Gilgit-Baltistan: Display of Traditional Items in GB

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GILGIT (ET): An arts and handicrafts exhibition was held in Gilgit on Saturday, allowing local organisations from Gilgit-Balitistan’s (G-B) remote valleys to display traditional items.

More than 50 stalls were put up in the exhibition organised by the Trade Development Authority (TDA) in a hotel.

“This is an attempt to promote local art and culture,” said Khalid Baig, a TDA official. “The local products are excellent and don’t have competitors elsewhere, which is why they can fetch good prices.”

Women and children showed up in large numbers and took a keen interest in items, including clothes, food and other decoration articles.

Local handicrafts like caps, jewellery and wooden utensils were also on display.

Saeeda Parveen, who came from Ghizer valley and had a handicrafts stall set up, said she saw a good number of buyers at the event. “It’s encouraging to see people coming out and buying items.”

Gilgit-Baltistan: 10 Days Folk Festival Concludes

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Islamabad (News): The 10-day folk festival Lok Virsa, which started on April 12 concluded on Sunday with a prestigious award ceremony. The mega cultural event was organized by Lok Virsa (National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage) in collaboration with all the provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

People from different walks of life attended the festival for 10 days in a big way, which featured artisans-at-work exhibition, provincial cultural pavilions, folkloric song and dance performances, cultural evenings, craft bazaar, NGO stalls, theatre performances and special entertainment for children and families.

Federal Secretary Ministry of National Heritage Gul Muhammad Rind said the folk genius of the people is the basis of their identity.

“It is therefore the sacred duty of a nation to pay homage to the perpetuators and promoters of its cultural heritage.” Earlier in his speech, Lok Virsa’s Executive Director Khalid Javaid thanked all provincial governments, sponsoring agencies and other institutions for their unstinted cooperation to Lok Virsa for making this national event a great success. “I am also indebted to our own administrative ministry, in particular federal minister Shahzada Jamal Nazir and Secretary Gul Muhammad Rind for their all-time support and guidance for organizing the festival”.

Describing the mandate of Lok Virsa, chief executive Khalid Javaid said although Lok Virsa was primarily a research-oriented organisation, it organised folk festivals in order to project traditional cultural heritage, so that young people are not overwhelmed by the onslaught of Western culture and lose touch with their own traditions. At the end, cash awards sponsored by different national organizations and individuals were given to the most authentic craftsmen and craftswomen on the recommendation of a jury of experts constituted by Lok Virsa. Jury held detailed meetings over the last three days and minutely observed working of each participating artisan so as to arrive on a just and fair decision.

Craftsperson who is crippled as a result of work was also awarded at the event in addition to those who demonstrated excellence and standard setting of high quality in craftsmanship; creative and successful alliance of traditional skills and innovation in material design. There was also a category for young budding educated craftswomen.

Among the sponsors, Royal Norwegian Embassy took the lead by contributing cash awards worth Rs500,000 for the craftsmen/craftswomen and folk artists participated in the festival from all over Pakistan. Other sponsors include THAAP NGO, Azad Kashmir Small Industries, Balochistan Small Industries, Sindh Small Industries, Right to Play NGO, Directorate of Culture Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Arts Council.

In total, sixty five cash awards worth over Rs700,000 were distributed among the winning artisans. Artisans from Punjab got 23 awards whereas Sindh 14, Balochistan 6, Kyber Pakhtunkhwa 12, Gilgit-Baltistan 6 and Azad Jammu and Kashmir 4. Ten cash awards were also granted to the folk artists and singers by the organizers.

Exotic cultural and musical performances were also presented during the ceremony, which were highly enjoyed by the audience. A large number of art, craft and music lovers, cultural personalities, diplomats, media persons and general public attended the event.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Strong Inclusive Political System to Defeat Sectarianism in GB

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GILGIT (ET): The regional leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has urged the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) to donate money to political parties in the province in order to keep sectarian politics at bay.

PML-N Provincial President Hafizur Rehman while talking to the media in his office on Wednesday said a strong and inclusive political system was needed to defeat sectarianism in the region.

“I urge the people to donate generously to parties as only a strong political system can bring harmony among the sects,” Rehman said, adding the PML-N had launched a fundraising campaign in G-B to make the party self-sufficient.

The regional president justified his appeals for donations claiming that if more people contribute to the party’s finances, it will not remain dependent on certain people who use their influence to control the party.

He urged people to back any political party of their choosing and refrain from encouraging politics based on sects, which has shunned the region’s progress in recent years.

“No one has benefitted from sectarianism; mainstream political parties are short of funds, they cannot even launch election campaigns, while the sectarian divide keeps thriving day by day,” Rehman remarked.

Talking about the fee imposed on patients at government hospitals, Rehman said the PML-N would not accept the government’s decision unless the G-B Legislative Assembly makes it into a law. He added his party would protest if the government does not take its decision back.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Governor Asks Youth to Become Goodwill Ambassadors of GB

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Karachi (PT): A delegation of Hunza Gilgit Ismaili Students Federation Pakistan (HGISF) met Governor Gilgit Baltistan Syed Peer Karam Ali Shah at the Chief Minister house Karachi. The federation was represented by HGISF’s Cabinet members and advisors. The meeting spanned for an hour and the focal point of the meeting was to highlight the issues and hardships faced by the youth of GB in Karachi as well as the future of the region.

The Governor emphasized the importance of unity among the youth of GB. He recommended the delegation to keep an eye on the developments back home and reiterated the importance of participatory democracy and the power of vote which is the only source to bring the real change in the society particularly in GB region. The governor expressed his satisfaction in the youth of GB and its potential to lead the region towards peace and progress.

The Governor called upon the youth of GB to play their role actively equally in the political and social arena. He gave a detailed historical perspective of the region as well as struggle of Shaheed Bhutto and his family in contributing towards the sustainability of democracy in the country regardless of hardships.

The delegation of HGISF discussed the major issues faced by the students of GB residing in Karachi such as accommodation and limited quota seats at national universities. Moreover, the increasing inclination of youth towards substance abuse in GB was also discussed and the delegation appealed to the Governor to work in this regard.

The Governor assured his full support for the federation and reiterated that the students of GB residing anywhere in the world are “Sons of Soil” and they must strive to achieve the best and should become goodwill ambassadors for our region. The members concluded this meeting by thanking honorable Governor for his valuable time.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Tourism Session in Germany Focuses GB

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Islamabad (PT): Institute of Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) locate din Berlin, Germany, held a session to discuss the opportunities of leisure and tourism in Pakistan, with a particular focus on the Gilgit-Baltisan region.

The session was attended by Pakistan’s envoy, Abdul Basit, MLA Raja Azam Khan and the Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan, Sajjad Saleem Hottiana.

Traditional items like Chugha  and traditional caps from Gilgit-Baltistan were offered to the organizers of the session by the Pakistani delegation.

The Chief Secretary and MLA Azam are visiting Germany currently along with a delegation of Pakistani tour operators to attract tourists in Pakistan.

Pakistan, in general, and the Gilgit-Baltistan region, in particular, have immense tourism potential in the areas of mountaineering, cutlure, religious heritage, environment, mountain sciences and archaeological sites. However, without improving the law and order situation in Pakistan, including Gilgit-Baltistan, the efforts to attract tourists will remain futile.

Gilgit-Baltistan:First trophy of 2013 Claimed by American Hunter

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Gilgit (ET): In the first week of December 2012, the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government announced a quota for trophy hunting in the region for 2013, inviting national and international hunters to the region, which is known as a “living museum” for its varied wildlife and natural beauty.

It is home to a number of exotic animals which makes hunters flock the area for trophy hunting, a male-dominated sport which sees them hunt wild game animals.

Such an opportunity was not passed up by an American national, who became the first hunter of 2013 to claim an ibex as a trophy when he hunted the animal in G-B’s Gojal Valley.

“Mr Jerry Otis Bush has hunted an ibex trophy at the junction of rivers Khunjerab and Ghewjerav,” said Rahman Posh, Chairman Khunjerab Village Organisation [KVO], an umbrella organisation of seven villages in Gojal Valley.

Posh told The Express Tribune on Wednesday that the ibex hunted by Bush had 40 inch long horns. He spent at least four days with the communities and wildlife officials in the valley, searching for a suitable animal to hunt.

Posh said that after the successful hunt, Bush announced a donation of $500 to KVO, which he said would be used for providing health insurance to vulnerable families of the community in the valley.

According to the latest survey, the number of animals big enough for trophy hunting in G-B stood at 446 ibexes, 117 markhors (large species of wild goat) and 190 blue sheep.

Wilayat Noor, a conservator in G-B confirmed the hunt and hoped that more wild game hunters would visit the region to hunt the game after paying a legal fee to the federal government. “It is the hunting season [and] we hope more hunters will come,” Noor said.

For the hunting season 2012-2013, the G-B government slapped a $40,000 hunting fee for a markhor, $6,250 for a blue sheep and $2,500 for an ibex. Upon a successful hunt, 80% of the fee goes to the respective community where the hunt takes place.

The trophy hunting programme was first introduced in the early 1990s in the Bar Valley of Nagar in G-B.

Last year, one markhor, one blue sheep and 28 ibexes were hunted in the region and as stipulated, 80% of the hunting fee was given to the respective communities as part of their share, an official document said.

The communities of Gojal Valley have invited more hunters to visit the valley for hunting the animals as they have a quota for more hunts.

Gilgit-Baltistan:WAPDA Implementing Mega Projects in GB

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LAHORE (Monitoring Desk): Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman Raghib Shah has said that water sector projects are vital for sustained economic development, poverty reduction and social uplift in Pakistan, particularly the remote areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. He expressed these views in a meeting on Friday with Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah at the Wapda house.

While speaking on the occasion, the chairman said that Wapda is implementing a number of mega and medium-sized projects in Gilgit-Baltistan, including the Satpara multipurpose dam (generation capacity of 17 MW, water storage capacity 0.093 million acre feet) and Diamer-Bhasha (generation capacity of 4,500 MW, water storage capacity of 8.1 million acre feet), 7,100 MW Bunji, 34 MW Harpo, 80 MW Phandar and 40 MW Basho Hydropower projects, etc.

Apprising the chief minister of the progress on the projects, he said that the Satpara dam has been completed. The construction work on 13 contracts for Wapda offices, colonies, contractors’ camps, model village for affectees, roads and infrastructure in the project area of Diamer-Bhasha dam – a priority project – is progressing at a good pace.

The process to acquire land is continuing, while expressions of interest to appoint consultants have also been called. Various financial options are being analysed for funding the project, he added.

The chairman said that detailed engineering design and tender documents of Bunji hydropower project will be completed by end March this year. He further added that two European Development Agencies, namely AFD of France and KFW of Germany have shown interest to provide funds for the Harpo hydropower project.

Dilating upon their benefits, the chairman said that these multipurpose projects will ensure availability of water for irrigated agriculture, help mitigate devastating floods and generate low-cost hydel electricity. In addition, a number of employment opportunities will also be available to the locals in Gilgit-Baltistan during construction as well as operation and maintenance phases of these projects, he said.

Gilgit-Baltistan: No Testing Centers for Youngsters in GB

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Karachi (D.Times): Youngsters from Gilgit-Baltistan have to travel for days to do the assessments that give them a chance to study and work.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have profound zeal towards achieving professional excellence and attaining higher education. Despite being deprived of the constitutional rights and ample educational resources, they keep striving in achieving the targeted goal. This fact is as obvious as the daylight that they have been showing extraordinary performance in educational area and the professional excellence nationally as well as internationally.  They are always enthusiastic in attempting the tests of high standards and through them, knocking the doors of high ranking universities of the world.

National Testing Service (NTS) being the only public sector organization of the country conducts tests and assessments for admissions in higher studies, scholarships at home and abroad and the recruitment and promotion purposes at various organizations. Tests like National Aptitude Test (NAT) and Graduate Assessment Test (GAT) are a few to name. Its centers are currently there in the major cities of the country and for students belonging to far-flung areas of the country; it’s difficult to travel to those cities only for the said tests.

Gilgit-Baltistan being a remote and far-flung region of the country still doesn’t have a single centre of this testing system. Recently, a huge number of students from various regions of Gilgit-Baltistan travelled here to Islamabad only for attempting the test of NTS and GAT. They severely criticized their authorities of the region for not providing a centre there in Gilgit.
“ It’s indeed painful for students to travel to Islamabad only for this test of 3 hours. Neither flying via plane is affordable nor the journey through KKH is safe”, said Arshad Shedayi a Lecturer of KIU who was caught by this scribe outside the test centre here, in Islamabad. “Our Educational Ministry, so called Assembly and the high authorities in educational sector, are oblivious to this hard issue and this shows that they are incompetent and not sincere to the nation. One can only understand this hardship when one has to face this all” he elaborated along-with requesting the youth forums of the region here to raise the voice regarding this very issue.

The recent sectarian killings and the bad weather in the region hinder the youth from the region to safely move to major cities for the test purpose as nearly all the universities along-with Karakuram International University in Gilgit-Baltistan, have set the criterion of passing GAT general for admission in M.Phil programmes. Hence, all the aspiring students are bound to attempt the test. Likewise, for lectureship under HEC, it’s mandatory for candidate to possess a GAT certificate at least. For the recent jobs at State Bank of Pakistan and some overseas Scholarships, the test under NTS was made mandatory or the prime selection criteria.

Taking to DT here, in Islamabad the candidates and other aspiring students for admissions looked dismayed over the silence of the representatives and assembly of the region. “If FPSC can arrange testing centre in Gilgit, then why this NTS is reluctant in providing the service there?” asked a student Syed Sher Wali who has travelled for more than 24 hours to reach the test centre at G-10 Islamabad. When asked why he needs a GAT certificate, he said that he was willing to continue his studies in MPhil there at KIU. According to him a mere Masters degree doesn’t guarantee him a job as the jobs are sold against huge sum there in educational department in Gilgit-Baltistan.

It was known through a reliable source that the KIU management had earlier asked the NTS authorities here to arrange their centre in GB so that they would be facilitated at the campus but till now no any progress is seen. The future of students aspiring to attain higher education seems to be at stake.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Sectarianism Major Cause of Tourism Downfall in GB

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By Khalida Khan

A study survey was conducted in Gilgit-Baltistan, to investigate the major cause of rapid turn down in the inflow of tourists, which has adversely affected the tourism sector, since last decade. They analyzed tourists’ inflow data, obtained from Foreign Registration Office, Gilgit.

A significant reduction, in tourist inflow data, was observed since 1998, when inflow was 1,13,399 tourists, with minimum inflow i.e., 2,000 tourists in 2002,  and 2,544 in 2009. Further, the linkage of this reduction in tourist inflow with sectarianism was investigated by conducting surveys on cultural diversity; influences of sectarian clashes; war and terror; and consequent changes in the ratio of incoming tourists, to reach the final conclusion.

The findings of the study showed, that the prolonged local sectarian clashes seem to be the major causes of tourism down fall. In addition to the sectarian clashes, political instability; and war against terrorism in country, are the apparent causes, which contribute to nonconstructive marketing for the distressed area.

Revitalization of collapsed tourism sector and opening of sustainable community-based ecotourism initiatives through reformed policies, that address the mountain concerns and cooperative action of all stakeholders, can tackle challenges for tourism, which will ultimately root out unfavorable circumstances that cause tension in this region.

The author is Incharge, Centre for Integrated Mountain Research, University of the Punjab, Lahore – Pakistan

Gilgit-Baltistan: 17 Students from GB will visit USA on Cultural Exchange Programe

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Islamabad (D.Times): 17 students from Gilgit Baltistan— out of 75 from all over Pakistan – were given a pre-departure orientation on Friday here at Islamabad Serena Hotel. The students will travel to the United States under Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD). Officials from the U.S. embassy in Pakistan and Director of the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP) were present on the occasion. They extended their congratulations to the successful students and wished them all the best.

The students were briefed about the program, travel details, visa regulations, U.S. culture, campus life and the expectations that the program seeks in general. The orientation facilitators touched upon how to spend the time effectively in the U.S. during the visit.

The students will travel to the U.S. to attend classes with American students. They will give presentations about life and culture in Pakistan and will also witness community initiatives. The students are largely expected to learn new ideas, to revisit the stereotypes and to enhance mutual understanding. More than 500 Pakistani students have availed of the opportunity since the program began in 2010.

All the 17 students from Gilgit Baltistan posses good academic standing, vigour for community service and unshakeable determination to do something in life.

Arfa Shaubnum and Qamar Zaman are students of BS Economics at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, Shakir Hussain is doing his BS in Physics from GC,University Lahore. Afshan and Seema are in BS Environmental Sciences in Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi. Four were students are from Karakuram International University, Gilgit-Baltistan.

“It was indeed a matter of immense happiness to be part of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Programme. I consider myself fortunate to be part of the program. I belong to Hakis (Gupis), a remote region of GB and was selected for a program that has an international stature.  I owe thanks to Allah and many people around me”, Said Shakir Hussain Shakir.

 “It is a marvellous opportunity to see things differently as I would bring a new prospective. I would represent the soft image of my country in the U.S. and will bring back new ideas” he elaborated.

The selected students for Global UGRAD program will leave for the United States in the first week of January, next year.

The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program for Pakistan (Global UGRAD-Pakistan) is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State, and administered by IREX.