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Peace activists from Gojal receive warm welcome in Gilgit

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 12, 2009

By Zulfiqar Ali Khan

GILGIT, Oct 12: Two young peace activists from Gojal were accorded warm reception on their arrival at Gilgit, the capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan, on Monday.

Ejaz and Asghar Rumi completed the first phase of the Khunjerab-to-Karachi peace walk. KIU Vice-Chancellor Dr Najma Najum, faculty members and hundreds of students received the peace activists near the University campus.

Addressing the gathering Dr Najma Najam, appreciated the young students for their courage and effort for promoting peace, love and harmony. She said such healthy activities are vital for a healthy and pluralistic society.

Later the KIU students accompanied the two students in a procession to the Chinar Bagh bridge where hundreds of citizens from Gilgit welcomed them.

Political and social circles consider the two young students’ mission an important step in the direction of creating peace in the wake of the recent unfortunate incidents in the city as well as in other parts of the country. They say such moves should be encourages to promote peace and harmony.

Islamuddin, candidate of PPP for the forthcoming election from Gilgit NA-2, Haji Abid Ali of PML-N and student leaders of all major political parties were also present along with social and political activists. The two students along with the citizens, social and political activists gathered at the Chinar Bagh and offered special prayers for peace on the Yadgar-e-Shuhada. The rally gathered at Ittehad Chowk after marching through Kashrote, NLI Market.

Addressing the gathering the two peace activists thanked the citizens of Gilgit for showing their urge and love for peace. They vowed to spread the message of peace and harmony of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan through all major cities of Pakistan.

The community from Gojal also arranged a musical evening for the peace walkers.

The two students will leave for Islamabad on Tuesday morning on the second phase of their peace mission.

The two young students embarked on the peace walk from the 16,000 feet high Khunjerab pass on the Pakistan-China border on October 4 despite heavy snowfall. The walk will conclude in Karachi.

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Protest drive comes to logical end; 22 file papers from Hunza

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 3, 2009

By Zulfiqar Ali Khan

HUNZA, Oct 3: While ending the month-long protest campaign, almost all major political parties and individuals here on Saturday opted to electoral politics by filing nomination papers to contest for the lone seat in the forthcoming election of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.protest4

At least 22 candidates from various major political parties as well as independents filed their nomination papers in the Returning Officer’s office. This is for the first time in the history of Hunza that such a large number of candidates have filed papers.

About 200 people were gathered in front of the office of the Returning Officer on the call of All Hunza Action Committee (AHAC) to stop the candidates from filing their application.

After failing to stop intending candidates from filing nominations, the top leaders of AHAC also submitted their papers and the protesters dispersed peacefully.

Serious differences surfaced within the committee over boycott of the election.

nomination 2Talking to this scribe, Baba Jan, Chief Organiser of Progressive Youth Front said that his party will devise the strategy soon. He said his party is still in favour of election boycott.

The action committee has now been transformed into electoral body, an angry protester commented while others praised the decision for peaceful ending of the boycott.

protest2Those filed their papers included Zafar Iqbal, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, nomination4Atiqa Ghazanfar, Wazir Baig, Fida Karim, Noor Muhammad, Mir Baz Khan, Sher Yar Khan, Saleem Khan, Aziz Ahmed, Waheed Murad, Fazal Rabani, Naik Naam Khan, Karimullah Baig, Abbas Khan, Abuzar Ali, Lal Hussain, Ghadir Shah, Doulat Karim, Karimullah Baig, Kamil Jan, Bahadur Khan, Shahbaz Khan, Shah Khan, Rehmatullah Baig, Rozdarullah, Arif Hussain, Ijlal Hussain and Karim Sher Khan.

Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan, Hunza-Gojal, Politics | 1 Comment »

GBLA polls: 382 file papers

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 3, 2009

By Our Special Correspondent

GILGIT, Oct 3: As many as 382 intending candidates on Saturday filed nomination papers for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly elections, official sources told GB Tribune.

The Election Commission officials said that they have received 382 nomination papers to contest elections for the 24 general seats of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly scheduled to be held on Nov12.

According to the Election Commission of Gilgit-Baltistan, Zafar Waqar Taj, for the six seats of Gilgit District 144 intending candidates have filed nominations.

For six seats of Skardu District, 71 candidates have filed papers. In Skardu-I, 12 candidates, Skardu-II, nine candidates, Skardu-III, 10 candidates, Skardu-IV, 16 candidates, Skardu-V, 17 candidates and in Skardu-VI, seven candidates have filed their papers.

For three Ghangche District seats, 21 have submitted nominations.

In Ghangche-I, six candidates have filed papers, Ghangche-II, 10, and in Ghangche-III, five candidates have filed papers.

For four seats in Diamer district, 51 have submitted papers. For two Astore District seats, 42 have filed nominations and for three Ghizer district seats, 55 candidates have filed nominations.

Nomination papers will be scrutinised on Oct 7.

All former members have again submitted their papers to contest elections.

Corner meetings, rallies and campaign are getting momentum in Gilgit-Baltistan.

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RO slammed for not ensuring availability of voters list in Hunza

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 3, 2009

Our Correspondent

HUNZA, Oct 3: The intending candidates here have criticised the local administration for failing to facilitate them and ensuring availability of electoral lists in the office of Returning Officer.

Over 18 candidates obtained nomination papers till Friday evening. They included Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Atiqa Ghazanfar, their two sons Saleem Khan and Sher Yar Khan, Zafar Iqbal, Kamil Jan, Imam Dad, Arif Hussain, Shah Khan, Bahadur Khan and his son district council member Shahbaz Khan as independents candidates. From PPP platform Lal Hussain, Abuzar Ali, Neknam, Fida Karim, Hajat Mohammad, Ghulam Abbas and Daulat Karim have obtained nomination papers.

Meanwhile, the All-Hunza Action Committee seems to be in disarray as despite its announcement to hold a public rally and stage a sit-in outside the office of the returning officer in order to stop the candidates from filing their nomination papers, has failed to do so as some candidates have succeeded in filing their papers.

“We have asked the local administration to ensure security on the occasion of elections,” a candidate told this scribe.

He said forcefully stopping people from the election process was not a democratic norm and if the “action committee claims representing the people, then they should contest the elections”.

Differences have appeared in the All-Parties Hunza Action Committee (AHAC) over the participation in the forthcoming elections for Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

Nationalist and progressive parties are strongly advocating boycott of the election against non-acceptance of their demand of an additional seat for Hunza in the legislative assembly while other parties and individuals are in favour of fielding joint candidates from the committee’s platform.

The committee at its meeting held at Aliabad on Thursday, had decided to stage sit-in outside election offices to stop intending candidates from submitting their nominations.

AHAC chairman Sheikh Abid Hussain announced holding of public gatherings on Thursday and Friday in front of the sessions court Hunza to stop candidates from filing their nomination papers. “We will first convince them and then force them not to submit their papers,” some of the committee members threatened.

They said participation in the election means accepting the discrimination with the people of Hunza.

The participants, however, were divided on future strategies in case consensus on boycott option is not reached. Most of the action committee members supported the idea of fielding a joint candidate from the committee’s platform in the election. However, the leaders of the progressive and nationalist parties opposed the proposal.

Labour Party Boloristan Chairman Advocate Ehsan Ali and Progressive Youth Front Hunza chapter chief organiser Baba Jan were of the view that the action committee should not be converted into election body and opposed participation in the election process. They stressed on mobilisation of the people to stop election process.

The participants condemned former chief executive of Gilgit-Baltistan Ghazanfar Ali Khan for backtracking from his earlier announcement of boycotting the polls by getting seven nomination papers for seven of his family members.

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Differences in AHAC over poll boycott

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 2, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HUNZA, Oct 2: Differences have appeared in the All-Parties Hunza Action Committee (AHAC) over the participation in the forthcoming elections for Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

Nationalist and progressive parties are strongly advocating boycott of the election against non-acceptance of their demand of an additional seat for Hunza in the legislative assembly while other parties and individuals are in favour of fielding joint candidates from the committee’s platform.

The committee at its meeting held at Aliabad on Thursday, which was attended by about 100 notables from all over Hunza, decided to stage sit-in outside election offices to stop intending candidates from submitting their nominations.

AHAC chairman Sheikh Abid Hussain announced holding of public gatherings on Thursday and Friday in front of the sessions court Hunza to stop candidates from filing their nomination papers. “We will first convince them and then force them not to submit their papers,” some of the committee members threatened.

They said participation in the election means accepting the discrimination with the people of Hunza.

The participants, however, were divided on future strategies in case consensus on boycott option is not reached. Most of the action committee members supported the idea of fielding a joint candidate from the committee’s platform in the election. However, the leaders of the progressive and nationalist parties opposed the proposal.

The committee’s secretary-general Noor Mohammed said the committee has so far organised three big rallies in Hunza and one in Karachi to highlight the issue.

Labour Party Boloristan Chairman Advocate Ehsan Ali and Progressive Youth Front Hunza chapter chief organiser Baba Jan were of the view that the action committee should not be converted into election body and opposed participation in the election process. They stressed on mobilisation of the people to stop election process.

The participants condemned former chief executive of Gilgit-Baltistan Ghazanfar Ali Khan for backtracking from his earlier announcement of boycotting the polls by getting seven nomination papers for seven of his family members.

Responding to the criticism from the action committee leaders, Atiqa Ghazanfar, former member of GBLA said that the mandate of the committee was not to create chaos in Hunza. “I was not informed about today’s meeting,” she said adding the committee never considered the peaceful options of dialogue and meetings with Prime Minister and Governor during the recent visits.

Sources in the PPP Hunza chapter told GB Tribune that more than five candidates from the party have shown their willingness to file their nomination papers for the forthcoming election. He said Natco Managing Director Zafar Iqbal has not informed the party yet about his candidature. He said the recent package has empowered the GBLA to decide about the new seats and the party will lobby in this regard.

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Additional seat, delimitation after polls: Two reserved seats secured

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 16, 2009

By Zulfiqar Ali Khan

HUNZA, Sept 16: Governor Qamar Zaman Kaira has assured that additional seat for Hunza in Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly would be allocated after the forthcoming elections to the legislative assembly. Delimitation of constituencies would also be held after the polls as the process could delay the election and implementation of the newly announced Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Package 2009, the governor said.Gilgit--Baltistan map

He was talking to a delegation of the Hunza chapter of PPP in Gilgit.

He however, said that two reserved seats for technocrat and woman in the legislative assembly would be given to Hunza to pacify the people who are agitating against the government for ignoring them in the self-governance order.

The people of Hunza-Gojal under the banner of All-Parties Action Committee, have launched a protest drive to press for their demands. A big rally and wheel-jam strike was observed in Hunza last week. Another rally will be held in Hindi on Sept 18. “An additional seat in the assembly is the legitimate right of the people of Hunza therefore the representation of Hunza will be ensured through two reserved seats,” the governor assured the delegation.

He also assured that Hunza would be given its due rights in development funds. He said delimitation of the new constituencies will be started after the election and the seat for Hunza is on top priority, Mr Kaira said.

He said while following the footsteps of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, the party is committed to empowering the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The newly created Hunza-Nagar district will be functional soon as funds have been already allocated for it, the governor said. Kaira directed the Chief Secretary, IGP and other high official of Gilgit-Baltistan to ensure meritocracy in public sector jobs and avoid discrimination with Hunza. He said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani would announce special development package for Gilgit-Baltistan during his coming visit to the region.

PPP president Mehdi Shah, Secretary-general Ghulam Muhammad and senior party leader Pir Karam Ali Shah were also present at the occasion.

The delegation apprised the governor of the problems of Hunza and the public concerns about the discriminations and injustices with regard to representation in government departments and democratic institutions.

Other members of the delegation were former NALA member Wazir Baig, PPP central Executive Committee member Ghulam Muhammad, Lal Hussain, Ghulam Abbas, Hajat Muhammad, Aziz Jan, Iftikhar, Ejaz Gilgiti, Shukrullah Baig, Rehman Posh, Ghadir Shah and Farmanullah Razi and Karimullah Baig.

 

Posted in Hunza-Gojal | 1 Comment »

APHC charts out plan for peaceful protest

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 13, 2009

Gilgit, September 13: All Hunza Action Committe (AHAC) has charted out a plan of peaceful demonstration for the resolution of their demands, GECA News has learnt.

The plan includes peaceful protest demonstrations and rallies throughout Hunza-Gojal Valley besides a long march from Hunza to Gilgit. “The forth coming elections will be boycotted if the demand of additional seat for Hunza-Gojal valley is not fulfilled” said an insider of the AHAC while talking to this scribe.

According to sources members of the action committee slammed the government for turning a deaf ear to the long standing demand of the people of Hunza-Gojal valley. The committee also has decided to held protest demonstrations in the major metropolitans of the country such as Karachi and Islamabad.

Although the demand for an additional seat dates back to 1994, but it made the leads soon after the announcement of the presidential package for Gilgit-Baltistan.-Correspondent

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Gilgit-Baltistan autonomy

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 13, 2009

By M. Ismail Khan

The ‘autonomy package’ introduced by the government for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan is a mix of good and gilgit608bad news. The good news is that the area will now have an autonomous status with a chief minister and a governor. The bad news is that it has been given only a province-like status and has no institutional link with the four provinces or the Pakistani constitution.

It is not yet clear how the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009 signed by the president will affect the area’s denizens and other stakeholders. What is obvious, though, is that this is an entirely new experiment in statecraft where a democratically elected government has created a province-like entity through an order.

Prime Minister Gilani’s statement that Gilgit-Baltistan cannot be given constitutional status and representation in parliament because of Pakistan’s commitment to a UN resolution is a lame excuse as there is nothing in it that forbids Pakistan from providing legitimate constitutional rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. After all, Azad Jammu & Kashmir operate under an interim constitution enacted by the AJK Legislative Assembly in 1974.

Only recently President Zardari signed a memorandum of understanding with China for a 7000-MW power project in Gilgit-Baltistan. Then there’s the border agreement between Pakistan and China which is also provisional and subject to revision upon resolution of the Kashmir dispute. If the Pakistani government can enter into an agreement concerning Gilgit-Baltistan territories with a third party, there is hardly any justification for not entering into a constitutional accord, even if a provisional one, with the region’s people.

There are two clear strands of thoughts regarding a possible way forward. The pro-Pakistan majority supports the area’s inclusion in the federation of Pakistan as a province by adding Gilgit-Baltistan in Article 1 of the 1973 constitution as a territory of Pakistan — it could be subject to revision upon a final resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Others inspired by Kashmiri nationalist leaders call for an independent united states or confederation of Kashmir. Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik is talking about this and prefers that the status of Gilgit-Baltistan remain in limbo, followed by the option that the local assembly draft an interim constitution to enable the region to have a legitimate and comprehensive judicial, executive and legislative structure.

Prime Minister Gilani failed to admit that there has been tremendous pressure from Kashmiri nationalist leaders whenever the government has taken a policy decision on Gilgit-Baltistan. It is correct that the predicament goes back to the Kashmir dispute. The demand for a plebiscite on Kashmir may appear erroneous but it would be doubly wrong to make the innocent population of Gilgit-Baltistan (whose future was tied to the plebiscite) pay for someone else’s blunder.

The people insist that their area, as large as the NWFP, is not a territory awarded to Pakistan by the Radcliffe Boundary Commission. According to them, neither were they freed from foreign tribes as in AJK’s case. Gilgit-Baltistan, they argue, was liberated as a result of a spontaneous local revolt. Denizens opted to become a part of Pakistan and hence they believe that by getting rid of Dogra occupation, which predates the Amritsar treaty through which the regime acquired Kashmir from the British, they severed whatever symbolic relationship existed between Gilgit-Baltistan and the former princely state of Jammu & Kashmir.

On the other hand, the Kashmiri leadership has had difficulty in understanding Pakistan’s dilemma as, over the years, Gilgit-Baltistan’s geo-strategic importance has risen to a level where the area cannot be ‘donated’.

There was no Karakoram Highway in 1947 and the water and power crises in Pakistan have never been so acute as now. Policy circles realise that in a region beset with conflict and intense competition, Gilgit-Baltistan is crucial as a trade, water and oil corridor for South, West and Central Asia. With the Kalabagh dam off the table for the moment and climate change looming large, upstream water projects have become crucial for the survival and development of the country.

Containing some of the world’s largest freshwater resources on which the irrigated agriculture of Punjab and Sindh depends, the estimated hydroelectric potential of the eight rivers and countless streams in Gilgit-Baltistan goes beyond Pakistan’s current needs.

Ongoing mega projects like the Bhasha-Diamir dam further necessitates that Gilgit-Baltistan be brought into the mainstream and that its people be given a voice in national decision-making so that the region’s public representatives can also take part in inter-provincial deliberations to safeguard socio-economic interests.

Renaming the Northern Areas as Gilgit-Baltistan is perhaps the most significant part of the deal as far as the locals are concerned as this change in nomenclature will help people regain their lost identity and go a long way in resurrecting the tourism industry in an area otherwise devastated by the Taliban.

Moreover, the creation of the offices of an auditor-general, public service commission and chief election commissioner are positive steps that should have been taken years ago. But the increase in the list of subjects for the Gilgit-Baltistan assembly to legislate would mean little if the powers of the governor to discard edicts are not curtailed. Similarly, while the provision allowing the local assembly to debate the budget is a positive move what is also needed is to build the administration’s revenue-generation and financial-management capacity.

True, province-like status given to the region may have saved it from a situation similar to the one in restive Balochistan. However, if the reforms prove only cosmetic, the reaction of the people there could turn violent. If this happens, it would not only hurt the patriotic sentiments of nearly two million locals but also harm the country’s interest in a strategic and resource-rich region currently surrounded by the Indian military, the Chinese army, Nato forces and the Taliban.

ismail.mik@gmail.com

courtsey Dawn

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