Pakistan

Gilgit-Baltistan: SMEDA Proposes Promotion of Trade with China Via GB

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Karachi (Monitoring Desk): Lahore—Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) has proposed promotion of trade with China through Gilgit-Baltistan, with Iran through Quetta, with Afghanistan through Quetta/Peshawar and with India through Lahore for effective implementation of the Strategic Trade Policy Framework 2012-15.

Establishment of special economic zones in the border areas has been proposed as one of the recommendations submitted by SMEDA to the Ministry of Commerce regarding Strategic Trade Policy Framework Supplement 2013-14, a spokesman for SMEDA said here on Tuesday.

The authority also recommended a sector development strategy for logistics to be implemented in collaboration with NTTFC and SMEDA.

In its proposals, SMEDA expressed its support to the Ministry of Commerce for establishing institutional framework announced in STPF 2012-15 for promoting trade and commerce, especially regarding taskforce for facilitating development of e-commerce, leather promotion council, export-import bank and service trade development council.

The Strategic Trade Policy Supplement 2013-14 is being developed as a roadmap for effective implementation of the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF 2012-15).

Appreciating the comprehensive approach adopted by the Ministry of Commerce, SMEDA expressed SMEs concerns regarding regulations and procedures to avail the announced incentives that are cumbersome as SMEs neither have the time, nor the financial strength to benefit from these incentives at times.

Procedure for exports by SMEs in terms of documentation etc must be simplified vis-a-vis those required by large enterprises and related information should be widely disseminated, he added.

SMEDA has also proposed inclusion of additional monetary concessions, for selected high growth sectors, such as gems & jewellery that may also be included in the list of sectors for which mark-up support of 2% on LTFF on purchase/import of machinery.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Affects on GB Due to Change of Power in Center

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By Aziz Ali Dad

The recent election season in Pakistan created a flurry of activity among those who subscribe to parties of various political persuasions. But Gilgit-Baltistan – because of its anomalous political setup within the polity of Pakistan – did not experience the sort of activities that are typical of election time. It is because of this different political status that any political development or change in the region does not affect the political dispensation at the national level.

However, change of power in the center does create ripples in the stagnant political landscape of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is visible in the post-election euphoria and in the statements of PML-N leaders who soon after the May 11 elections started to demand that Pir Karam Ali Shah be removed as governor of Gilgit-Baltistan. Aggrandised by the success of their party in the centre, some PML-N leaders are even enjoining the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) to mend its way or get ready for dissolution. Feeling the heat, Chief Minister Mehdi Shah warned Nawaz Sharif against “meddling” in the affairs of the Gilgit-Baltistan government.

So far Nawaz Sharif has shown sagacity in the formation of governments in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. From these precedents it can be surmised that he will act accordingly when it comes to forming government in Gilgit-Baltistan. On the other hand, it is feared that the anomalous political set-up may provide room to Nawaz Sharif for political manoeuvring without disturbing power relations in the centre. There are PML-N stalwarts in the region who want to topple the existing government so that more space can be created for the party within the political setup and more influence can be exerted on the local administration.

Since 1947, the region of Gilgit-Baltistan had been administratively controlled by the federal government via a strong bureaucracy in the region. In the bureaucratic-centred administrative arrangement, the elected representative had no role. Local administration had to rely on the federal government for important policy matters and planning. Because of the disconnect between the elected representatives and policymaking, the needs of the local populace were not reflected in key decisions and planning. Centralised decision-making and non-representative governance mechanisms resulted in the malfunctioning of administrative structures as well as increased relations between the people and the state.

Successive governments over the last two decades have gradually delegated more power to the elected representatives. The Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self Governance) Order 2009 was an important step towards empowering the legislative assembly. Though there are some areas where the elected members of the GBLA may feel powerless to bring about change, the new reforms package empowered – for the first time – elected representatives of the region by entrusting them with power for legislation and administration.

Since inclusion of elected representatives in decision-making was a new dimension in the administrative setup, there was a need to introduce new practices and mechanisms to make the new setup more effective and commensurable with the guidelines of the empowerment package. While implementing the package, no steps were taken to bring necessary changes in the administrative structure. As a corollary, the government is torn between the bureaucracy and the elected representatives, who grope in the darkness of the administrative labyrinth for their role.

Notwithstanding drastic changes in the dispensation of power in Gilgit-Baltistan, the procedures of the previous system remained immutable. During the last three and a half years CM Mehdi Shah has neither been seriously engaged with legislation on complicated issues, nor introduced required changes and asserted his power. This power vacuum allowed informal channels and processes to thrive within the corridors of power – influencing important decisions at the regional level.

Despite its shortcomings, the current government in Gilgit-Baltistan should be allowed to complete its tenure. This will help the recently-instituted democracy in the region take firm roots and flourish within the particular socio-cultural, political and economic ambiance of the region. Any undemocratic act or exogenous decisions will undo what little has been achieved till now. It is clear that the PML-N did not perform well in the GBLA elections in 2009 for several reasons.

There is no permanent power structure in Gilgit-Baltistan. Rather it mutates in tandem with the new configuration of power in the centre. The PML-N ought to break this pattern by sticking to its loyalists and shunning turncoats who are now making a beeline to join its bandwagon. Instead of clamouring for the removal of government, the local leadership will do better by reorganising the party according to existing realities.

To turn over a new leaf the local leadership has to engage with the people instead of relying on crutches and largesse from the power in the centre. Vagaries of power taking place in a space where they do not have representation will not make any difference. Only the people of the region can guarantee the future success of the PML-N in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad. Email: azizalidad@gmail.com

Gilgit-Baltistan: First Female Mountaineer Paid Tribute for Making History

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ISLAMABAD (ET): For the first Pakistani female to put the national flag on top of the world’s highest mountain, praise continues to pour in. Samina Baig made a successful summit of the mighty Everest on May 19.

After their arrival from Kathmandu on June 3, a slews of programmes were held for her and her brother Mirza Ali. Their names have been recommended for various awards and a number of organisations have offered the duo honourary membership.

A reception along the same lines was held at Serena Hotel on Monday for Samina Baig and Mirza Ali by the Regional Council for Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Mardan Areas (RIPMA) and Aga Khan Youth and Sport Board. National Council for Pakistan President Iqbal Walji, Aga Khan University Preisent Dr Firoz Rasul and a US-based philanthropist and investor, Aziz Sharif among others spoke at the event.

After congratulating Samina for creating history by becoming the first Pakistani woman to climb the Everest, Walji also paid rich tributes to her brother for the support and mentorship to Samina to achieve the unprecedented feat.

Dr Rasul said, “We are here to celebrate this historic moment with Samina Baig who brought the laurels for Pakistan with the support of her brother. Samina has become a source of inspiration for the women and girls of Pakistan.”

Similarly, Sharif said, “The joy and pride that Samina has brought to the community and the people of Pakistan can’t be expressed in words.” He asked the audience to give standing ovation to the duo and their father, Khayal Baig, for giving his children the liberty to choose the paths of their lives.

He also announced a cash prize of Rs1 million for Samina and Mirza, as a token of support towards the accomplishment of their future goals. He also promised to arrange a tour of the young mountaineers to Canada.

Samina thanked the organizations and individuals for showering her with love and appreciation. She said that without the support of her brother she may never have been able to summit Everest. Mementos, flags and gifts were also exchanged between Samina Baig and leaders of the community.

Fatima Jinnah and Sitara-i-Imtiaz awards

At a reception by the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) on Tuesday night, its members recommended Samina and her brother Mirza for Fatima Jinnah Award and offered them honorary membership of the club. The ACP officials, however, candidly admitted their failure in fulfilling its responsibilities and achieving its aims for which the ACP was established in 1974. They also accepted their inability in providing assistance to the siblings in their historic mission.

‘No gender discrimination’

Mirza Ali later gave a presentation on his expedition with Samina. He also spoke about his organisation — Pakistan Youth Outreach — set up to promote gender equality. “I don’t condone in any form of gender discrimination,” said Ali.

He also spoke about their meeting with Indian twin sisters. The youth of both India and Pakistan want peace not any tension on borders, he added.

Mirza explained about the concept and objective of the expedition. It was aimed at promoting gender equality and woman empowerment. To prove his claim, he returned from the altitude of 8,700m providing an opportunity to his sister to put her feet on the summit and accomplish her mission alone and prove that woman can do anything without anyone’s help.

Pride of G-B

Speaking at the event arranged by the ACP at the Islamabad Club, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah regretted that no high official from the federal government came to receive Samina at the airport. “I salute the daughter of G-B who made us all proud.” I also salute her father who encouraged his daughter and son to put their lives at risk and make Pakistan proud. He hoped that many more Saminas and Mirzas will come from G-B.

G-B Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah said, “Samina has created a new history given the remoteness and backwardness of her native town, Shimshal.” The valley gave birth to Samina and many top climbers.

Chief Minister’s adviser Sadia Danish said, “Samina and her brother have promoted G-B’s soft image. To acknowledge her achievement we have decided to nominate Samina as goodwill ambassador for tourism.”

Secretary Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Shahidullah Baig also paid tribute to the young mountaineers and said that he had recommended their names for Sitara-i-Imtaiz.

Earlier in his welcome speech, ACP president Col (retd) Manzoor Hussain, said, “We will recommend their names for Fatima Jinnah Award which carries Rs1m cash.”

Gilgit-Baltistan:GB is the Water Bank for Pakistan Due to its Glaciers and Snow Deposits

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ISLAMABAD (APP): A long term plan to overcome power shortages can work miracles if the Federal Government makes a focused effort to complete projects on six Indus river sites having potential to generate 18900 megawatts of electricity. According to official sources, on Indus river, Yugo dam has potential to produce 520 MW, Skardu dam 1600 MW, Tungus dam 2200, Yulbo dam 2800 MW, Bunji dam 7100 MW and Diamer-Bhasha dam 4500 MW. The Water and Power department of Gilgit Baltistan has also marked 36 projects to produce 204 megawatts of power on tributaries and sub tributaries of river Indus. WAPDA will remain central to complete these mega projects on river Indus besides numerous small hydro power stations.
Gilgit Baltistan, a region given autonomy by the previous government is the water bank for Pakistan due to large area of glaciers and snow deposits in its mountains.
The region has catchment area of 72496 square kilometers, which include about 27 % glaciers, the biggest in the world outside polar region.
As happened over all these past centuries, Indus river will be core to Pakistan’s efforts to keep the economy going by overcoming power shortages which sends lives of people to a state of paralysis.
According to experts, hydro power potential on main tributaries and Indus River is as much as 40,000 MW while hydro power potential on sub tributaries is 1,200 MW.
A two decade old policy to encourage private sector for power generation has fallen below expectations as the government has been bogged down by circular debt.
At present as many as 15 private companies have capacity to produce four thousand megawatts of power but many times these are working below capacity for shortage of cash to buy fuel.
Hub Power Project has capacity to produce 1292 MW, Uch Power Limited 586 MW, AES Pak Gen. (Pvt) 365 MW, AES Lalpir 362 MW, Tapal Energy Limited 126 MW, Southern Electric Power Company 115.2 MW, Saba Power Company 114 MW, Rousch (Pakistan) Power 412 MW, Liberty Power Project 235 MW, Kohinoor Energy 131.44 MW, Japan Power Generation 120 MW, Habibullah Coastal Power Co. 140 MW, Gul Ahmed Energy 136.17 MW, Fauji Kabirwala Power Company 157 MW and Altern Energy Limited 29 MW.
According to Water & Power Ministry, the supply and demand gap for electricity is worsening as according to recent figures total generation stood at 11,800 mw against demand of 16,400 mw, with electricity shortfall
recorded at 4,600mw.
All eyes are set on the newly elected government to come to the rescue of hapless citizens but all agree it will take months if not years to light up homes and factories round the clock.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Can’t Have All Weather Airports

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Gilgit (Monitoring Desk): CM Mehdi Shah has reported said in Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly the other day that the Gilgit and Skardu Airport cannot be made “all-weather” because of some mysterious reason. He said that the Civil Aviation Authority has refused to make required changes in the airport’s structure to make it capable of receiving larger planes in all seasons of the year.
The reported “revelation” by the Chief Minister has baffled the people of Gilgit-Baltistan who have, thus far, been assured by the same politicians about the “good news” that a better and modern airport is to be constructed in the region. It appears that all the promises and assurances were fake, as the case is with “dream sellers” who have nothing in reality to offer to the public.
The people of GB suffer every year because of unstable weather, as the planes generally remain non-operational due to blockade of the narrow and dangerous valleys. The small ATR Turbo Planes operated by the PIA are unreliable and too small to cater to the needs of the increasing population of  the region.
The situation demands for a thorough and systemic analysis of the short and long-term needs and possibilities of air-voyage for the people, who travel in large numbers every day, for medical treatment, education, business or other activities.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Special Allowance for GB Employees Restored

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GILGIT (ET): Employees of Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) government ended the boycott of their duties on Saturday after Chief Minister Mehdi Shah announced the restoration of a 25% special allowance revoked earlier.

“On the instructions of Mehdi Shah, G-B chief secretary has issued directives to concerned officials to restore the allowance,” stated a press release issued by the chief minister’s office on Friday night. “We will not allow injustice to be done to anybody,” Shah was quoted as saying in the handout.

The much welcome announcement spread jubilation, as employees congratulated each other and offered sweets to celebrate. “We are thankful the government took the case of poor employees seriously and on humanitarian grounds,” All Employees Association President Bahadur Khan said on Saturday.

Upon the directives of the federal ministry of finance, the G-B finance department issued a notification in the first week of June stating special allowances given to G-B’s government employees would be declared null and void from 2011. The notification also asked authorities to recover the amount paid under the allowance since the said year.

This stirred outrage as employees lashed out at the government’s decision, saying they could not possibly return the thousands of rupees they had received.

On Wednesday, G-B All Employees Association, a representative body of 37,000 local employees in the region’s seven districts, announced a boycott of their duties. As a result, doctors and teachers also remained absent from schools and hospitals.

The special allowance was first awarded to G-B employees by former military dictator General Ziaul Haq, in view of the hard conditions prevailing in the mountainous region. Although the allowance was temporarily suspended in 2011, it resumed after the G-B Supreme Appellate Court ruled in its favor.

Gilgit-Baltistan:The Journalists of GB Performing as Social/National service

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Karachi (Dawn): The journalists of Gilgit-Baltistan have been doing their professional duties as a social and national service.

They are affiliated with different international, national and local TV channels, daily and weekly newspapers and magazines but do not get any remuneration and salaries.

Their main aim is to highlight the problems and hardships of this far flung and backward area of Pakistan and also to protect the ideological frontiers of Pakistan.

In the absence of any representation in the National Assembly and Senate, the mediamen of this region play silent role of public representatives and social workers.

In 1947, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan had got freedom from Dogra Raj on self-help basis and later annexed with Pakistan unconditionally.

The government of Pakistan despite giving constitutional rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan kept its future status in limbo by attaching it with Kashmir issue.

Giving in to the long-standing demand of the people of this region, the Pakistan People’s Party government at the centre approved an administrative package in 2009 for GB through “Gilgit Baltistan empowerment and self-governance order”.

In this way, the people of GB got a post of governor, a chief minister and some ministers.

Syed Mehdi Shah became the first chief minister of GB who after administering the oath to the office of the chief minister. But he failed to provide justice to the people because of alleged mismanagement and corruption.

The journalists of Skardu Baltistan started positive criticism of the provincial government’s defective administrative policies, mismanagement and corruption.

Though the CM took criticism in a positive manner, he started torturing the journalists using different tactics. That was the reason that the journalists of Skardu Baltistan have been working under acute mental stress for the last three years.

During this period, offices of local daily newspapers were raided and the staff was harassed. Several active local journalists were subjected to violence.

Moreover, the chief minister got several journalists sacked from their newspapers and TV channels and those refused to tow his order he stopped their advertisements.

Finally the district administration on the advice of the CM seized Skardu Press Club building on the night of May 29, and handed it over to local health department.

The district administration took away computers, cameras, furniture, tables, TV set, carpets, sign board and the plaque worth more than Rs1 million.

In 2002, the then information minister and chief executive of Northern Areas Nisar Memon had given the building to journalists for the press club and information complex, so it had been in their possession for 11 years.

Soon after the incident, the members of the Press Club, Baltistan Electronic Media Reporters Association (Bemra) and Baltistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) gathered outside the press club building to protest against the unfair and illegal step taken by the district administration.  Political activists, lawyers and civil society activists also showed up in a large number.

Later, the journalists set up press club in a tent outside the premises. After a few days they shifted their makeshift arrangement to Yadgar- i-Shuhada and resolved to stay there until the building was not vacated. Now the poor journalists of Skardu have been performing their professional duties there for the last seven days while wearing black armbands.

They have also displayed banners and placards at their venue. Some of the protesters have been on hunger strike since Tuesday.

Different political, social, religious and civil society activists have been visiting the tent press club to express their solidarity with the journalists. They also record their comments in the visitor’s book.

According to the visitor’s book, the visiting people vehemently condemned the unfair attitude of the CM and district administration. They said the provincial government had destroyed all government departments through corruption, favoritism, violation of merit and misuse of powers and now they were harassing journalists by evacuating them from the press club which is not only a war against free media but also a state terrorism.

They have demanded that the authorities should immediately vacate the press club building and hand it over to the local journalists again.

Haji Fida Mohammad Nashad, the ex-deputy chief executive of Gilgit Baltistan and leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said: “During my tenure, we had allotted the press club building to the journalists, but what a pity that the present provincial government has snatched this building from them which is condemnable.”

He said the government should immediately return this building to the journalists with all other facilities.

The Anjuman-i-Tajiran, Skardu has warned the government to solve the press club issue otherwise they would stage a complete shutter down strike in favour of local journalists.

Talking to Dawn , Skardu Press Club President, Nisar  Abbas said: “There is no doubt that the district administration has seized the press club building on the advice of the Gilgit Baltistan’s Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah which is not only condemnable but also a shameful act.

“Gilgit Baltistan has become a dangerous place for the local journalists, the government is harassing journalists for publishing fair, impartial and investigative stories,” said Mohammad Hussain Azad, president Baltistan Electronic Media Reporters Association (Bemra).

Qasim Hussain Bhutt, president Baltistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) said the provincial government was rewarding the journalists with torture and punishment, and snatched their press club.

The government should immediately return the building to the journalists of Skardu, otherwise strong protest will be held in Gilgit Baltistan.

These views were expressed by Syed Mazahir Hussian as a representative of all parties during a joint press conference held at the tent press club recently.

The all parties including Muttahida Wehdatul Muslimeen, All Pakistan Muslim League, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM) and Anjuman Tahafuz-e-Huqooq Baltistan (ATHB) in a joint statement condemned the takeover of the press club building by the district administration.

They said all parties believed in freedom of press that was why they were favoring the journalists in their struggle for retrieving the building.

Syed Mazahir said the government was victimising mediamen.  He demanded that the federal and provincial government should solve the Skardu Press Club issue immediately.

He said if the building was not vacated, the all parties would make strong protest and the government would be responsible for any untoward incident.

Wazir Ikhlaque said that he as president of PML-N Skardu district would bring this issue into the notice of his party high command and ministers and the press club building would be given back to local journalists.

Holding responsible for the illegal occupation of press club building, Raja Zakria of ATHB said that because of the seizure of press club building media has been affected which has paralyzed the whole system in Baltistan.

He said the government did not take notice of illegal distribution of land in Baltistan but was concentrating only on Skardu press club building.

Captain retired Sikandar said the government was using delaying tactics to solving the press club issue which was unjust and condemnable.

He said, his party would keep continue their support until the press club building is returned to the journalists.

Ghulam Shehzad Agha of  GBUM  alleged that the  midnight operation was  meant to create disharmony in the region.

Manzoor Yultar of APML said that the provincial government should stop harassing local media men for highlighting their corruption and mismanagement and returned the illegally captured press club building immediately to the local media men.

Noor Hassan of the MQM and and Syed Ameer Kazmi of PTI also condemned the illegal seizure of Skardu press blub building by the district administration and demanded it should immediately be returned to the mediamen.

The journalists of Skardu Baltistan have sought help, favour, protection and justice from national, international human rights organisations, social organisations, government high officials and journalists communities.

They have appealed to human rights organisations, mediamen, journalists organisations and press club members to highlight this issue through their forums and channels.