Month: August 2014
GILGIT (Dawn): The Gilgit-Baltistan Bar Council has accused the federal ministry of Kashmir affairs of treating the region as a colony and ruling it through remote control.
The bar council has written a letter to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights, highlighting the deprivation of the people and asking it to press the federal government to give GB its constitutional status. The letter has been sent to the committee chairman Afrasiab Khattak.
The letter states as the status of GB remained unclear due to unresolved Kashmir dispute, saying that GB people didn’t have the constitutional and political rights enjoyed by the people of Jammu and Kashmi
GILGIT (ET): Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali has revoked the parliamentary status of lawmakers of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir, depriving them of the perks enjoyed by their counterparts in the rest of the country.
The decision was conveyed to the G-B government and lawmakers of the G-B Legislative Assembly and the G-B Council through a letter issued from the interior ministry earlier this month. The letter cites constitutional issues surrounding both the regions of AJK and G-B.
The move has cast doubts on the G-B Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009 which claimed G-B had been brought at par with other provinces with its own chief minister and governor running its affairs.
Amjad Hussain, a member of the G-B Council, a forum which functions under the chair of the prime minister, said, “After this letter, I am not entitled to an official passport meant for Pakistani parliamentarians. My official passport stands canlled.
“This step has reinforced the perception in G-B that we are not equal citizens of this country,” Hussain said while talking to The Express Tribune on Thursday.
Hussain, a leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, explained that lawmakers received the letter from the interior ministry earlier this month and subsequently tried to persuade the authorities to take back the decision, however, they remained unsuccessful.
“I am shocked. I don’t know what prompted Chaudhry Nisar to take this decision which is bound to spread a feeling of alienation in the people of G-B. If we are not being given a diplomatic passport by Pakistan, which country should we go to for it,” questioned Hussain.
In an assembly generally believed to lack administrative powers, perks and privileges are the only attraction for the elected representatives to contest elections and remain with the national parties. However, the interior minist
GILGIT (Dawn): The Election Commission of Gilgit-Baltistan in collaboration with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has kicked off preparation of computerised electoral rolls for upcoming Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) elections.
It will be the first time that GBLA elections would be conducted using computerised electoral rolls.
An official of the Election Commission told Dawn on Thursday that preparation of computerised electoral rolls had been started this week. He said that the GB Election Commission and Nadra had signed a contract for preparation of the electoral rolls to be used in the upcoming elections.
He said that GBLA had also carried out amendment according to which CNIC had been made mandatory for casting vote. He said that the revenue department had been tasked to complete door-to-door verification of the CNICs throughout GB until October this year.
The official said that final computerised electoral rolls would be ready by December this year. He said that ‘one CNIC, one vote’ would be introduced in GB for the first time to ensure fair and transparent elections and eliminate double vote casting and other flaws.
The Election Commission will also hold a seminar on Friday (today) to consult and seek input from all stakeholders for preparation of the electoral rolls. The GB governor, chief minister, members of GBLA and GB Council, and representatives of all political parties of the region are expected to participate in the seminar.
According to data released by Nadra, the total number of voters in the region is 596,000.
HELD FOR CORRUPTION: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has arrested four officials and a contractor of National Vocational and Training Commission (NAVTTC) project, Gilgit Baltistan, on the charges of corruption.
An FIA official told this correspondent on Thursday that NAVTTC project was launched in GB in 2009. He said that Rs130 million had been allocated to infrastructure development and purchase of other necessities of the project. He said that embezzlement of huge amount of funds was detected in the project.
Gilgit-Baltistan: Giving Powers to Bureaucracy in Islamabad, a Brazen Attack on Local Autonomy of GB, Senate Committee on Human Rights
Gilgit (INP): The new Mining and Minerals Concession Policy for Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), giving powers of issuing mining licenses to the bureaucracy in Islamabad, is a “brazen attack” on local autonomy, a “grave assault” on the fundamental rights of the people, said PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, who is also member of the Senate Subcommittee of Human Rights Committee on GB headed by Senator Raza Rabbani.
The policy will further deepen the acute sense of deprivation and enhance feelings of alienation among the people of GB, the senator contended.
The subcommittee is reviewing the GB Empowerment and Governance Order 2009 with a view to improving the human rights situation in the area. Babar also warned the Islamabad-based GB Council of any misadventure in encroaching upon the exclusive domain of the GB administration and its legislative assembly.
According to media reports, the council will meet next week to formally adopt the new mining licensing policy.
The senator said that the GB chief secretary has been the appellate forum in mining concession matters which powers were now sought to be shifted to the bureaucracy in Islamabad.
“The wily scheme to usurp powers of the GB administration and assembly in giving mining concessions also raises serious questions about the motive behind it as awarding mineral concessions to bidders is a lucrative business,” he said.
It passes comprehension that while the GB Empowerment Order 2009 gives the powers to regulate labour and safety in mines to the local assembly, the powers to grant mining concessions is taken over by the bureaucracy in Islamabad, he said adding, “It must not be allowed; it will not be”.
“The GB council is headed by the prime minister of Pakistan and packed with his handpicked nominees who outnumber the elected members of the GB legislative assembly in it.”
“The GB council is a high sounding front for bureaucracy in Islamabad. Most of its members have not even visited the area let alone have any understanding of the aspirations and needs of its people. It has no business to usurp the powers that legitimately belong to the local government and their elected assembly,” he said.
“Besides the prime minister and GB governor, who is also a nominee of the PM, there are six more members nominated by him from amongst members of parliament. Together with the federal minister for Kashmir Affairs as ex-officio member the nine nominated members of the Islamabad-based Council over rule the minority six members elected to it by the GB Assembly,” he said.
GILGIT (Dawn): Frequent cancellation of PIA flights from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan has caused problems for the people, especially patients and children who cannot endure 20 to 28 hours long journey on the dilapidated Karakuram Highway amid fear of terrorist attacks on passengers.
The suspension of flights has also affected tourism in the region.
Arif Hussain of Skardu recently came to Islamabad with his pregnant wife for her medical checkup, but he is finding it hard to get air ticket back to his home town. “For last 20 days I have been trying to get seat back home in a PIA aircraft as my wife cannot travel by road, but to no avail,” he lamented.
Mr Hussain said that whenever he contacted the PIA staff he was told that the flight was cancelled due to bad weather conditions. He said that he had been facing financial crunch living in the federal capital for so many days.
Haidar Abbas from Gilgit, who studies in Islamabad, said that he wanted to spend his summer vacations in his home town in Nagar, but it seemed that he won’t be able to do so due to disruption in PIA flights. He said that his parents had advised him against travelling on the KKH due to terrorist attacks. He lamented that he had been trying to confirm a seat in a PIA aircraft, but to no avail.
Mr Abbas blamed the suspension of flights on diversion of aircraft to other cities for financial benefits.
Alam Noor Haidar, a social activist, said that it had been longstanding demand of the local people that number of flights between Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan be increased.
“The then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had announced at a public gathering in Gilgit in 2009 to take steps to make Gilgit and Skardu airports all weather. And the incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also promised to take step in that regard, but to no effect,” lamented Mr Haidar.
Mr Haidar said that KKH was usually blocked during rains and snowfall, and in emergency cases people had no option to access other parts of the country.
Shakeel Nagri, a tour operator, told
Islamabad (BR): Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has decided to treat Gilgit-Baltistan at par with AJ&K with regard to foreign re-lent loans aimed at facilitating approval of Asian Development Bank’s loan for two small hydropower projects, official sources told Business Recorder.
The decision was taken on the request of Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan who wrote a letter full of province’s woes to Finance Minister, Senator Ishaq Dar also the Chairman of the ECC.
Chief Minister, in his letter stated that the meeting for loan negotiation and its finalisation process with the ADB for two small hydropower projects (HPPs) of Gilgit Baltistan namely 26MW Shagharthang Skardu and 4MW Thack Chilas was convened on June 17, 2013 but was postponed due to the issue of relending and repayment of the loan by the GB government as per GoP policy for other provinces of Pakistan, as it was not included in the draft loan agreement earlier circulated for comments.
A meeting in the Ministry of KA&GB was held on June 25, 2015 chaired by the Secretary GBWPD and it was decided to move a summary for consideration of ECC regarding relaxation of the policy keeping in view the special status of GB.
Accordingly a summary was submitted by the Ministry of KA&GB to the ECC with the request that the GB projects be exempted from the condition of relending and repayment by the GB government and GoP may pick up the loans of GB projects for their repayment but unfortunately during the meeting on August 15, 2013 ECC rejected the proposal of KA&GB. GB government feels that the decision of ECC would adversely affect the hydropower development activities in GB due to its meager resources and the energy requirements of the poor people of GB would never be fulfilled and the dependence on fuel wood would also increase causing deforestation and environmental problems besides increasing poverty due to cutting of orchards and erosion of valuable cultivable lands.
Chief Minister GB requested that the ECC should review the decision of August 15, 2013 on the following grounds:- (i) ( GB does not possess a status equivalent to other constitutional provinces of Pakistan. The Self Governance and Empowerment Ordinance 2009 do not confer GB a status equivalent to other provinces. It is merely an administrative arrangement keeping in view the far flung locations of GB; (ii) GB has no indigenous financial resources and totally relies on the routine annual federal grant provided in shape of block provision to meet their development and non-development expenditures; (iii) The GB government has neither taxation outlay nor gets any share from the National Finance Award(NFC); (iv) The revenue returns from the sale of electricity produced from these projects will be meager due to the fact that the consumers will be mostly domestic subsistence users and there exist no industries and other load diversity like other provinces. However, it is a future vision to establish a regional grid and its further inter-connection to the national grid on availability for resources to promote private investment in the hydro sector to supply electricity to the national grid and contribute towards minimising the energy crisis in the country. In this way GB will also earn revenue on account of sale of energy to the national grid like other provinces and AJK; (v) GoP has not provided a single KW of electricity to GB since independence. All provinces ie KPK. Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan are connected to the national grid. Even AJ&K and FATA are connected to the national grid and all of them are enjoying equitable load shedding as per policy of the government. Wapda is a federal entity with the mandate to generate electricity and supply equitably to all the parts of the country on one grid yet GB is deprived. GB is neither connected to the national grid nor GoP has allocated any special funds in the past to resolve the energy issue of GB and the area is totally ignored; (vi) GB is developing its own micro and small hydropower projects to meet its energy demand from the block amount provided by the federal government on annual basis curtailing share of other important sectors such as education, health, water supply, irrigation, population planning etc whereas no other provinces utilise the block provision for development or energy projects, GB therefore deserve special dispensation; and (vii) the ECC decision is not in line with the GoP policy for equitable supply of electricity for the entire country as GB is not getting any electricity from the national grid whereas a huge amount on account of energy mix subsidy and circular debt is being borne by the GoP for other four provinces, AJK and FATA. GB therefore deserves special attention of GoP in the energy sector including exemption from repayment of loans of hydropower projects.
Gilgit- Baltistan government further stated that Asian Development Bank is ready to finance two projects of GB through REDSIP tranche-III for which umbrella agreement already stands signed with the GoP. Once this loan is availed for the GB projects it will be easier for GoP to get financing from international donors for other mega projects in GB territory such as Diamer Basha Dam and Bunji Dam on the same analogy.
Chief Minister GB requested that foreign funded projects in his province may be exempted from the condition of relending and repayment by the GB government and GoP may pick up the loans of GB projects for their repayment and ECC should review its decision of August 15, 2013 on compassionate grounds.
The sources said, Finance Minister as Chairman ECC approved the proposal of Chief Minister GB and tabled the case in the ECC in its meeting on July 4, 2014. The ECC also endorsed the decision of the Finance Minister which is as follows “in case of AJ&K, the Annual Development Program (ADP) is funded through Cash Development Loan (CDL)/ foreign relent loan. However, for debt servicing by AJ&K government, federal government makes necessary allocation in the budget as ‘ways and means advances’ and repayment principal/ mark-up are made by the federal government through book adjustment. The same mechanism may be adopted for foreign relent loans of Kashmir Affairs & Gilgit-Baltistan.”
By Peer Muhammad
A few months ago, the PML-N government succeeded in bringing the much-awaited 3G and 4G spectrum in Pakistan. The technological advancement has been celebrated all over the country with many experts terming it to be a great achievement.
However, internet users of some areas of Pakistan, particularly the youth in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir are much concerned over the fact that these new, faster internet services exclude their areas. This discriminatory policy is only adding fuel to the fire: even before the new technology, these areas were met with slow and unreliable internet services.
The youth in G-B are much concerned over this discriminatory attitude by the government, particularly by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
They believe that banning any means of communication, whether it is websites such as YouTube and Google or blacking out entire areas from the services of 3G and 4G is not the solution to any problem – in fact, such measures only lead to dissent. Instead of denying access to modern technology, the government can invoke soft intervention measures by placing effective and proper mechanisms to check the misuse of the technology.
The youth strongly feel that excluding G-B from the provision of 3G and 4G services is yet again a violation of fundamental rights. Such unfairness becomes a starker and more sensitive issue as the youth strongly feel that G-B is already deprived of constitutional and political rights owing to the special status that is given to it since over 60 years.
Internet is an important means of communication and like other parts of the country, the youth in G-B have just started exploring their avenues for a better future through this facility. Depriving them of the new advanced spectrums will have adverse effects on the future of the new generation of G-B who will believe that such a discriminatory policy is tantamount to binding their hands from exploring opportunities and receiving updated knowledge through this revolutionary technology.
It is expected that the government will revisit its discriminatory policy and expand the services of 3G and 4G technology to G-B and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.