Voice of the Mountain People

Archive for November, 2009

International Day for Eradication of Violence against Women celebrated in GB

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 25, 2009

By Our Correspondent

GILGIT, Nov 24: International Day for the Eradication of Violence against Women was celebrated in Gilgit Press Club in collaboration with various civil society organizations. Banners inscribed with demand for ending violence against women were displayed and speakers belonging to various civil society organisations, trade unions, market committees and boy scouts stressed upon the need to initiate a mass awareness program for eradication of violence against women.

Assistant Commissioner Gilgit, Momin Jan urged upon the civil society organisations to take steps for the Eradication of violence against women. He said violence against women can be significantly reduced by Education, Forums and Seminar and urged upon the Print and Electronic media to play their role in community awareness campaign on the issue of domestic violence.

The celebration concluded with a candlelit vigil outside Gilgit Press Club to show men’s pledge to end violence against women. NGOs, Media, Bar Councils, Police, Local Administration, Students and Teachers, Trade Unions and Market committees, and Boys Scouts participated in this event.

The day was being celebrated to mark the White Ribbon Day in Pakistan since 2006.

The celebration was jointly organised by Publishing Extension Network (PEN), Himalayan Grassroots Women’s Natural Resource Management Association (HIMAQANTI) Aga Walidain Informed Parents and Rupani Foundation.

Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan, Society | 1 Comment »

President calls upon PPP winning candidates to ‘rise to expectations of people,

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 23, 2009

By Our Reporter

Islamabad, November 23: President Asif Ali Zardari while felicitating the PPP winning candidates in Gilgit-Baltistan elections has urged them to rise to the expectations of the people of the area as they have reposed great confidence in the PPP. The President was talking to a delegation of PPP winning candidates in the Gilgit-Baltistan’s elections that called on him in the Presidency on Monday night. He said the Pakistan Peoples Party working on policy of reconciliation would take along all the political forces in Gilgit-Baltistan also.

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari meeting the delegation of PPP winning candidates in President House.

The President said the jubilant victory of the party in the elections had convincingly demonstrated that the PPP was a potent political force. “The people of Gilgit-Baltistan belied the inimical propaganda of adversaries, who claimed that the party had lost public support” he added.  He said the people of Gilgit-Baltistan had made great sacrifices for democracy and democratic struggle led by the PPP. He praised the sacrifices offered by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan on October 19, and December 27, 2007 and said they have always stood by the party in hard times. He said the party will never forget the manner in which the party workers of Gilgit-Baltistan had suffered during the dictatorship.

The President said that the government was working on various projects for poverty alleviation in Gilgit-Baltistan. He said the government was keen to exploit the economic potential of Gilgit-Baltistan with particular focus on the tourism industry for the prosperity of the poor people of the region.

He said there was great potential for power projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and assured the delegation that the government had drawn plans to harness this potential.

The delegation assured that they after forming the government would work earnestly for the welfare and uplift of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. They also expressed complete confidence in the leadership of the party.

The delegation led by the party President Gilgit-Baltistan  Syed Mehdi Shah included Aftab Haider Advocate, Muhammad Ali Akhter, Wazir Baig, Sheikh Nisar Hussain, Shakil Ahmad, Wazir Hassan, Syed Muhammad Ali Shah Rizvi, Hamid Khan, Muhammad Naseer, Ali Madad Sher, Muhammad Jaffer, Muhammad Ismail Engineer and Ayub Shah.  Governor Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira, Minister for Labour, Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, Ms. Rukhsana Bangash, MNA, Ms Fouzia Habib, MNA and Spokesperson to the President former Senator Farhatullah Babar were also present.

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GB again declared as part of Kashmir?

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 23, 2009

By Ali Ashraf Khan
The handling of the Gilgit-Baltistan election which came as a result of the much trumpeted Gilgit and Baltistan autonomy package announced on 29 August 2009, the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, was passed by the Pakistani cabinet and later signed by the President. It gave self-rule to the people of the former Northern Areas, now renamed “Gilgit-Baltistan,” by creating, among other things, an elected legislative assembly, a Chief Minister, an acting Governor. This made the local population jubilant, while the PPP aim was to justify their victory. The Prime Minister further went on to say: “You are getting your identity today. It is your right and has been your demand, and today we are fulfilling it.”
Gilgit-Baltistan before known as this northern area of Pakistan is a self-liberated area which before 1936 was ruled by the Dogra Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir who then leased this area to British. When the partition plan of India approved by British parliament and the King was implemented Lord Mountbatten the new Governor General on 15th August 1947 returned this territory back to Dogra ruler, who appointed Brigadier Ghansara Sing as his Governor in Gilgit with the connivance of Col Beacon Methewson and Major Brown. The people of this strategically important region revolted against the autocratic Dogra ruler and carved out a “Republic of Gilgit”, on Nov 1, 1947. When Col. Hassan Khan and Capt Babar had captured the Gilgit Residency in which the Governor was killed, the warriors in Baltistan had by then taken full control over all the strategic passes on Kargil-Laddakh sector to cut the only Indian communication link with Kargil & Laddakh district till the time Pakistani army under command of Major General Jillani took over and advanced further deep into the Muslim area of Kargil. In 1951 Paddam Parri, Zojilla Pass and other areas were vacated by Pakistan Army on the coming into force of UN Ceasefire Resolutions on Kashmir, which were passed on the assurance of Pundit Nehru to withdraw troops and hold plebiscite in Kashmir. The local people of Gilgit & Baltistan have always contrary to this view that Northren Area is a disputed territory considered themselves a part of Pakistan as a result of Karachi Pact of 1951, not only the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, but also the international institutions such as the UN, EU, etc., have always upheld that the rule of Maharaja Harisingh over Gilgit & Baltistan as a colonial occupation had ended with the success of ‘Jang-i-Azadi Gilgit-Baltistan’ on November 1, 1947, when the last governor of the state of Kashmir Brigadier Ghansara Singh and his associates were killed in the war between Gilgit Scouts and Dogra forces.
This had ended the century long Kashmiri rule over the Gilgit-Baltistan region with hundreds of refugees from Kargil were repariated to Skardu as IDP’s, who have multiplied in number and are living in sub-human conditions in Rawal pindi, Lahore nd Karachi, the were given representation in AJK Legislative Council in K. H. Khurshid government in 60’s but have now been ignored in this empowerment plan. Then, a new independent state called ‘Islamic Republic of Gilgit’ was established with Shah Raees Khan as its President and after 14 days of its existence it had affiliated itself with Pakistan, which was given legal cover in 1951 under Karachi pact to merge with Pakistan as a separate entity, independent of Kashmir.
This should have settled the fate of this territory whose people had fought and died for the sake of joining Pakistan but given the situation that the Kashmir question was negotiated before the UNSC on the request of India Pakistan later on was hesitant to incorporate Gilgit & Baltistan fully into Pakistan to give constitutional rights to its population. In 1974 Z.A. Bhutto had been persuaded to cease this injustice to those people and to give Northern Areas the status of a province of Pakistan. He even had arrived in Gilgit with his entourage in order to announce this good news to the people, but then in the last moment he bogged down to the Foreign Office advise, which was afraid that such a step could endanger the status of the Kashmir dispute and again, the people were left in the lurch. The so-called autonomy package of 2009 did not change this situation any better except to distract public attention to win votes for PPP.
That is why PPP coalition partners in Pakistan have alleged massive rigging in these elections and called it “old wine in new bottles”. Now when elections are over let us not keep the people hostage to this 62-year-old idea it is high time now to give credit to ground realties and do justice to the region and the people. For the information of our Prime Minister and his government the people of Gilgit and Baltistan are not Kashmiris; they are a colourful mixture of many tribes and ethnicities speaking languages as different as Burushaski, Shina, Balti, Wakhi, Pashto and different dialects. They have ethnic relations to China, Ladakh, Tadshikistan, Afghanistan; others have lost their affiliations with their places of origin from where they had come along the silk route centuries ago. There is no reason why they should not be made a full part of Pakistan if they wish so. But that is a decision that would need a strong and democratically minded government in Islamabad, something which we definitely lack.
Nevertheless, after 62 years of a rather colonial attitude of Pakistan towards the people of Gilgit and Baltistan who were denied socio-economic development, roads, schools, health care and political rights by the country of their choice they still opted to take whatever little the Gilani package was offering to them and they enthusiastically participated in the election. This time also the political parties of Pakistan did not spare any effort during the election campaign to make their influence felt. One asks the question, what is actually the legal basis for Pakistani parties operating in a territory which does not officially belong to Pakistan? People here are already facing hard time under below freezing temperature that recently given PPP Empowerment and self governance carpet was quickly rolled back when Prime Minister Gillani loudly announced on the floor of National Assembly in response to MQM’s rightful protest on rigging in Gilgit Baltistan elections that this area is a part of Kashmir. Whatsoever will be the future out come of such a U-Turn, when PPP has engineered majority to form its government by publicly announcing a new development package to win votes, which is an act of breaking all rules of conduct in holding free and fair elections and which as a consequence has rendered the whole exercise questionable well before the first vote was cast. The rigging did not stop at that; it went on in all the constituencies were more-loyal-than-the king bureaucrats were stuffing polling boxes.
The electoral rolls were manipulated until the last moment and new names added for whom votes could be given and stuffed into the boxes. Since the day of the elections the people of Gilgit and Skardu are up in arms and the Pakistani parties who had been campaigning very hard and invested a lot of money are shouting ‘foul’. But actually this state of affairs should not surprise anybody; this is what is expected. The PPP is famous for rigging elections and its founding father Z.A. Bhutto lost his government because of rigging 1977 elections to muster three fourth majority to amend constitution into presidential form. Now the party under the leadership of his son-in-law is facing a similar situation with a status-quo cabinet. One wished the consequences would not follow suit in the same way as in 1977 to derail democracy as of now it looks that the War of Terror is being shifted into Pakistan under a changed geo-political environment due to short falls of our foreign policy during last decade. National unity is the only need of the hour, we need strongly committed sincere and honest leadership to steer the nation out of this Morass instead of stretching individual party power base and celebrating election victory.- source Pakistan Observer

Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Mehdi for promotion of peace, education and health

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 22, 2009

GT Report

Islamabad, Nov 22: President  PPP Gilgit-Baltistan chapter and a for-runner for the position of the first ever Chief Minister of the region Sayed Mehdi Shah has said promotion of peace, education, and health and poverty alleviation would be priorities of his government and vowed to utilize all its energies for the betterment of the area and its people.

“I am determined to take steps for promotion of mining sector, create investment friendly atmosphere and eradicate poverty from the area so that people could live a prosperous and decent life,” state owned news agency APP quoted him as saying.

He said his party has won the election on the basis of its performance and services delivered by the party leadership including the introduction of Self-governance Order-2009, and economic package for the welfare of the people.

“PPP had also won eight seats in 2004 elections and PML-Q secured only five seats and PPP was not allowed to form a government and PML-Q which was in power at the federal level formed its government in GB with minority seats” he said.

He said prior to the elections, he toured seven districts as President of the PPP where the people warmly welcomed him and added PPP has won 12 seats and enjoys majority with a position to form its government in the GB. “However, PPP would take along its partners and other political parties for the promotion of peace, harmony and development in the area” he added.

Responding to a query he said the elections were held in a free, fair and transparent manner and rigging charges are baseless. He said people of the area could be better served through investment in social and infrastructure sectors with ultimate purpose of creating job opportunities and raising their living standard.

He accused the MQM for creating law and order situation in his constituency during the polling process.

He said efforts would also be made for the promotion of tourism sector and in this regard he particularly mentioned announcement made by Prime Minister for awarding international standard to airports at Gilgit and Skardu. “The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly is likely to hold its first session after Eid ul Azha to complete the entire process including election of Chief Minister, Speaker and Deputy Speaker” he added.

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100 more licenses to be issued for ‘exploration’ of minerals in GB

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 22, 2009

Gilgit, November 22: The Tourism and Mineral Department of Gilgit-Baltistan will issue more than 100 licenses to local and foreign firms for exploration of precious minerals in the region while 70 licenses have so far been issued to various national and international firms, the state owned news agency, Secretary Tourism and Minerals Department, Naib Khan has said while talking to a news agency.

He said that gemstones of Rs. 500 million values are extracted annually from Gilgit-Baltistan and more measures were being adopted to explore other precious minerals.

“It has been confirmed that nearly all valleys in GB are shedding gold and base metals but the need is investment to explore them in order to change fate of the area” he added.

He said the area is also rich with white color Marble and the deposits of Shigar (Skardu), Nasirabad (Hunza) and Gupis (Ghizer) which are considered to be of international standard.

Responding to a query he said more than 11 sites of gold mines had already been identified in various parts of the GB and that around 15 firms including local and foreign are already busy in mining gold and copper in various areas which have been allocated to them for this purpose.

At present, about 50 types of different minerals are extracted from the region that include gold, copper, lead and coal besides precious stones topaz, marble and granite which are not only valued in the country but their demand is rising all over the world.

He said the natural resources if exploited properly cannot only fulfill the requirements of the region but would also bring handsome foreign earnings to the country through exports.

Meanwhile, officials of the Northern Areas Gems Stone and Mineral Association said every year traders and stone specialists come to the region to buy stones worth millions of rupees but unfortunately a pittance is paid to the locals as compared to the values of the minerals at the international market.-APP

Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan, Natural Resources | Leave a Comment »

GBLA likely to hold first session after Eid: Kaira

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 21, 2009

By Our Reporter

Rawalpindi, November 21: Governor Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira has said the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly is likely to hold its first session after Eid ul Azha.

Speaking at a reception held in honor of the elected members of the GB Legislative Assembly Mr. Kaira, said it was the credit of the PPP to introduce Gilgit-Baltistan Self-governance Reforms Package-2009, which was another step towards political and socio-economic development of the area. He said although the election process has been completed, but the election on the reserved seats for women and technocrats was yet to take place. “The government formation would start once this process is completed” he added.

Rawalpindi: Governor Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira in a group photograph with the members elect of GBLA during a breakfast hosted by MD Pakistan Baitul Maal Zamrud Khan

He recalled that Benazir Bhutto visited the residence of Zamurd Khan on November 30, 2007 and offered special prayers for the departed soul and said Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has always strived to serve the people across the country and the people of GBLA have a lot of expectations from the PPP. Mr. Kaira said the results of GB elections have once again proved that the PPP is the political force of the country and it enjoys support of the masses. He said that whenever free and fair elections would be held in any part of the country, the PPP would return victorious.

The minister said PPP has given lot of sacrifices for democracy and it would not give anyone any excuse to derail the system. He said that victory in the Gilgit-Baltistan elections was an achievement, but coming up to the expectations of the people of the area was the bigger challenge ahead. Mr. Kaira congratulated all the elected members and urged them to resolve the problems being faced by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan on priority.

Recounting the services of the PPP leadership for the people of the area, he said it was the government of Shaheed Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto which brought far-reaching reforms in the area.  He further said that during Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s second term as Prime Minister, Northern Areas Legal Framework Order was introduced.

The reception was hosted by Managing Director, Bait-ul-Mal, Zamurd Khan here at his residence. It was also attended by Mehdi Shah, the nominated Chief Minister of the GBLA.

Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan, Government | Leave a Comment »

Fauzia for promoting democratic process in GB

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 20, 2009

By Our Reporter

Islamabad, Nov 20: Pakistan People’s Party Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab, MNA, has called upon the political forces to work for strengthening democratic institutions and the democratic process to continue and grow in Gilgit-Baltistan instead of rejecting public mandate and questioning it.

In a statement issued here she said the people have again voted in favour of PPP as it is the largest and oldest party which has a history of deep connection with the people since 1972 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto first visited Gilgit-Baltistan and introduced historical reforms.

The agenda of ZAB was furthered by Benazir Bhutto which is being carried forward by the present PPP government as part of our legacy in the region, she said adding “this led the PPP to victory in GB.”

Fauzia Wahab said the election results of Gilgit-Baltistan have proved that PPP enjoys masses’ support and out of 23 members PPP has the support of 13.

About providing equal opportunities to all, she said the top leadership of all other parties visited GB and addressed rallies. Compared to the results of last election, this time they have made relative gains which is a commendable democratic trend, she said.

Fauzia added that government not only supported their visits but also facilitated them and provided full security during their stay there to everyone without any discrimination.

She said the Governor Kaira only participated in one election meeting that the Prime Minister attended and he had to do that as a matter of protocol.

The governor, she said, did not hold any political rally and instead performed his functions of monitoring the elections from administrative perspective and to ensure law land order, transparency and due processes. He only held meetings with administration officials to ensure security and peaceful polling.

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Uplift work to be started on priority, says Bashir

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 20, 2009

Islamabad, November 20: Pakistan Muslim League-Q Diamer chapter president and member-elect for Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly, Bashir Ahmed Khan has said that development projects would be started on priority in Diamer.

He said that problems of people of the district would be resolved soon due to GB Legislative Assembly elections.

Listing his priorities, he said he would work for alleviation of poverty elimination of sectarianism and unemployment.

Mr Ahmed termed poll rigging allegations baseless.–APP

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Mehdi set to become GB’s first chief minister

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 20, 2009

Islamabad, November 20: Syed Mehdi Shah, chief of the Gilgit-Baltistan chapter of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), is set to become the first chief minister of the region after his nomination as the party’s parliamentary leader in the Legislative Assembly here on Thursday.

Islamabad: PPP information secretary Fauzia Wahab addresses a news conference. Syed Mehdi Shah, chief of the Gilgit-Baltistan chapter of PPP is also present.

Mehdi Shah was nominated parliamentary leader at a meeting of the members-elect of the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly.

The decision was announced by PPP information secretary Fauzia Wahab at a news conference.

The PPP won 11 out of 23 seats for which polling was held on Nov 12. Later, an independent member-elect, Abdul Hameed Khan, joined the party.

Mehdi Shah said the PPP was engaged in negotiations with other parties and independents for forming the government.

He said although the PPP was in a position to form government on its own, the party’s co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari had directed them to form a coalition government.

He said the party would call for appointment of a local figure as the governor. He was of the view that the governor should preferably be from the PPP.

However, he said, any decision of the party co-chairman would be acceptable to him and his colleagues.

APP adds: Acting Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira hosted a reception for the PPP members-elect of the legislative assembly on Wednesday night.

Speaking at the reception, Mr Kaira said the PPP had given a lot of sacrifices for democracy and it would not give anyone any excuse to derail the system.

He said the co-chairman had the party’s leaders and workers to remain cool despite a vilification campaign launched by opponents.

Mr Kaira said victory in the elections was an achievement, but coming up to the expectations of the people of the area was a bigger challenge. He said the PPP had a history of serving the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and it had made efforts for providing them political rights.

He said the PPP had introduced the Gilgit-Baltistan self-governance reform package which was another step towards political and socio-economic development of the area.

Mehdi Shah vowed to take steps for eradicating poverty from the region and to implement the Self-Rule Ordinance.

He said the people of the region could be better served through investment in the social and infrastructure sectors with the ultimate purpose of creating job opportunities and raising the living standard of the poor.

The members-elect pledged to work jointly for promotion of peace and sectarian harmony and for socio-economic prosperity of the region and welfare of its people.-Dawn

Posted in Election2009, Gilgit-Baltistan, Government | Leave a Comment »

[Voices Around]Beyond the election

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on November 20, 2009

ELECTIONS and irregularities sadly go hand in hand in Pakistan. The landmark polls in Gilgit-Baltistan were no exception with reports of sporadic violence, allegations of the state machinery’s biased deployment and gross inaccuracies in voters’ lists. In some constituencies, the number of registered voters almost matched the area’s total population. That would suggest that nearly every person in the constituency is of voting age, which doesn’t seem plausible unless populations have grown uncontrollably since the last census. But far more disturbing are reports that some candidates came to an agreement that women would be barred from voting, a practice that is not unknown in Pakistan. Similar attempts to disenfranchise women have been witnessed earlier in parts of the NWFP and the country’s tribal areas.

But the upside cannot be downplayed. The election exercise was successful on the whole and the high voter turnout reflected the desire of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to be a part of mainstream politics in Pakistan. All the political parties that count spared no effort to make their presence felt at the hustings. The People’s Party has since secured the right to rule and its nominee is expected to be named as the region’s first chief minister. But this is where the situation becomes tricky. Where in the constitution is there room for a chief minister of a ‘region’? Will Gilgit-Baltistan, or the Northern Areas as the region was once called, be declared a province in due course? Is it part of Kashmir, as some argue, or an entity on its own?

These are questions best answered by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. A referendum may be in order on this count, irrespective of the sensitivity surrounding the ‘Kashmir issue.’ Islamabad also needs to look into why Gilgit-Baltistan still does not enjoy representation in parliament. The region’s constitutional status, despite its people’s avowed loyalty to Pakistan, has been hanging in limbo for nearly 60 years. True, a beginning has been made with the first party-based polls in Gilgit-Baltistan and the forthcoming election of a chief minister. But that is not enough. Welcome as it is, what the area’s people have been given this past week is a glorified local government system. They need national representation, sooner than later. If Fata, where the Pakistan Penal Code does not apply, can have its MPs sitting in Islamabad, why can’t Gilgit-Baltistan be extended the same privilege? Lastly, it needs to be stressed that the region’s development, as promised by the PM, must benefit local people first and foremost. The sins of the past, as committed in Balochistan, ought not to be repeated.-Courtesy Editorial

Dawn, 15 Nov, 2009.

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