Month: July 2014

Gilgit-Baltistan: Maiden Squad of Women Cadets Passes out from Emergency Services Academy

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LAHORE (Nation): A passing out ceremony of women cadets including fire rescuers, emergency medical technicians, and rescue and safety officer (RSO) of Gilgit Baltistan was held at the Punjab Emergency Services Academy in Lahore on Friday.
Punjab Rescue DG Dr Rizwan Naseer and DG Rescue-1122 Gilgit Baltistan Dr Sher Aziz witnessed the ceremony besides other senior officials. The rescuers pledged that they would leave no stone unturned to serve humanity.
Dr Rizwan Naseer in his welcome address congratulated Chief Ministers of Punjab and Gilgit Baltistan and Punjab Governor for establishing Rescue-1122 Emergency Services in the hilly region of Gilgit Baltistan. He also congratulated the women rescuers stating that that it was important for them to remember what they learnt at the Emergency Services Academy.
Dr Rizwan further said that the emergency service which had been launched in Lahore was being expanded to other provinces as Rescue-1122 service had already been launched in Peshawar, Mardan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit, Sakardu, Balochistan and Sindh.
Dr Rizwan informed that on the formal request of Gilgit Baltistan government, the first batch comprising 186 rescuers of Gilgit Baltistan was imparted training at Emergency Services Academy in 2012. This year, the second batch comprising 18 women rescuers has completed the training.
“We will continue providing technical assistance to other provinces for replication of this emergency model in their respective areas,” he added. He said that Prime Minister of Pakistan had tasked Punjab Governor to expand this life saving force – Rescue 1122 – in other provinces including Sindh and Balochistan. Speaking on this occasion, DG Rescue Gilgit–Baltistan Dr Sher Aziz said that the selection of rescuers for Gilgit Baltistan was made purely on merit. We are thankful to Dr Rizwan Naseer for providing professional training to the recruits in the Punjab. Now this is the responsibility of the trained rescuers to maintain same standards of service in their respective provinces, he added.
He also thanked Shahbaz Sharif and Ch Sarwar and people of Punjab for this kind gesture of brotherhood for giving opportunity to replicate international standard emergency services in other provinces of Pakistan.
He also acknowledged the services of Dr Rizwan as founder of the Pakistan’s first trained emergency medical, rescue and fire services. “The experience, achievements and skills of the Punjab Emergency Service team will be of great benefit for us in Gilgit Baltistan,” he added.
Earlier, the passed out women cadets demonstrated their professional skills of emergency management of victims in cardio pulmonary resuscitation; splinting, bandaging and use of state-of-the-art highly equipped cardiac ambulances. They also demonstrated skills of firefighting and rescue from height at this occasion. Dr Farhan Khalid, Deputy Director (Training) also spoke on the occasion.

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Gilgit-Baltistan: Free Style Mountain Polo in its Purest Form and Shandur

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By Arif Mehmood

Relatively few people seem to be aware that every year in Pakistan, an epic polo festival is held at an altitude of over 12,000 feet, at a location befittingly known as the ‘roof of the world’. Visitors — local and international — flock to the Shandur Top in thousands to experience the sport in its purest, traditional form.

As the highest polo ground in the world, it is set against a backdrop of sweeping mountains, crystal clear lakes, and blanketing blue skies. Visitors typically start trickling in a week before the three-day festivities begin in July each year. Shandur’s raw beauty is enough to leave anyyone awe-struck.

The scenic beauty compells us to visit Shandur at least once in our lives. Full marks to Abbrar, whose dedication toward promoting Pakistan’s beauty and culture is unmatched. His work continues to inspire audiences across the world.

Polo is an equestrian sport with a history tracing back to Central Asia 6th century BC. Originally, the game was intended to serve as a training exercise for elite troops and was viewed as a miniature battle. Here, the tradition of mountain polo first evolved in 1936, when Major Cobb grew fond of playing polo at night and called the ground the Moony Polo Ground. Till today, the contests are always fierce, with force, skill and emotions coming together to create a highly-charged atmosphere up in the mountains. “The game of kings and the king of games,” reads the sign at the entrance to Shandur.

Free style mountain polo is undoubtedly the purest form of polo that exists today. This unique form is devoid of any umpires and formalised rules and regulations. Riders dangling from their saddles duel for control of the ball as swinging mallets come head-to-head and horses whiz past each other in scenes that often go by in a blur. The treacherous journey to Shandur Top seems no cost at all to those keen for witnessing history and culture like this in live action.

Local polo titans from Chitral and Gilgit gather each year in early July to engage in an epic polo battle. Celebrities and guests have participated in the past few years allowing Pakistan to reemerge as a tourist destination. Famous actor, Michael Palin highlighted the Shandur Festival in a BBC film entitled, “Himalayas with Michael Palin”. But the Shandur Polo Festival has more to offer its visitors than just polo. Traditional dancing, paragliding, trout fishing and rafting in the Shandur Lake beckon to tourists from all over.

A colorful village of tents is erected to host thousands of people. Tourists typically start arriving a week before the three-day festivities begin in early July each year. Shandur’s raw beauty undoubtedly leaves its visitors ‘star-struck’

Arif Mahmood is currently a medical doctor residing in the US with varied interests in South East Asian art, classical music, photography, and literature. courtesy Dawn

Gilgit-Baltistan: PMLN on Collision Path with PTI’s Azadi March

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LAHORE (ET): Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairperson Imran Khan will be among many politicians who will be invited to the government’s Independence Day rally at D-Chowk in Islamabad on August 14, announced Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid on Saturday.
Speaking to the media in Lahore, Rashid said that the PTI chief, the head of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) ameer Sirajul Haq, senior vice president of the National Party (NP) Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman are among the politicians who will be invited to the rally.
It is important to mention here that PTI is also planning to hold a ‘Azadi March’ against alleged rigging in the May 11 general elections last year at the same venue on the same day. The information minister remarked that organising a rally, where the prime minister, ministers as well as the civil society sing the national anthem together, at D-Chowk has been a tradition of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N).
When PML-N came into power last year, the government made the decision to start this tradition again, which will be implemented, Rashid said.
“This was a proud and beautiful occasion that we used to keep on our most important national day,” he added.
Only one flag will be raised on August 14 – Pakistan’s flag – as this day is for Pakistanis not for a particular political party, Rashid commented.
Criticising the two political threats to PML-N, the information minister said that both Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri and the PTI chief are “experts of somersaults”, adding that the PML-N government has seen both faces of the two political leaders.
‘Govt will support army’
Speaking about the government’s support for the army to eliminate terrorism in the country, Rashid said that the government will provide all the necessary tools required to the army, adding that it was the government’s responsibility to do so. “Providing a legal umbrella to the army is also the government’s responsibility,” he added.
The information minister also remarked that people who look for faults in this or take a different meaning to this do not want the army to be successful. “They don’t want Pakistan’s mission to succeed,” he stated. He also said that people who were creating doubts against the army will not be successful.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Present System is not Working, Country needs an Interim Setup, Pervez Musharraf

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Karachi (P.Today): Former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf has said that the current political system is not helping the country out. Speaking in an interview, the retired general said, “People have tried and tested the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which failed to deliver and now the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) isn’t faring any better.”

Musharraf did not have much hope from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan either. He said that no matter how many elections you have in Pakistan “we will eventually end up having the same people getting elected”. He believed that country desperately needs some form of an interim setup for an extended period of time, with a solid backing of the military. He said that the days of military coup in Pakistan are now over. He nodded his approval on the Tahirul Qadri’s movement.

He expressed the belief that the war on terror cannot be won till madrassas are incorporated in the modern schooling system. He proudly mentioned some of the strict steps he had taken against madrassas by amending their curriculum and making them more mainstream.

SRI LANKA NEW VISA POLICY SHOCKS MUSHARRAF: Musharraf was shocked after hearing the news that Sri Lanka was withdrawn on-arrival visa facility from Pakistanis. Narrating an incident of the Sri Lankan civil war, Musharraf said Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga had called him to help the Sri Lankan soldiers who were trapped somewhere near the Jaffna peninsula and were under attack from the Tamil Tigers. He said Pakistan had promptly sent all possible help in the form of arms, ammunition and technical expertise to help the Sri Lankans.

THE GENERAL-JUSTICE CONNECTION: Musharraf joked about the appointment of Arsalan Iftikhar as Balochistan Board of Interest (BBOI) vice chairman, saying that a national treasure like Reqo Diq was placed at Arsalan’s disposal for exploitation.

His regretted that exports worth many millions of dollars were stopped in 2012 and Tythian Gold and Antofagasta were not allowed to carry out their job. He said that he met Tythian Gold president in London after the annulment of the deal by former chief justice of Pakistan Justice (r) Iftikhar Chaudhry, adding that the company president was “disappointed” on what was going on in Pakistan.

The general shed some light on the Pakistan Steel deal and shared the plan of what al Tawarqi (the winning party) was supposed to do with Pak Steel in terms of further investment and exports.

When asked if there was any discussion between the then judiciary and himself before the announcement of the decision, Musharraf smiled and said the details (which he will not share) were shocking on ground of how much aligned Musharraf, Iftikhar Chaudhary and the Attorney General were on the pro-privatisation judgement which was supposed to come. However, the ultimate judgement was totally the opposite. Musharraf said he would share the reason for this in the sequel of his book “In the Line of Fire”.

He said the text of the sequel would be completed once the judgement of the ongoing trails especially the Article 6 case, is out.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Gems Association Terms Mining Rules Contrary to UN Conventions

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GILGIT (ET): The GB Metals, Minerals & Gems Association has expressed reservations over the proposed Mining Concession Rules 2014, describing it an attempt to deprive people of their wealth. The Mining Concession Rules 2014 were reportedly formulated by the GB Council, a body chaired by the prime minister, to regulate mining of minerals. The rules are to be tabled in the council for approval once finalised and vetted by experts.

“The mining concession rules are anti-people and will fuel an uprising against the colonial policies of the Ministry of Kashmir and GB Affairs,” said the association’s chairman, Shehbaz Khan. “We’ve discussed the proposed rules in the general body meeting and have rejected them as the rules make a mockery of the federal government’s claim that the people of GB have been given autonomy under the Empowerment & Self Governance Order, 2009,” Khan told The Express Tribune on Thursday.
He said the UN and its Universal Declaration (Agenda 21: Chapter 26) has called on governments to recognize that the lands of indigenous people and their communities be protected from activities considered to be socially and culturally inappropriate.
As a signatory to this declaration, Pakistan has the moral responsibility to uphold the ownership rights prevailing in the customary laws of GB to protect the rights of indigenous people, said Khan.
Terming it a draconian law, Khan said the power given to the GB Council to sign mining agreements to fetch ‘Substantial Foreign Investment’ is the same method used by the rulers of African and Latin American states. Their unwise decisions drained the mineral resources in a few years as they opened them for multinational companies, he added. “The proposed rules are no different and may prove disastrous for GB if approved.”
The rugged mountainous landscape in GB is a treasure trove of gem stones and precious mineral resources. The most prominent ones among them are ruby, emerald, aquamarine, sapphire and tourmaline.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Search Operation Conducted by Army in Diamer District

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GILGIT (ET):  The Pakistan Army launched a search operation in the mountains of Diamer Valley on Tuesday in a bid to arrest terrorists who ransacked a police station in Darel recently.
In a brazen attack on July 4, at least two dozen armed masked men, dressed in army uniforms, stormed a police station in Darel Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and took away arms, ammunition and police uniforms. They tied up the policemen on duty and told them to abandon government service or face the consequences.
The search operation on Tuesday took place in the Muspar Forest – a thick woodland located between Batogah Nullah and Thak Nullah. Intelligence reports suggest the presence of terrorists there, said a police official requesting anonymity. “There are reports that about five dozen army personnel are taking part in the search,” he said. Terrorists hiding in the forest could also be among those who killed foreign tourists and their investigators last year, he speculated.
Residents of Chilas told The ET that they saw at least five army helicopters hovering in the sky for a long time. “There is a continuous flight of helicopters above the town; I can count five helicopters,” said Faizullah. GB home secretary Attaur Rahman confirmed a military operation was taking place in the mountains. “It’s against terrorists and we can’t give a time frame as to when it will end,” he told reporters.
In another operation launched simultaneously, Superintendent Jhangir Khan led a police contingent to raid houses in Darel Valley. “It was a routine exercise to weed out criminals,” Khan told The Express Tribune when he returned to his office after the raid. However, according to another source, several suspects were held during the raid to be questioned later.
G-B urged to tighten security for Chinese engineers
Intelligence agencies have asked the G-B government to tighten security for Chinese engineers working in the area. It was revealed in a letter written by the National Counter Terrorism Authority that, after a recently held meeting in Afghanistan, terrorists are plotting to attack Chinese engineers supervising work on projects in G-B, including the Karakoram Highway that connects Pakistan and China.
The Karakoram Security Force, which has been raised exclusively for Chinese security, is on duty around the clock. However, the letter still calls for more stringent safety measures. The threat has come a week after terrorists clad in army uniforms attacked a police station in Darel Valley, tied police up with ropes and took away arms and ammunition. The incident rang alarm bells over the possible infiltration of terrorists from North Waziristan Agency, where a full-scale military operation has forced militants to flee.
The massacre of 10 foreign climbers at Nanga Parbat a year ago also came reportedly after a failed attempt to capture a Chinese-American national to use him as a high-value bargaining chip.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Imposition of Taxes Challenged in Chief Court of GB

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GILGIT (Dawn): The local importers and exporters association has challenged in the Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court the imposition of income tax in the region by the GB Council.

Supreme Appellate Court Bar Association president Ehsan Ali filed a writ petition in the chief court on behalf of the importers and exporters body.

The petitioner stated that imposition of income tax in the region was illegal as it violated the rules of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, and the United Nation’s resolutions on the status of the region.

Talking to Dawn on Monday, Ehsan Ali said that GB was not the constitutional part of Pakistan, and imposing income tax in the region was against constitution of Pakistan and international laws.The GB council had decided to levy income tax in the region in 2012, and its implementation started from March, this year.

Mr Ali said the federal government couldn’t impose tax on GB unless the region was given representation at the parliament.