctors and 30 nurses will benefit from the decision.
The doctors showered praise on Chief Minister Mehdi Shah and Minister for Health Gulbar Khan for keeping their promise. “This is a historic decision and we are thankful to the authorities,” said Dr Ghulam Haider of the Pakistan Medical Association in G-B.
The demand for a package, equivalent to doctors employed by the federal government, was voiced earlier in G-B. Given the limited resources, the G-B government kept delaying the issue for more than a year.  However, earlier this year, as part of the protest to get higher salaries, doctors stopped treating patients in private clinics as well as government hospitals for a week in Diamer, Hunza-Nagar and Astore valleys.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Teachers in GB Protesting for Service Structure /Clear Promotion Rules

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GILGIT (Dawn): Demanding service structure and clear rules for their promotion, hundreds of male and female teachers of government schools staged demonstrations in the seven district headquarters of Gilgit Baltistan and announced boycott of classes across the region till June 10.

The teachers, who had also brought their students on roads, said that if their demands were not accepted they would continue their protests. The protesters also blocked the main roads of Gilgit, Skardu, Hunza Nagar, Ghizar, Diamer and Ghancha besides the Karakoram Highway.

Because of the protests traffic remained suspended between GB and rest of the country. Addressing the protesters in Gadi Bag, Gilgit, the GB Teachers Association’s president Shahid Ali said that the teachers had been demanding their genuine rights for last many years, but the authorities were not paying heed.

He said that it was an injustice that the government school teachers retired without promotion to the next grade. He said that the government should announce proper service structure and promotion criteria for teachers. He vowed that they would continue their strike till acceptance of their demands. He announced the boycott of classes till June 10 in all government schools across GB to build pressure on the government to solve their problems. Dilawer Shah, the association’s information secretary, said that they had not asked the students to join the protest, but they were just supporting their teachers voluntarily.

Another teacher, Ahmed Hussain, said that the government and officials of the education department had not been showing interest to solve their problems. He said that the GB chief minister had announced approval of time-scale promotion formula for the teachers two years ago in Skardu, but it was not implemented.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Five Year Tax Exemption for Setting up Processing Plants in GB

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Gilgit (APP): One of the Salient feature of the budget of 2014-15 is to help the locally grown fruits in Balochistan Province, Malakand Division, Gilgit-Baltistan and FATA reach the bigger markets and to promote investment, growth and employment in these areas, a five years income tax exemption is proposed for persons setting up processing plants for locally grown fruits.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Vacant Post of Regional CEC causing Problems for Free and Fair Elections in GB

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GILGIT (ET): The absence of a chief election commissioner in Gilgit-Baltistan has halted the process of computerised electoral lists, raising suspicion over fairness of the upcoming polls in the region.
“The process will not move ahead unless a chief election commissioner is appointed in G-B,” said an official at the G-B Assembly Secretariat.
General elections will be held in G-B in December or early next year following the completion of the assembly’s five-year term. However, the credibility of the polls will be under question if elections are held without computerised electoral lists.
The previous elections of 2009, which were won by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), were marred by allegations of rigging as the electoral list was prepared in just two weeks.
“The elections of 2009 were massively rigged and that resulted in our defeat,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) regional president Hafeezur Rahman told The Express Tribune on Wednesday. “We hope this time around the lists are computerised to ensure transparency and fair play for every party.”
The G-B Legislative Assembly adopted a resolution last year, demanding appointment of an independent chief election commissioner (CEC) in the region. However, the resolution went unheard as the post is still lying vacant.
The issue was reportedly taken up by Chief Minister (CM) Mehdi Shah with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday during a meeting held in Islamabad.
“The CM has made it clear that the process of [preparing an] electoral list has been delayed due to the absence of an election commissioner,” said a spokesperson at the CM Secretariat. The regional government has forged agreements with NADRA for computerised lists and the CEC must therefore be appointed immediately, he added.