Month: September 2014

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Tourism Industry Affected Due to Political Unrest?

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GILGIT (Dard.T): Gilgit-Baltistan minister for information and tourism has said that the ongoing political unrest in the country has badly affected tourism industry of the region. Talking to mediapersons here on Monday, she said that GB economy depended on tourism as thousands of people were associated with the industry to earn their livelihoods, but the current political instability had caused a decline in number of tourists visiting the region.
The minister said that many a local and foreign tourist had cancelled their visit to the region in the wake of the political impasse due to the continued sit-ins of PAT and PTI in Islamabad. Sadia Dansih said that tourism department of GB had to cancel the scheduled Silk Route International Festival which was to be held on September 10 due to the ongoing political turmoil. She said that representatives of 30 countries had been invited to the festival.
She pointed out that labourers, tour operators, porters, transporters and hotel owners had been facing economic difficulties due to decline in tourists to the region. The minister blamed the wrong polices of PML-N government and non-political approach of Imran Khan, and Tahirul Qadri for deepening crisis. She said that democracy in Pakistan was at stake while the country’s economy was taking brunt of the turmoil.
She urged the government and protesting parties to initiate dialogue to resolve issues peacefully

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Gilgit-Baltistan: Elections for GBLA and Uncertanities

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GILGIT (ET):  Elections in Gilgit-Baltistan—earlier expected to be held by the end of this year—have apparently fallen victim to the ongoing protests of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in the federal capital. The beleaguered federal government has not been able to find enough time to address the issue of elections in GB, giving rise to speculation of a ‘constitutional breakdown’ on December 11, when the tenure of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party comes to an end.
“The GB government will step aside on December 11 after completing its five-year term, and with it GB will plunge into a constitutional crisis as the Governance Order 2009 has no provision for a caretaker setup,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s regional chief Hafeezur Rahman said while talking to a select group of journalists in Gilgit on Saturday. “The federal government was working on an election schedule, but the dharnas have resulted in a delay as the government’s attention is on resolving them,” explained Hafeez.

“I repeatedly pointed out this vacuum and asked Chief Minister Mehdi Shah to hold elections under his supervision in October, but he didn’t take it seriously,” Rahman said while referring to Mehdi Shah’s earlier statements. Shah had said on the floor of the legislative assembly recently that elections would be held next year. Similarly, Law Minister Ali Madad had said the governance order would be amended to make way for a caretaker setup.
GB has not been immune to the political impasse in Islamabad. Residents and politicians in the region are anxiously awaiting the outcome. “This should come to an end. This isn’t going to give us anything,” Murtaza, a resident of Gilgit, hoped for a timely end to the crisis.

Gilgit-Baltistan: KIU Announced HSSC-I Results, 34.3 Percent Passing Rate

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Gilgit (PT): Out of a total of 8,661 students who appeared in the HSSC – I exams conducted by the Karakuram International University, only 2973 were able to qualify. According to results announced today, only 12.6 percent students from Diamer were able to pass the exams, while in Ghangche and Hunza-Nagar 24.15 and 24.26 percent of the students were able to qualify, respectively. The performance of students from Ghizar was slightly better, at 33.67, Skardu at 32.76 and in Astore the pass percentage was at 40.28. In Gilgit 41.58 percent of the students were able to pass.

According to results shared by the KIU Examination Board, Muneera Ahmad of Global Higher Secondary School stood first in the Pre-Medical group, Asif Hussain of Govt Degree college stood second, while the third position was clinched by Alamdar Ali of Govt Degree College Danyore. Iman ur Rehman of Govt Degree College Juital stood first in the pre-engineering group, Tanveer ud din from Guiders School and College stood second and Basharat Hussain from Govt Degree College Jutial stood third.

In General Science Group, Safeer Ahmad stood first, Tanveer Ahamd Second, while Atiya Begum clinched the third position. In the Commerce Group, Syed Sajid Hussain of Baltistan College of Commerce stood first, Iqbal Ali stood second, Nazia Abbas of Hunza Public School and College stood second, while Hanan Alam (Danyore) and Iqbal Ali (Skardu) shared the third position.

In Humanities Group, Noordil Khan of Govt Inter College Gupis stood first, Sonam Iqbal of Shaheen Degree College stood second, while the third position was shared by Jamila Bibi and Masooma Batool from Govt Girls Inter College Skardu.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Establishment of Masonry and Quarrying Training Centres in GB to deal with Seismic and Freezing Temperatures

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GILGIT (ET): Efforts have begun in GB to revive the craft of stone-masonry, a trend which has gradually been replaced by the introduction of cemented bricks over the past decades, posing a threat to the environment.
A stakeholders meeting was organised in this regard on Friday under the Pakistan Technical and Vocational Education and Training Reform Support Programme’s initiative, Fund for Innovative Trainings (FIT).
Speaking at the meeting, a senior official of the Rupani Foundation, Jalaluddin, said: “The main reason people abandoned stone masonry is its cost.” The Rupani Foundation is an organisation which works to create economic opportunities for people living in the mountainous areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. He, however, insisted ways have to be found to make building with stone economical so as to create job opportunities and protect the environment.
Given the harsh weather conditions in winter across the hilly region of GB, cement, a poor insulator, does not help houses seal the heat in. The cement brick wall is too thin to keep the cold out, leading to an increased reliance on forest wood for heating, which depletes forest reserves.
Elaborating the proposed activities under the FIT programme, Jalal said eight masonry and quarrying training centres will be established in Ghizer, Gilgit, Gupis, Hunza and Yasin valleys to train the youth in masonry.
Another speaker, Sher Ghazi said, “In GB, 99 out of 100 houses are being built with bricks. This is because stonemasonry costs more and the skill has declined over the years.” According to Ghazi, stone masonry is the most appropriate way to respond to seismic activity as well as freezing temperatures in winters.
Experts present at the meeting discussed the ecological and economic benefits of masonry and said modern equipment and trainings could help in the revival of masonry in GB. The FIT programme is funded by the European Union, the governments of Netherland and Germany. It is implemented in GB by the German government-run GIZ in partnership with Rupani Foundation to support labour market-oriented trainings with improvised tools and techniques.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Local Government Bill 2014 Passed Unanimously by GBLA

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GILGIT (ET): GBLA unanimously passed the Local Government Bill 2014. The bill was presented in the assembly a couple of days earlier for lawmakers to vet and suggest amendments. However, the bill sailed smoothly as Law Minister Ali Madad Sher read out the document in the session chaired by Speaker Wazir Baig. “It’s a memorable occasion. The assembly has enacted yet another law,” said Sher after the bill was passed. Gilgit-Baltistan Police Institute (GBPI), a not-for-profit organisation, had drafted the bill after holding a series of consultations with stakeholders in GB and Islamabad.
“It is a turning point in GB’s history as issues being faced by its residents would now be resolved at the grass-roots level on priority basis,” said GBPI Director Programmes Altaf Hussain while speaking to The Express Tribune. Hussain said the urban areas of GB (Gilgit and Skardu) have been named city metropolitan corporations under the law, to be headed by a mayor and deputy mayor. District councils will be called district governments, which will be headed by district nazims and deputy nazims.
Under the new law, a financial commission, comprising the leader of the opposition, finance minister and local government minister, will be formed to supervise financial matters of local bodies.

Meanwhile, the house adopted a resolution tabled by lawmaker Mutabiat Shah demanding measures to prevent possible infiltration of terrorists in Hunza-Nagar and Ghizer districts as both are linked to the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan. Moreover, it called for the permanent deployment of two wings of Gilgit Scouts on the Karakoram Highway and in Ghizer Valley to ensure security. “There are threats of terrorism in both places so it would be wise to take arrangements timely,” read the text of the resolution.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Turtles Smuggled from KPK, Sindh to China Via GB

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GILGIT (ET): Over 200 turtles smuggled into China finally found their way back home to Pakistan on Tuesday, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Chinese authorities as well as the GB and Sindh wildlife departments. The consignment was seized in the neighbouring country during the last week of June after authorities received information on “unusual luggage” coming from Pakistan. When intercepted, experts determined the consignment contained 220 hard-shell turtles. Earlier reports had put the number at 180. “The freshwater turtles were smuggled to China from Karachi via GB,” Chief Conservator Wildlife Javed Ahmed told the media in Gilgit. The animals had been packed inside boxes, each containing 10 turtles. “They had been collected from Karachi and Sukkur by smugglers, two of whom belong to GB.”

Ahmed, who recently reached Gilgit from China, along with 10 Sindh wildlife officials, successfully negotiated the release of the turtles. The animals are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), thus their exchange is banned. CITES, an international agreement between governments, aims to ensure that international trade in animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The agreement was drafted after a resolution was adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The smugglers, in custody of Kashgar authorities, may face life imprisonment under Chinese laws. They were identified as Nizamuddin, a resident of Gligit living in Karachi, and his accomplice Rizwan Karim, a resident of Sost, the last town before China. Sindh Wildlife Department officials will be transporting the turtles back to their home province and will release the animals back into their natural habitat.
”The turtles are in good health and will survive the two or three-day trip back home,” said one of the officials. Uzma Naureen of WWF said this form of smuggling had taken place in the past. She said soft-shell turtles are smuggled more often than their hard-shell counterparts. “Turtles have been illegally smuggled to Hong Kong, South Korea and Vietnam,” she said, adding they are collected from KPK, Punjab and Sindh.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GBLA Proposed Increase Vigilance at Various Entry Points of GB

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Gilgit (PT): GBLA approved a bill that highlighted the “ever present severe threats of terrorist incursion from the Wakhan Valley of Afghanistan”, stated an official press release, demanding increased presence of security forces along the Pak-Afghan border in Gojal Valley’s Chipursan and Misgar region, as well Ishkoman, Gupis and Yasin Valleys of Ghizar district. The bill was moved by Deputy Speaker Jamil Ahmed, MLA Mutabiat Shah and MLA Mirza Hussain. It was also stated that there is a need for deployment of GB Scout’s contingents in Diamer District.

The bill also proposed formation of two additional wings of the Gilgit-Baltistan Scout for this purpose and their deployment in the “sensitive” regions.

It is pertinent to note that so far there has never been any terrorist incursion in the Gilgit-Balttistan region from the Wakhan corridor, which is situated in Afghanistan, between Tajikistan and Pakistan. Fears of such movement were high during the time when the Taliban had overtaken Afghanistan. However, the threat was not very high because the areas around Wakhan were controlled by the Northern Alliance, led by Ahmed Shah Masood.

In the neighboring Chitral region, however, terrorist had a couple of years back attacked a camp of the Chitral Scout and martyred around 50 soldiers, which had created panic and fear throughout the region.

The issue of sectarian unrest in Ghangche district, which also spread to Skardu in a limited manner, was also discussed. The Speaker of GBLA, Wazir Baig, said that the Home Department will be asked to form a judicial commission for inquiry of the circumstances that led to the violence in the region. The formation of judicial commission was demanded by MLA Sultan Ali Khan and MLA Amina Ansari.