jammu and kashmir

Gilgit-Baltistan:Progress on Projects of GB Reviewed

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ISLAMABAD (D.Times): A high-level meeting under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was informed here on Wednesday that connectivity of Skardu and Gilgit with the national grid would be completed with an estimated foreign funding of $100 million from the French Agency for Development.

Some 108 projects in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) with 137 megawatts (MW) generation capacity would be completed by 2016 with an estimated cost of Rs 137 billion.

Meeting was held at the PM’s House to review the progress on hydel power projects in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and GB with a view to accelerate the process of the completion of projects to meet the energy requirements of the people.

Gilani directed that the action plan should be implemented by the relevant ministries adding that the projects below the capacity of 50 MW should be completed on top priority basis.

Gilani directed the Ministry of Water and Power secretary to get Skardu and Gilgit connected with the national grid, which would smoothen the supply of electricity to a great deal.

Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) Chairman Shakil Durrani apprised the meeting that the connectivity of Skardu and Gilgit with the national grid would be completed with an estimated foreign funding of $100 million from the French Agency for Development.

GB chief secretary said that there were 108 projects in GB with 137 MW generation capacity and they would be completed by 2016 with an estimated cost of Rs 137 billion. The Kashmir Affairs and GB Secretary stated during his presentation that there were seven ongoing projects in AJK, which would produce 11 MW of electricity and the projects would be completed by the end of this year.

He further said that the federal Public Sector Development Programme included three projects of hydel power generation which would be completed with an estimated cost of Rs 9.9 billion by 2016 and produce 55 MW of power.

The secretary further pointed out that the private sector has taken up two power projects, at Bong, Mirpur and Pathrand, Muzaffarabad, which would produce 231 MW of electricity.

He further pointed out that there was a very encouraging response from the investors on seven projects and the government was proactively undertaking the projects at the earliest.

Earlier, in his opening statement, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and GB Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo congratulated the prime minister and his leadership on the unanimous passage of the 20th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2012, which would have positive effects on the democratic dispensation of the country. The unanimous enactment of the amendment had indeed raised the status of the politicians in the real sense, he said.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Water and Power Naveed Qamar, minister for Kashmir Affairs and GB, GB Chief Minister Mehdi Shah, Ministry of Water and Power secretary, EAD secretary, Kashmir Affairs and GB secretary, GB chief secretary, WAPDA chairman and other senior officials were also present in the meeting.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB An Unconstitutional Province

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By Ejaz Karim

The federation of Pakistan comprises of four provinces and four non-provincial units, namely FATA, Northern areas now Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Islamabad capital territory. The people of GB have been living in a constitutional vacuum for over 64 years; they are neither given representation in the parliament nor a constitutional mandate to the local assembly.

On August 2009, an ad-hoc ordinance was introduced by The Government of Pakistan-named Gilgit-Baltistan empowerment and self-governance order. Pakistan People Party called it a democratic change in Gilgit-Baltistan-I accept that names have been changed: Executive to Governor and Deputy Executive to Chief Minister, Northern Areas to Gilgit-Baltistan, we can’t complain much about that- no doubt Ministers are increased but budget is same.

It was matter of celebration for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan that they are going to have their own Governor and Chief Minister, and the status of so called province. Nothing has been changed at the gross root level, no status of province, no representation either in parliament or senate. We are neither given any administrative setup like Azad Jammu and Kashmir nor facilities which other provinces enjoy. This suspious arrangement on the other hand, increases the prevailing confusion of the local people in order to explain the future status of the area and arises numerous questions: Will a citizen of GB able to be a Chief justice in courts of Pakistan including Supreme Court? Will a citizen of GB able to be chief in Pakistan military forces? Will it be written in syllabus that Pakistan has five provinces? Etc. Three years on- but all the promise seems not more than a betrayal for the people of GB and merely an opportunity of point scoring for Pakistan peoples party. While the area neither get part of NFC award nor separate quota in competitive examinations and seats in various Universities of Pakistan.

Since 1947 the constitutional and administrative status and fundamental human and political rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been discussed between Governments of Pakistan and India. The constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973 of- Pakistan don’t recognize Gilgit-Baltistan as part of Pakistan, It is clearly explained that GB is not part of Pakistan in term of article-1 of the constitution of Pakistan, which spell out territorial limits of the country. But democratic and military dictators introduced various governing reforms in the area under different names in order to align it with the emerging economics and political needs of the country.

Now, it’s the indeed require to clear the stance over GB for both countries- Pakistan and India and give maximum autonomy to the region. Pakistan must change the bureaucratic Government in GB and empower the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) and make its institutional capacity strengthen to work for the people rather than for the bureaucrats and politicians.

The contributor can be reached at k4karimformanite@gmail.com

Gilgit-Baltistan: Foreign Funding to Seminaries

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ISLAMABAD (Dawn): Religious institutions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa collected Rs30.46 million from foreign countries/institutions during the last five years, the interior ministry said in a report submitted to the National Assembly on Monday.

Some heads of institutions in Sindh also visited foreign countries and collected funds. On the other hand, the government of Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Islamabad capital territory administration claimed that religious seminaries in their jurisdictions were not getting any foreign funding.

Replying to a question of MNA Qudsia Arshad regarding foreign funding to religious seminaries, the home department of Sindh added that as per report of the police special branch, some heads of institutions visited Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE to collect funds but detail of the funding could not be collected.

The government of KP stated that it had no mechanism to ascertain the details of financial assistance provided by foreign countries to the religious seminaries because there was no restriction on the madresshahs to receive financial assistance from abroad. However, according to the special branch of the police, Madressah Taleemul Quran in Summer Bagh of Dir Lower received Rs10 million from Al Furgan, an NGO of Kuwait. The same NGO also paid Rs8 million, Rs3 million and Rs8 million to Madressah Arf bin Malik in Upper Dir and Madressah Umul Quran and Madressah Al Furqan in Dir Lower.

An institute of Norway gave Rs1.46 million to Madressah Arabia Taleemul Islam, Madressah Abu Bakr Siddiq, Madressah Islamia of Tank, and Madressah Mariful Islamin Bhatyara of KP. The government of Gilgit-Baltistan sent a nil report in respect of their districts of Ghizer and Hunza-Nagar but report about the remaining five districts was awaited.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Green Tourism in GB

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By Asif Hussain

The Gilgit-Baltistan region is situated in the extreme north of Pakistan between longitude 72-75 in the North and 35-37, latitude in the East. It joins Xingjiang province of China in the north, Afghanistan and the Chitral District in the northwest with Tajikistan (Central Asia close behind). In the southeast side there is a cease-fire line of more than 300 kms with Indian held territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In the east, Kohistan and Mansehra Districts.

The three great mountainous ranges of Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindukush surround it. There are more than 19 mountain peaks exceeding 7,600 meters, including the K-2 the second highest peak and the Nanga parbat the third largest one of the world with 40 famous glaciers. Indus is the main river, which originates from Mansroor Lake in the Karakuram ranges of Tibetan belt. The area is full of natural endowment and is featured with a spectacular panorama with fast flowing rivers, twisting turbulent streams, eye catching meadows and high pastures, lush green forest pockets, Crystal blue lakes, lofty barren mountains with snow covered peaks. The Federally Administered GILGIT BALTISTAN scattered over an area of 72496 sq. kms. Surrounded by three famous mountain ranges of Karakoram, Hamalaya and the Hindokush represent a unique geographical location in the world. The profile of the available geographical data is as under:

 

Tourism is world widely changing rapidly as nature, heritage, and recreational destinations become more important because of new emerging risks for tourism development. Conventional tourism is forced to meet tougher environmental requirements. This scenario has become a challenge to GILGIT BALTISTAN Governments and private enterprises to develop new approaches to the tourism market. It is confronted with many risks like Security, law and order issues, terrorism, war fears, crime, political instability, health risks, environmental disaster and catastrophe etc.

The tourism in Pakistan has grown, as the 9th largest business whereas it has emerged as a 5th largest business in the province according to a Private Sector Profile prepared by GILGIT BALTISTAN Strategy for Sustainable Development. The share of revenue in the sector is 8% and the profit ratio is 19%, while the investment is 10%, which is considered to be inadequate. According to the results of the said sample survey, this sector has a contribution of approx. 2% in overall employment generation in the region.

The tourist flow in the region is mostly from Japan, Germany, Korea, British, France, Dutch, Span, Italy, New-Zealand, , Australia, USA, Canada, Austria, Poland and Belgium etc. What they need to see in this part of the country is the unique natural endowment, world famous mountains and peaks, cultural diversities, flora and fauna etc. The expectation of tourist’s is the recreation at cheaper rates-easy excess and communication facilities, pollution free environment, security and minimum health hazards. They are justified in their demands because they pay for it that leads to develop small and medium enterprises, job opportunities and contribute to the economic development of the region.

The present Government is very much keen to promote tourism in GILGIT BALTISTAN because of the fact that it is the lifeblood in the economic development of the region. Some of the important and appreciable steps taken by the GILGIT BALTISTAN Administration include establishment of Tourism Development Board, giving status of industry to tourism and the first ever Tourism Policy prepared but unfortunately it stands nowhere at the hands of high-ups.

The survival of Tourism industry according to global competitiveness is mainly depending on the three principles-customers voice for satisfaction, profitability and sustainability. There must be new applications and practices to promote Tourism to compete with the world market. These practices may include summer camps, corporate training, incentive tours, study tours and events. All these require you to learn new skills because the only constant in life is a change. This change is needed in accessibility, Political stability, Safety measures, Value for money destination, Friendly people, Creativity, Destination management, Language ability, good services, dependability and reliability.

Malaysia now a day is called true Asia for introducing Green Tourism in the country because they have shifted from the idea of rest and relaxation to more security / health oriented and quality of life experiences including active and sport-oriented trips. Identically Germans prefer hiking, mountaineering and climbing while French are partial to water sports, hiking and cycling etc. Competence building of GILGIT BALTISTAN Tourism Development Board in events management should be given top priority for arranging seasonal events for attracting domestic and international tourists. Knowledge like wealth need to be widely and evenly distributed if people are to keep the independence required for human dignity, and the “haves” prevented from taking advantage of the ‘have-nots”.

Thus People must be able to enjoy and learn natural, historical and cultural characteristics of unique environment while preserving the integrity to those sites and stimulating the economic development opportunities in local communities. Therefore green tourism envisages on (1) effectively promoting the preservation of entire local eco-systems.(2) Be economically viable in order to attract financing and be sustainable.(3) Be well planned, financed, managed and marketed in order to meet the stringent environmental and recreational demands of a true eco-tourism development. It encompasses on the introduction of nature games, outdoor skill like mountaineering, camping and rock climbing, Risk Management, Business management skill, marketing leadership, branding, teamwork and communication. Experts say “ Sustain tourism but not at the expense of economic balance but balance it not at the expense of tourism”. The event management practices should be given top priorities because it brings large number of people together with economic benefits for many people.

It is very unfortunate to say that Peace and religious harmony has been a big issue for the last 25 years and has emerged a great hindrance in tourism promotion in GB. According to a press statement appeared in the local newspapers, the Governor GB has shown great concern over it and alarmed it to be a catastrophe if not checked and resolved immediately. There is no doubt about it and he has rightly analyzed the critical situation in this part of the country. Probably the GB administration would develope a plan to address this serious issue that may need political, moral and legal support requiring further powers from the Federal Government. It may be pertinent to say that peace an religious harmony cannot come outside, yet sincere efforts and laws need to be implemented with community mobilization. The solution to the problem is available in the Gilgit Baltistan empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009 and Local Government Order 1979 (amended 1996).

A Task Force consisting of MLAs, Local Councils, intellectuals, and GB Administration need to be constituted for this purpose. This Task Force should be facilitated to raise awareness in the communities in the whole province besides consultative meetings with various religious leaders and communities. The outcome resultantly would be in the form of recommendations for implementation. No matter it will take some time but would certainly lead to Sustainable peace and religious harmony in the region.

Thanks to the President of Pakistan Mr. Asif Ali Zardari and the present people’s government for paying due attention to the region granting provincial status is another hallmark in the history of Pakistan. Although the Tourism sector has totally been shifted to the provinces under 18th amendment, yet because of limited fiscal budget, the people of GB are looking for further intervention by the Federal Government in financing and boosting up of tourism sector mobilizing possible available resources.

Green Tourism in GB is essential for survival; it is spawned by faith, sustained by hope, and strengthened by enthusiasm. It is greater than sight, deeper than a dream, broader than an idea. Vision encompasses vast vistas outside the realm of predictable, the safe, the expected. No wonder we parish without it.

The writer is Chairman Pakistan Red Crescent Society Gilgit Baltistan Province.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Powerful National Commission on the Status of Women Formed

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ISLAMABAD (Dawn): In a most significant pro-women move in nearly four years of its life, the National Assembly unanimously passed on Thursday a government bill to create a powerful National Commission on the Status of Women as the fruit of years of efforts of a women’s caucus, overcoming some last-minute hitches that held it up for a day.

The vote came after the adoption of 22 consensus amendments agreed between the treasury and opposition benches following overnight consultations, just before the house was prorogued after an eight-day session.

With a woman of more than 15 years’ experience in working on women’s rights and “committed to the cause of women’s empowerment” as its chairperson, the commission will have two members — at least one of them being a woman — from each province, one woman member each from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, the Islamabad Capital Territory, and minorities, five ex-officio but non-voting members representing ministries of law, finance, foreign affairs, interior and the ministry concerned with women’s rights of not below BPS-20, and chairperson or a designated member of each provincial commission on women’s rights set up under provincial laws. A member must be at least 30 years of age, having experience on women’s rights for more than five years and “committed to the cause of women’s empowerment”.

The bill said chairperson and members, including ex-officio, would be appointed by the prime minister from among names recommended by the parliamentary committee from a list agreed with the leader of opposition in the National Assembly containing three names for each post – or separate lists to be sent by the two in case of difference between them.

The parliamentary committee of up to 12 members will be constituted by the National Assembly speaker with 50 per cent representation each for the treasury and opposition benches based on the strength of parties to be nominated by their respective parliamentary leaders, one-third of them being from the Senate.

FUNCTIONS: A long list of functions of the commission include examining the federal government’s policy and programmes for gender equality, women’s empowerment, political participation, representation, assessing their implementation and making suitable recommendations, reviewing all laws, rules and regulations affecting the status and rights of women and suggesting repeal, amendment or new legislation to eliminate discrimination, safeguarding and promoting the interest of women and achieving gender equality.

Other functions include sponsoring research, maintaining a database on gender issues, interacting with non-governmental organisations, mobilising grants from domestic and international agencies approved by the government, recommending signing or ratification of international instruments, inquiring complaints of violations of women’s rights, and inspecting jails.

Gilgit-Baltistan: US State Department Posts New Maps of India and Pakistan

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WASHINGTON: The US State Department says it erred in its depiction of disputed Kashmir in maps on its website and after six weeks has posted revised ones (http://www.state.gov/p/sca/ci/pk/).

Spokeswoman expressed relief  on Wednesday the new maps of India and Pakistan were now online and complied with US cartographical policy.

The new maps have a dashed line for the 1972 Line of Control that divides Kashmir. Nuland said that reflected its unresolved status.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the Himalayan territory, and each claim the portion that the other controls.

Indian journalists have repeatedly raised the map issue since complaints emerged in late November.

India objected that all of Jammu and Kashmir was not shown as part of India. Pakistan also complained.

The previous controversial maps, which showed parts of Jammu and Kashmir as part of Pakistan, was removed by the State Department in November after India’s strong objection.

India maintains that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country.

“I’m thrilled and relieved to tell you that we have now put the revised maps up on our website,” she said.

“What you will see when you look at these maps is that they reflect the fact that the United States takes no position on the dispute and urges all the parties to seek a peaceful resolution to resolving the claims,” she said.

“What you’ll see on the maps is consistent with what the US geographic position has been consistently: that there is a dashed line representing the 1972 Line of Control, reflecting Kashmir’s unresolved status,” Nuland said.

“We neglected to actually label that dotted line in the last round of maps. It has now been labeled. The maps also add our standard disclaimer with regard to Kashmir that says that names and boundary representations are not necessarily authoritative. As I said, that reflects the fact that this is in dispute and the US takes no position on the dispute,” she said.