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:GB Development Authority Bill Passed

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Gilgit(ET): Following a unanimous vote in its favour, the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) enacted the G-B Development Authority Bill on Friday. The bill, prepared by G-B Law Minister Wazir Baig and refined by a parliamentary committee, will serve as the watchdog for development in the mountain region.

During the session, G-B Senior Minister Muhammad Jaffar said the posts for three newly carved divisions would be created in the upcoming budget.

The health minister, Haji Gulbar Khan, criticised the ban on recruitment in hospitals, saying that it has created staff shortage and the vacant posts should be filled on an immediate basis.

Replying to Khan, the law minister said it is expected that the federal government will lift the ban after the budget is announced.

The speaker also inquired about the 10,000 posts sought from the federal government for various departments and asked the law minister to initiate the process of recruitment in this regard.

Sarwar Shah, a lawmaker of JUI-F from Diamer Valley, pointed out that Darel and Tangeer valleys had not received their quota of 22,000 wheat bags so far.

However, Jaffar, who is also the minister for food, said the delay was caused due to the law and order situation in the region followed by a strike by transporters. He assured that the commodity would be delivered on an immediate basis.

The chief minister was also urged to regularise the jobs of lecturers appointed on contract basis during the session.

No regrets

Meanwhile, a legislator barred from entering the assembly said he would resort to his voters instead of seeking an apology or any other legal course against the decision.

“The people voted me to power by rejecting the bribe offered to them in the shape of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and Watan cards,” said Nawaz Khan Naji, a nationalist leader during a press conference.

Naji was barred from entering the assembly for tearing apart a copy of resolution supporting Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

His act led to a ruckus in the house and ended up with the speaker calling in the police for his arrest.

Naji said he had just torn a piece of paper, while on the other hand the treasury benches had hurled abuse at him.

“Action should have been taken against them, not me,” he remarked, adding that the treasury benches were trying unnecessarily to bail out Gilani, who had been convicted by Pakistan’s highest judiciary.

He further said that the G-B governor and chief minister were looting public money in the name of protocol and the empowerment order. “Not a single development project has been completed in the region for the past two years.”

Gilgit-Baltistan: Share of Federating Units in Divisible Pool

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ISLAMABAD (News): The four federating units will get the major share of 70 percent in the net divisible pool, leaving only 30 percent for the federal government, according to a presentation prepared by the ministry of finance on strategy for the Budget 2012/13.

The provinces will have additional transfer of Rs800 billion from centre under the 7th National Finance Commission Award, it said.

Of the 30 percent revenue receipts from the divisible pool, the central government will fund the defence sector along with going for debt servicing, spending in pay and pension, sharing in the public sector development programme and extending the subsidies in energy, food sector and giving bailout packages to the public sector entities.

Mentioning about the initiatives taken in the last four years, the presentation says that the government has extended Rs1.122 trillion as subsidy to the power sector, Rs104 billion to the petroleum sector, Rs110 billion to fertiliser and Rs137 billion to food. In the period under review, massive resources have been provided to less developed areas such as Rs120 billion to FATA, AJK Rs72 billion and Gilgit-Baltistan Rs52 billion.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Uniform Distribution by WWF in Gilgit

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Gilgit (Dard.Times): WF-Pakistan under its Pakistan wetlands programme-Northern Alpine Wetlands Complex delivered 22 sets of uniform to the field staff of Gilgit-Baltistan Wildlife Department in a ceremony held in Gilgit Conservation Information Centre, on May 10, 2012.  The purpose of providing uniform to the field staff was to encourage dedicated personnel of the department who render their services to protect wildlife resources in their respective regions.

The Secretary Forest, Wildlife and Environment Gilgit-Baltistan, Mr.Khadim Hussain Saleem, who attended the ceremony as Chief Guest, applauded the initiative and remarked that the uniformed personnel in the department could deliver their duties more efficiently. He added that, in addition to sustainable resource use initiatives like trophy hunting efforts should also be channelled to build capacity of local communities to withstand the climate induced hazards and disasters.

Mr. Babar Khan Head WWF-P, Gilgit-Baltistan spoke about the longstanding partnership between GB wildlife department and WWF Pakistan for nature conservation in the region, and “provision of uniform and other necessary equipment to the department’s staff is another step towards mutual collaboration”, he added.

Mr.Muhammad Ismail Zafar Conservator Forest, Gilgit during his speech explained mutual collaboration between WWF-P and Gilgit-Baltsitan Forest Wildlife and Environment department since early 1990s and he admired the WWF-P’s interventions for conservation of protected area in the region and hoped for better future cooperation.

Mr.walayat Noor, Conservator, Wildlife and Parks, Gilgit-Baltistan also attended the ceremony and shared his views about the event. He emphasized on developing management plans for Qurumbar and Hunderab-Shandoor National Parks, in addition to taking necessary steps on implementation of the management plans of Deosai National Park. He also suggested taking some steps to add Nangaparbat area under the net of protected areas in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The event was also attended by other senior officials of GB Forest and Wildlife Department including the Deputy Secretary, DFO Wildlife and others.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Funds Allocated for DBD and KKH Expansion

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ISLAMABAD (News): The federal government, in its upcoming financial year 2012-13, will spend Rs55.52 billion on two major infrastructure projects including Diamer-Basha dam and Neelum-Jhelum power project, while on improvement of Karakoram Highway (KKH) about Rs3.8 billion will be expended.

According to the working paper of Public Sector Development Program 2012-13, out of this, Rs28.3 billion will be spend on land acquisition and construction work of Diamer-Basha dam which is the largest project ever executed in the country’s history; and will store 8.1 million acre feet (MAF) water and generate 4,500 megawatt (MW) of low-cost hydel electricity on its completion.

In addition to providing water for agriculture, the project will also contribute 18 billion units of electricity per annum to the national grid.

According to the official document, for completion of Mangla Raising Project and impound water during the next rainy season Rs6 billion and Rs6.84 billion Golan Gol Hydropower Project in Chitral has been earmarked, the working paper said.

Under Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), Rs2.069 has been earmarked for Allai Khawar hydro project in KP, Dubir Khawar Hydropower project KP Rs3.943 billion, Bunji Hydropower project Rs150 million, Keyal Khawar power project Rs544 million and for rehabilitation of Jaban hydro electric power station Rs1.155 million has been proposed.


Gilgit-Baltistan:PTI Demands Release of Political Activist

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Karachi (News): Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Secretary General Dr Arif Alvi has pledged support for the demand for the release of Baba Jan Hunzai and his fellow activists of the Labor Party Pakistan who had been languishing in jail for months.

During a meeting with the Labour Party leader Farooq Tariq, Dr Alvi condemned the alleged torture of the arrested, saying that the treatment meted out to the political activists was a clear violation of fundamental human rights.

He said the alleged torture of Baba Jan Hunzai was in complete contradiction with the PPP government’s claim that there were no political prisoners in the country. The PPP had continually mistreated political activists including the people of Gilgit-Baltistan who had been struggling for their political and economic rights, he added. Dr Alvi expressed support for the petition demanding the immediate release of the political activists.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB As a Secular State

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Karachi (ET): A legislator and nationalist leader has proposed that Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) should be made a secular and independent state.

Chief of his own faction of Balawaristan National Front (BNF), Nawaz Khan Naji, stated this while addressing a gathering of young party members of BNF in Rawalpindi on Sunday, said a press release issued by the organisers.

Naji said that injustice, nepotism, corruption and interference of clerics in the administrative affairs of G-B are responsible for the sectarian unrest prevalent in the province.

“Whether it is G-B’s judiciary, bureaucracy, government or the civil society, they are all divided on a sectarian basis,” said Naji, who is also a member of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

He said the G-B government is not sincere in maintaining its writ and the entire society is being held hostage by a handful of religious clerics.

“We can only get rid of this menace if we have a secular state without the role of the so-called mullahs,” he added. He called on the society to challenge the rights of clerics in the affairs of the state.

Naji dispelled the impression that a ‘foreign hand’ is behind the sectarian strife in G-B, and instead attributed it to the government’s failure in handling the situation.

“When our own house is not in order, our people start blaming their lapses on foreign forces,” he remarked.

“There is an eminent need of a war, not one of weapons and bullets, but one of ideas and sincere struggles to establish a peaceful secular state,” the chairman added.

Naji claimed that corruption is so rampant in the regional government that the government itself has to bribe its officials to get official bills released.