Month: August 2014

Gilgit-Baltistan: Legislation Required for the Victims of Terrorist Activities in GB

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GILGIT (ET): Activists are pushing lawmakers in GB to enact laws to streamline the mechanism of providing financial assistance to victims of terrorism.
“There are no laws at the moment. It is at the discretion of the government to decide who to pay and how much to pay,” said Bilal Hussain, a coordinator at Institute of Social and Policy Science (I-SAPS).
I-SAPS is an Islamabad-based NGO that has drafted the bill and shared it with lawmakers recently as part of a consultation process to seek their feedback. It will be tabled in the G-B legislative assembly in the coming days.
“The government shall, by notification, establish the civilian victims fund within the Provincial Consolidation Fund for timely payment of grants to civilian victims. The government shall ensure availability of sufficient amount in the civilian victims fund in order to discharge its obligations under the Act,” read the draft of the bill.
The document also calls for a mechanism for the rehabilitation of victims’ families, with special emphasis on education of dependent children, their healthcare and provision of livelihood to the family members.
Terrorism and sectarianism has featured many times in the recent past in G-B leaving hundreds of civilians dead and many more injured.
Families of the victims of the Kohistan incident in February 2012, for example, were paid Rs1 million each by G-B and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments, said Hussain. He added, however, none of the families of the 15 civilians killed in targeted incidents in 2011 were paid a single penny.
“This needs to be streamlined through a mechanism endorsed by legal backing,” Hussain said on Saturday, a day after I-SAPS held a policy dialogue in Gilgit to seek input from experts.
Speaking at the forum, Minister Excise and Taxation Muhammad Naseer appreciated the initiative and said the government will support channelising the system. “Anybody suggesting any improvement in the existing mechanism would be welcomed,” said Naseer, adding that victims of terrorism had been paid in the recent past though there were certain difficulties. He hoped the document will soon be tabled in the assembly for debate and enactment.
Home Secretary Attaur Rahman said a number of civilians have been killed in the past in acts relating to sectarian violence and urged the police to improve its performance.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Six Mountaineers from GB Scaled K-2, Becomes First Team from Pakistan

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GILGIT (ET): Six mountaineers from GB are among a team that scaled the second highest peak in the world – K2 – on Saturday, ahead of the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the mountain on July 31st.
While individuals from Pakistan have made the climb before, this is the first time that a team of Pakistanis has made the journey. The Pakistan-Italy venture is supported by the G-B government and sponsored by the Italian organisation Ev-k2CNR.
Amjad Ayub, president of Pakistan Tour Operators Association (PATO), confirmed the summit, which was made without using supplementary oxygen.
The current expedition – called K2 60 Years Later – includes six Pakistanis: Hassan Jan, Ali Durrani, Rahmat Ullah Baig, Ghulam Mehdi, Rozi Ali and Muhammad Sadiq. Sadiq is a resident of Baltistan and the younger brother of well-known mountaineer Hasan Sadpara. The other members of the Pakistan team are from the Hushe valley of Baltistan and Shimshal. The team includes three Italians, to mark the anniversary of the first successful ascent of K2 by two Italians – Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli – in 1954.
The team was led by Ali Durrani, Muhammad Mehdi and Rahmat Sadik, who reportedly completed the journey without additional oxygen support. “Thirty mountaineers in another group are following this first group and they will soon make it to the summit,” Sadiq said.

The team had left basecamp on July 22 and spent a night at Camp One, Camp Two and Camp Three. They were reported to be at Camp Four on Friday and left for the summit at 9pm. The climbers made it to the summit at 02:30pm Saturday afternoon.
At least 10 other climbers managed to reach the summit on Saturday, after the first group. Among the climbers was Czech mountaineer Radek Jaros at the head of his own team. This was reportedly Jaros’ 14th summit over 8,000m, and he is the first Czech to make it to the K-2 summit.
The other groups reported to have teamed up are: International expedition (Adrian Hayes, Al Hancock), Chris Burke, Tsering Sherpa and Lakpa Sherpa, Italian expedition (Giuseppe Pompili, Tamara Lunger, Nikolaus Gruber and Amin Baig), Czech expedition led by Radek Jaros, Greek Duo (Alexandros Aravidis and Panagiotis Athanasiadis), Ferran Latorre, and the Nepalese All Female Expedition.
Sadia Danish, the information minister for G-B, who also heads the tourism department of the region, termed the summit as the first step of revival of tourism in the area.
“The local tourism industry had been badly affected by last year’s killings on Nanga Parbat base camp, the success will help in reviving it,” she told AFP. “Those tourists who had omitted Gilgit-Baltistan from their destination because of last year’s killings will now add it back,” she said.
Last year, K2 denied all efforts by climbers to go beyond Camp 3 due to extreme snow conditions.
K2 is located on the border between Baltistan, in the Gilgit Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, and the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, China.
Unlike Mount Everest that has been summited by nearly 3,500 young and old climbers, K2 has been a much lonelier place with roughly 300 making to its tops since it was first captured 60 years ago. Many climbers have died on the descent.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Governor GB Signs Regularisation Bill 2014, 1500 Employees Regularized

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GILGIT (Dawn): Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah has signed the Regularisation Bill 2014 into a law for regularising the services of over 1,500 contractual government employees of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).

The Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly had passed the bill in February this year. According to a press release issued by the Governor House on Thursday, the services of those government employees of GB would be regularised who had been working on contract for the last over two years.

“I hope that the administration will implement the Act in a fair manner,” Mr Shah stated. He said that people who had been criticising the government employees/officers unnecessarily should stop indulging in such practices.

He said that the government employees were public servants and they should play their important role in running the administrative affairs of the region.

The governor also asked the government employees to serve the people irrespective of their political affiliations. He said that the government would continue to discourage political pressure and illegal appointments in its departments.

He said that efforts were being made by the government to improve performance of all the institutions.

Mr Shah said that the heads of different departments should ensure transparency in implementing laws so that nobody was deprived of their rights.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Federal Government Working on an Improved Version of Constitutional Package?

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GILGIT (ET): As GB inches closer to elections, legal experts in the federal government have worked out an improved version of the constitutional package to be implemented in GB soon afterwards.
“The next constitutional package will have more powers for the region than what the Empowerment and Self Governance Order of 2009 entailed,” said an official privy to the development. He added proposals to convert the G-B legislative assembly into a constitutional assembly are also under consideration. The proposal to declare G-B a tax-free zone is being pondered upon, said the official.

Similarly, some powers from the G-B Council – a body chaired by the prime minister – will be shifted to the elected assembly to allow it to make laws according to local aspirations. Currently, the powers to legislate on issues such as water, energy, forests, minerals and taxation rest with the six-member G-B Council, all of whom are federal ministers.
Once the document is finalised and approved by the president, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will make the announcement in a cabinet meeting. However, political pundits believe this will only be done once a date for the polls is set.
The Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009 was introduced by Pakistan Peoples Party and paved the way for the appointment of a chief minister and governor for the first time in G-B’s history. However, neither portfolio wields as much powers as their counterparts elsewhere in the country.
“The titles of various portfolios will probably remain the same, but they are expected to enjoy more powers as compared with the existing setup,” said the official, referring to a briefing arranged by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and G-B (KAGB) for the subcommittee of the Senate’s Human Rights Committee on Gilgit-Baltistan headed by Senator Raza Rabbani. The committee itself had visited G-B in April and met stakeholders to determine their reservations about the violation of political and constitutional rights in the region.

The briefing was arranged on Tuesday, a day after the G-B political leadership in a similar meeting in Islamabad sought temporary representation in the Senate and National Assembly of Pakistan until the Kashmir issue is resolved.
Secretary KAGB Shahidullah Baig, referring to a UN resolution on the matter, told the committee that GB cannot be made a fifth province as demanded by certain politicians. “Like Azad Jammu Kashmir, GB is a disputed territory as well and cannot be made a province till resolution of the Kashmir dispute,” said Baig.

However, legal experts are said to be carefully weighing the option of empowering GB in a manner that does not affect Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. The subcommittee has decided to meet with experts in the defence and foreign ministries after Eidul Fitr, to discuss options available to them in this regard.
“There’ve been deliberations over this issue for quite some time,” said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz G-B President Hafeezur Rahman. “The issue is a complex one, because we have to keep the sensitivity of the Kashmir issue in mind, but I assure you, something concrete will come of it in the end.”

Gilgit-Baltistan: Effort to Elevate Regional Languages of GB Struck Down by NA?

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PESHAWAR (ET): Two bills seeking to elevate regional languages to the status of national languages have been struck down by the National Assembly within the month of July. Five of the suggested languages are spoken across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B); the rejection of bills is a cause for concern for local proponents of the legislation.
The National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights rejected Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Marvi Memon’s bill on July 16. Memon’s bill had recommended the substitution of Article 251 of the Constitution, which at present acknowledges only Urdu as the national language. Instead of just Urdu, Memon’s bill had asked that Balochi, Balti, Barahvi, Punjabi, Pashto, Shina, Sindhi, Seraiki and Hindko also be included.
Earlier on July 1, the NA rejected Senator Haji Adeel’s amendments for Article 251 of the Constitution.
The Awami National Party leader’s bill had asked to change the word ‘language’ in the heading to the plural, ‘languages’. Haji Adeel had said the article should mention the national languages of Pakistan as Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi and Seraiki. “Arrangements shall be made for their being used for official and other purposes within fifteen years from the commencement of the Act,” his bill had stated.
Balti, Pashto, Shina, Hindko are native to K-P and G-B, while Seraiki is spoken by a large number of people in the southern districts of K-P.
While both Memon and Haji Adeel’s bills differed on how many regional languages should be made national languages of Pakistan for the purpose of education and official use, there was one commonality between both efforts. Both had pushed for a more pluralistic approach for the most obvious dividing lines of ethnicity in the country. Though the practicality of having multiple languages in official use has to be questioned and needs close scrutiny, the idea of enforcing one language has caused problems. Non-Urdu speaking Pakistanis have many a times expressed feelings of exclusion as well as hostility about the recognition of their native tongues or lack thereof.
Memon and Haji Adeel are not the only two to recommend this pluralistic approach; the NA Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and Heritage had recommended in March that the seven languages spoken across K-P and G-B should be declared ‘national’. This recommendation was welcomed by regional language activists and communities across K-P.
Back to East-West Pakistan
“It is pathetic,” Zubair Torwali, a Torwali language activist from Bahrain, Swat said about the NA committee’s rejection of Memon’s proposed bill. “The committee’s comments against the recognition of regional languages were simplistic and uninformed.”
“Law Ministry’s Special Secretary Justice (retd) Raza Khan’s remarks that giving national language status to Bengali led to the East Pakistan tragedy are not valid and just annoying,” said Torwali. “It was actually the other way about,” he said. Torwali contended that not recognizing the importance of Bengali or the majority status of East Pakistan by West Pakistan led to the separation movement.
The head of the Forum for Language Initiatives (FLI), Fakhruddin Akhundzada, expressed his regrets about the regional languages bills rejection. “It is denying the identity of the people,” said Akhunzada. “It seems the officialdom thinks recognising regional languages will threaten the country.”
Spoiling the Bill
Mover of the bill, PML-N’s Memon told The Express Tribune some officials of the law ministry and some Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmakers acted as “spoilers against this bill”.
This was a private member bill which was later meant to be clubbed with a government bill to be brought on this subject, said Memon. “This [regional language bill] was something PPP did not allow during its own tenure; now its members are creating hurdles for the PML-N government.” A similar bill moved by Memon was rejected by the committee back in 2011.
The lawmaker said this bill was the most pro-integration bill seen by the NA in sometime. Nonetheless, the government is making legislation on this issue “that will sail through the house, giving the languages their due status,” said the PML-N lawmaker.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Bar Council Proposes Constitutional Measures for GB

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Gilgit (PT): The Gilgit-Baltistan Bar Council, in a letter addressed to Senator Afrasiyab Khan Khattak, has proposed a number of measures that, they say, can improve the Human Rights situation in the region, by making changes to the constitutional status.

The proposal recommends constitutional cover for the governance mechanism in GB, negating the past practice of making reforms through executive orders. The Bar has proposed to make the 2009 Governance Order into an “Act” of the Parliament, “after amendments”. The governance systems of Indian-Occupied Jammu & Kashmir has been declared as “most suitable and viable” for the Gilgit-Baltistan region by the Bar.

” …. political governing system in Indian Occupied Jammu Kashmir prevailing since 1948 & 1957 is most suitable and viable in this regard as the same will not only cater strategical interest of Pakistan in this region but also redress the prolonged sense of deprivation of people of GB as well with out harming principal stand of Pakistan on Kashmir Issue”, the proposal reads.

Other recommendations made by the Bar, verbatim, are;

  • Declaring the next coming general elections in GB for holding “Constituent Assembly” and thereafter to draft, table and pass Constitution of GB accordingly
  • Making amendment in Constitution of Pakistan by the Pakistani Parliament giving the GB a “Special Status” & representation in the constitutional institutions of Federation “provisionally”.
  • The remaining proposals have been divided into three categories, namely Legislative, Judicial and Administrative. The same are being posted below for public information.

Legislative Measures:

  • Powers to make amendment in the Act/Order be given to GB Legislative Assembly.
  • A provision in the Act/Order be inserted declaring the forth coming elections in Gilgit Baltistan for a Constituent Assembly.
    The GB Legislative Assembly be upgraded as GB Assembly.
  • The local representation in the Gilgit Baltistan Council must be 100% as prevails in Indian Occupied J & K Council .
  • The Role and Status of GB Council should be brought at par with the Senate having headquarters at Gilgit as done in occupied J & K.
  • The main revenue generating subjects of Minerals, Forest, Hydro power and Tourism must etc. be under the domain of GB Assembly.

Judicial Measures:

  • The nomenclature of the Present Apex Courts & judges in Gilgit Baltistan be changed into GB Supreme Court & GB High Court and the Chief Justice & Justice accordingly
  • The number of Judges in GB Supreme Appellate Court should be 05 and in GB High Court should be 07
  • The system of appointment of judges in the Apex Courts must be brought at par with the system prevailing in Pakistan or AJK with a mandatory provision to get meaning full consultation of the concerned Chief Justice before making any appointment by the Executive.

Administrative Measures:

  • The Fifth Schedule of Governance Order 2009 heading Vacancy Sharing Formula be thrown away.
  • Instead of GB Council, the Chief Minister be consulted during posting of IGP and Chief Secretary from Federation

The details have been shared with PT by Advocate Shahbaz Khan, Vice Chairman of the GB Bar Council, through an email. There are reports that the same proposal has been endorsed by the current Gilgit-Baltistan government.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Islamabad-based GB Council Warned for encroaching upon the exclusive domain of the GB administration and GBLA

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ISLAMABAD (Dawn): The convener of a subcommittee of the Senate functional committee on human rights, Senator Raza Rabbani, on Monday said the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Governance Order 2009 needed to be revisited.

Chairing the meeting of the subcommittee, Mr Rabbani said steps should be taken to address the grievances of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

He asked the members of the committee and stakeholders to submit their recommendations in writing for improving the governance system in the region.

The meeting was held in-camera in which Senator Farhatullah Babar, Chief Minister GB Mehdi Shah, minister and secretaries of GB participated.

A week ago, Senator Babar opposed the proposed mining and mineral concession policy for Gilgit-Baltistan, terming it an “assault” on the fundamental rights of the people there.

Mr Babar said giving powers of issuing mining licences to the bureaucracy in Islamabad was a brazen attack on the local autonomy and assault on the fundamental rights of the people. He suggested improving human rights situation in the area.

In a statement, Mr Rabbani also warned the Islamabad-based GB Council against encroaching upon the exclusive domain of the GB administration and its legislative assembly.

He said he had come to know through the media that the Council was expected to formally adopt the new mining licensing policy.He explained that until now the GB chief secretary had been the appellate forum in mining concession matters. These powers, he said, were now being shifted to the federal secretary ministry of Kashmir affairs.

“The policy will not only deprive the local people of the scant self-rule they have under the constitution, it will further deepen the acute sense of deprivation and enhance feeling of alienation among the people of GB,” Mr Babar said.

The sub-committee will again meet on Tuesday in which the stakeholders will submit their suggestions in writing.

Mr Rabbani told the members another meeting of the subcommittee would be held after Eidul Fitr in which representatives of the ministry of defence, ministry of law and justice and ministry of foreign affairs will be invited.

It is pertinent to mention that members of the Sena