GILGIT (ET): Local hero Hassan Sadpara, who scaled Mount Everest in May this year, was not expecting the government to forget him so soon.
The 48-year-old Pakistani climber from Sadpara village became the second Pakistani to ascend the highest mountain in the world. When the mountaineer made the courageous journey to the top of the highest mountain without a supply of oxygen, the government promised to donate 10 kanals of land to him in recognition of his feat. But the reward is yet to be handed over to the mountaineering hero.
“If I had been the son of an influential man, my name would have been written in the Guinness Book of World Records,” the disappointed climber told The Express Tribune, adding that he has not received any of the promised reward.
Although the Gilgit Baltistan government gave him a warm welcome and appointed him as a Grade V police instructor in recognition of his achievement, Sadpara feels a more special prize could have been meted out. ”What can I say?” he asked. “Is this job a worthy reward for a national hero?” he asked.
Sadpara has also not forgotten the cold shoulder extended to him by the federal government after his arrival in Pakistan in the wake of the Osama bin Laden raid in Abbottabad. “Nobody other than the chief minister of Gilgit Baltistan came to receive me at the airport,” said Sadpara who is as destitute today as he was before his feat.
Inspired by his father, Sadpara started his mountaineering carrier back in 1996 when he was 33. Now nearing 50 and a father of four, he says he is as fit as he was 15 years ago and despite the anticlimax, remains enthusiastic. He dreams of climbing the remaining eight out of the world’s 14 highest peaks, provided he gets financial support.
Sadpara is the only person from Gilgit-Baltistan to have surpassed all the five major peaks in Pakistan including K2 in 1981, Gasherbrum II and Broad Peak in 1982 and Gasherbrum I (Hidden Peak) in 1992.
In the aftermath of Sadpara’s achievement, the Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan Mehdi Shah announced that an institute would be set up where mountaineering would be promoted.
But alas, the fate of this announcement, too, hangs in the balance as the chief minister is occupied with the task of expanding his cabinet after the inclusion of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid in the government.
ISLAMABAD – Basin and Danyur played 1-1 draw in the ongoing Gilgit-Baltistan Youth Football School Championship. Maqbool opened the scoring for Basin in 17th minute of the first half as he neatly finishes the ball past diving Danyur goalie. Imran Abbas level the score for Danyur in the 29th minute. In the second match, Gilgit Tigers beat Oshkhandas 3-0. Sadaqat was the outstanding player as he scored two goals for his side while Asif Raza scored one goal for the winners.
A cup of steaming cappuccino, the roar of the Shigar river, the fast breeze made by the gushing water, a huge walnut tree nearby, massive mountains on three sides and the lively company of friends – it reminds me of William Wordsworth eulogizing “a book of verses, a bottle of wine, a shady tree and you beside me” Wordsworth refused to desire anything else if he possessed all these blessings. And this is precisely what I go through while perched on top of the Shigar Fort, the Palace on the Rock, in high-up Baltistan.
Huge Poplar and Cedar trees cover the lush-green Shigar valley at the bottom of huge mountains, offering a complete contrast to the topography of the region. Even the road from Skardu, the administrative headquarters of Baltistan, to Shigar stands out for the contrasting imagery: once across the Skardu river, you travel across a desert of white glittering sand which gradually disappears behind the craggy and curling mountains before descending into the Shigar valley. From a distance, the Shigar valley strikingly looks like a sprawling oasis, with the mighty Shigar river crisscrossing the vast riverbed to the right of the valley, which has a predominantly Shia Muslim population. (The people here recently voted Azam Khan into the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly.) The valley offers a stunningly contrasting landscape – rocky barren cliffs, cultivated terraces, and orchards all around.
You travel across a desert of white glittering sand which gradually disappears behind the craggy and curling mountains
The valley is practically the gateway to some of the highest mountains in the world, including K-2, Mashabrum 1 and 11, Broad Peak, and Tango Tower. It is also the staging post for the Baltoro mountain range, and used to be the most favoured destination for trekkers from all over the world.
The valley is practically the gateway to some of the highest mountains in the world
If the Shigar Valley is the crown of the Karakorums, the Palace Residence is certainly its centre-piece. Also known as Fong-Khar, or the Palace on the Rock, the site has been restored by Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP-P). It is indeed a unique site in the middle of an oasis; a cultural heritage guesthouse where you experience a rugged 17th Century version of luxury, painstakingly restored to the original, though equipped with all the modern amenities and services of a good hotel.
The complex at Shigar comprises the 400-year-old Fort-Palace and two more recent buildings, the “Old House” and the “Garden House”. The former Palace of the Raja of Shigar has been transformed into a 20-room heritage guesthouse, with the grand audience hall serving as a museum of Balti culture and featuring select examples of fine wood-carvings, as well as other heritage objects.
While hosting guests, the Palace also offers a lot of Balti history and culture – a blend indeed of the old and the new.
Azam Khan belongs to the Amacha Dynasty, which claims to have ruled the area for 33 generations. His ancestors brought artisans, carpenters and stone-carvers from Kashmir for the construction of the Shigar Fort-Palace, and that resulted in a combination of Kashmiri-influenced carvings and Balti architecture.
It is extraordinary to be so close to nature in its naked form, and to not have to think of the workaday stresses back home.
Almost two kilometres upwards of the Skardu valley lies the sleepy Khaplu town, ahead of the Kargil sector, where Indian and Pakistani forces fought their most recent battle over Kashmir in 1999.
Khalpu, too, boasts another archaeological heritage: the Khaplu Palace and Residence, also restored by the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP-P). This palace is from 1840 and belonged to the Raja of Khaplu and was raised after the Sikh Dogras conquered Baltistan and ordered all Rajas to build new residences. Located at a height of over 8,000 feet above sea level, the palace is now back to its past glory, restored with care and passion, with no cement used in the construction or restoration, which took almost six years. This palace also offers several cozy rooms, equipped with modern amenities such as internet, television, clean hot and cold water and round-the-clock electricity.
Azam Khan belongs to the Amacha Dynasty, which claims to have ruled the area for 33 generations
The Northern Areas – both Gilgit and Baltistan – have many similarly precious archaeological heritage sites, though many are in a lamentably shambolic state. One wishes the government agencies responsible for our heritage would demonstrate the same spirit and commitment as the Aga Khan Cultural Service.
[box13]And now some good news: it is amazing to see the tourist traffic that places like Shigar and Khaplu can generate; the restoration or repair simply opens up the place to inquisitive outsiders. Not only does it become a source of business and employment – it becomes the engine of growth in far-flung places where people don’t even think of going.
So if you want a break from stressful city life, or are fed up with the rigorous daily grind of business in crowded city centers, why not check out Shigar and Khaplu for a picnic on top of the world?
The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and author of the book “The Most Dangerous Place – Pakistan’s Lawless Frontier email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON: The new US strategy for South and Central Asia sees Pakistan as a useful partner in a new Silk Road that links the two regions, says the State Department.
Briefing journalists on the fourth core group meeting in Islamabad this week, the department’s spokesman Mark Toner made it clear that the US considered Pakistan strategically vital but stressed the need for Islamabad to gel with the regional economy.
The core group represents the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the countries that are expected to play a crucial role in ending the Afghan conflict. The United States sent its special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mark Grossman, to Islamabad for the meeting.
While in Islamabad, Ambassador Grossman met the core group to discuss “the process of Afghan-led reconciliation, as well as regional economic development along the vision of the new Silk Road that Secretary Clinton laid out in Chennai,” Mr Toner said.
During a visit to Chennai last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged India to work with other regional states to revive the Silk Road.
“Historically, the nations of South and Central Asia were connected to each other and the rest of the continent by a sprawling trading network called the Silk Road,” she said.
“Indian merchants used to trade spices, gems, and textiles, along with ideas and culture, everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the banks of the Bosporus. Let’s work together to create a new Silk Road.”
Pakistan links South and Central Asia and there can be no land trade between the two regions without Pakistan’s participation.
The State Department’s spokesman said that Ambassador Grossman had “a very productive set of meetings” in Islamabad on both issues: the Afghan reconciliation process and the revival of the new Silk Road.
Besides attending the core group meetings, Ambassador Grossman also held meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and ISI chief Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha, the State Department said.
“In his meetings, in general, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the shared interest of our two countries, and acting on those interests in a joint way,” the spokesman said.
“We have said all along that we recognise that there are challenges in our relationship with Pakistan, but it’s in our strategic – both country’s strategic interest to work through those challenges and to build a long-term partnership.”
Mr Toner, however, refused to answer questions on drone attacks, saying he would not address that issue at all.
Responding to a question about the next round of the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, which was scheduled in April but has not yet been held, the US official said he had nothing to announce.
The US, however, has continued to engage Pakistani officials on a number of levels.
Initially, it was the arrest of a CIA contractor in Lahore that caused the first delay but the dialogue was postponed indefinitely after the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
By- Ghulam Tahir
Pakistan is a thickly populated area, like wise the population in Gilgit Baltistan is also rising accordingly. Therefore the institutional arrangements for quality education to youth can not meet the demands of the present and future challenges .It is known that Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates also in this region and the situation is even worse in the rural areas especially for the female population. According to 1953 estimates the literacy rate was 53% while it has grown well in recent years especially on the female side in some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan. Since 1965 the successive Governments could not achieve the goal of universal primary education mainly due to a number of factors including rapid population growth and the limited resources being spent on education. Primary education in this country is characterized by low enrolment and high drop-out rates. The number of schools in some rural areas is less while there are sufficient schools in some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan.
There are schools for girls in some areas but in some places parents do not consider girls’ education is important and some times boys are pulled out of the schools. However the girls are more eager to continue with their education, though not always allowed. Despite Government recent efforts to increase the accessibility to basic education by making it free, a huge proportion of children are dropped-out of schools as education is found to be expensive for parents to afford.
Quality of education in terms of physical facilities is not only important in retaining them in educational institutions but also critical in attracting out of school children. Level of physical facilities available at most public and private educational institutions is dismally poor. There is therefore, need to ensure availability of all basic infrastructure and facilities at all educational institutions and levels, particularly at the basic level and provision of more advanced technological facilities like computer ,audio video, toys in addition to a well placed library of books is equally essential.
Keeping in view all these synergies Govt. and the private educational institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan have setout plans and proposals not only to enhance the capacity of the institutions through trained staff but also endeavor to achieve the target of 100% literacy rate and also the adult literacy rate to its optimum level by 2025. Gov. of Pakistan is currently reviewing its long term educational direction through proposals i.e. vision 2025 and vision 2030, supported by a range of policies included in the white paper on National Educational Policy (December 2006). Looking on these National policies, the Education Department Gilgit-Baltistan also decided in 2005 to frame its own education vision and long-term strategy.
The main thrust of this strategy is to improve the quality of education in Gilgit Baltistan and out line the following main objectives:-
Construct a “road map” for the education sector in Gilgit-Baltistan which is responsive to its unique situation encompasses the various strands of education and establishes priorities;
Ensure good articulation with the key elements of national educational policy making it more contexts specific to the requirements of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The policy thus set out may guarantee in raising the quality of education and expanding access to education particularly females. Some of the sub-strategies are briefly discussed below:-
Free and compulsory primary education by 2015. • All out of school children in formal and non-formal education by 2025.
Early childhood education (ECD) classes in every primary school or community by 2025. • Scholarship for all needy families’ to matriculation by 2025.
All schools and colleges upgraded on need basis by 2025.
Special education centers at tehsil level by 2020.
Technical/vocational and polytechnic institutes in each district by 2015.
Establishment of Medical, Engineering, Veterinary, Forest and Agriculture colleges by 2020.
Inter colleges at Tehsil level and Degree colleges in each District by 2015.
Libraries in all schools and ICT centers in all secondary schools by 2025.
This is a proposal in hand and Govt. will give a thoughtful consideration for implementation as early as possible. There should also be some solution to youth unemployablity which is not only frustrating them but pushing them to negative side.
Gilgit Baltistan like other parts of Pakistan has a youthful population .According to a statement half of the population is under the age of 20 and three out of four Pakistani households contain one or more young person of age 10-24 years .According to an estimate 2004 there were 61 million children under the age of 15, another 18 million adolescents between the age of 15-19and 16 million youth aged between 20-24 years, another estimate says there is 70% youth population who are under 35 years age. This demographic situation provides our young people with an extra ordinary opportunity to compete in what ever sphere they chose.
The Govt. and the Civil Society (NGOs) should join their hands for the best utilization of this huge resource for nation building and protecting the emotional and physical health of the youth, their skill based education, provision of recreational facilities, employment and above all incorporation of self confidence, motivation and courage to move forward. The challenges, constraints and opportunities, the young people face, vary from region to region and culture to culture from forced early marriages to increased poverty resulting from adjustment policies from armed conflicts to lack of opportunities. For many bread and butter is problem, for others lack of education or poverty are major constraints in life. But no body denies that the youth, where ever they are, need to be redirected to strive for larger well being and prosperity of their country and the area.
The youth of G.B like any other part of Pakistan face a number of problems among them are unemployment, poverty ,lack of resources and training, required education etc. it is now that the society has changed enormously and the communities in different areas have established their own systems of schooling and higher education institutions privately .The basic task is that of raising a responsible, constructive and healthy, youth who enter their working life with their confidence and enthusiasm .
The crux of all this discussion and deliberation gives an idea “who will bell the cat” means who will address all these issues and challenges. On the main front there is Govt. and on the other side there are civil society institutions and the communities. Among the civil society organizations when we talk about education and training to make the youth of the area educated and trained is the Govt. and the AKDN institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan. Among them the most prominent are AKES, AKRSP, AKCSP working in a holistic way at global, regional and local level .there are some other organizations working at regional and local level, one of them is Rupani Foundation (RF) committed to train unemployed youth in Gem stone cutting and polishing, the other sphere of its contribution is early childhood development (ECD) centers in Gilgit and Ghizer.
Every body knows that God has gifted Gilgit-Baltistan with natural resources like land, water, minerals (Gems and semi precious stones) Forest and Wildlife, Natural landscapes (Biodiversity) etc. It has been mentioned earlier that Govt. according to its budgetary provision is doing its utmost efforts though its projects to serve the people but NGOs are also putting their energies to help boost new sources of income , value added products and employment opportunities for a growing and increasingly literate population especially youth both in the farm and non- farm sectors .AKRSP has changed a medium term out look(2011-2016) to address the challenges and opportunities in the years to come on putting the communities on the development of strategic resources of the area on the public and private sector agenda, including Hydropower ,Responsible tourism ,Agro-processing and Minerals, Horticulture etc. Creating and strengthening public private partnership (PPP) and institutional mechanism to deal with common challenges including social protection of the poor and vulnerable, youth development etc. AKRSP has also designed a proposal in “Enhancing Employability and Leadership for Youth” (EELY) program will seek to address the commonly expressed concern by youth under two major sub-themes: Employability and Leadership. According to the forgoing discussion the conclusion could be, “how to educate youth and how their employability can be ensured”.
Basic education is must for all. Students (high flyers) who are financially sound can opt for higher and advanced education but the students who can not further continue their education should be given technical training in different fields of their choice and put to earn their live hood and prepare for their off- springs to give good education and make the country a prosper.
Some of the fields where training can be imparted and employment opportunities can be created could be as under:-
Land i.e. barren land to be linked with water channels.
Water: Irrigation, Hydropower.
Minerals: Gems, Semi Precious stones (Cutting and Polishing).
Agriculture: on-farm and of-farm, Horticulture etc.
Live stock and Fisheries.
Poultry and Bee Keeping.
Timber: Furniture, Wood Industry, cottages industries etc.
Business: Handicrafts, basket weaving, cloth weaving, off season vegetables, thread-net products, Rugs and Carpets.
There is a huge stock of raw material in crude form in Gilgit-Baltistan. The only task is to produce value added items and put to sale on a higher price .The available HR is required to be put to work and earn for their own and for the country.
Institutions like Rupani Foundation have already opened training centers in G.B besides early childhood development centers (ECD) for the specialized education of prenatal and 0-3 year’s babies along with their mother, grand mothers and grand fathers. Education Foundation (EF) Gilgit-Baltistan has also been established with its core and District level committees to co-ordinate with Govt. and civil society organization for the promotion and improvement of education activities in Gilgit-Baltistan. Education Foundation Gilgit-Baltistan will have close linkages and collaborative work to remove hurdles in the society to boost technical education to create skillful and technically sound standards to support the area not only in reducing the unemployability but also to cope with energy crisis and communication skills.