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June 20, 2021

PM wants GB uplift like other parts of country: Fawad

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June 20, 2021

SKARDU: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Saturday said the federal government allocated a record share in the budget 2021-22 for the development of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) as Prime Minister Imran Khan desires its uplift on a par with other parts of the country.Addressing a news conference at the Skardu Press Club, he said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), soon after coming into power in GB, announced a development package worth Rs 300 billion for the socio-economic development of the area. The amount, which would be spent in the next five years, would bring significant improvement in the infrastructure of GB and boost economic activities through tourism promotion.

He regretted the dilapidated condition of the road infrastructure in GB and lashed out at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) for doing nothing for its rehabilitation despite being in power for a long period.

Fawad said he had been told by the political and civil administrations of GB including the chief minister and commissioners that the services of professional town planners have been hired to formulate master plans for all GB districts including Skardu, Shigar and Gilgit.

He said the situation in the GB would look like Karachi in the next eight to ten years if the development work is carried out without proper planning. He said the completion of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would mark a new era of development in GB as it is situated at a critical route of the multi-billion dollars project.

He said Indians have a track record of hatching conspiracies against the area, adding that it is the people of GB who always stood by Pakistan.

He said the whole nation and people of GB are condemning the illegal and unilateral actions of the Indian government in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K). He said Pakistan ended trade relations with India to give a message to the people of Kashmir that the Pakistani nation stands by them. He said Pakistan ended an agreement with India to telecast Pakistan and England cricket matches. However, he said, alternative arrangements would be made to telecast the cricket series.

He said the government of Pakistan has decided to give interim province status to GB as work on its legislation is being carried out on a fast-track basis.

All basic rights demanded by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan for a long time will be given to them soon, he said. The minister also shed light on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan’s peace process and said Pakistan played a key role and tried its best so that the issues related to Afghanistan could be solved amicably. Pakistan made tremendous efforts to end the war in Afghanistan; Pakistan had also engaged different leaderships of Afghanistan and the US to move forward on the peace process, Pakistan will always try to bring peace in Afghanistan, he remarked.

The minister said the business community, farmers and people belonging to all walks of life welcomed the federal budget announced by the government. He said the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been operating three flights to GB in a day, adding that it is an unprecedented move which would boost tourism activities in the area in the coming days.

To a question he said, the courts had convicted Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz in two corruption cases while proceedings in the Shehbaz case are in progress. He said the government has demanded a day-to-day hearing in the Shehbaz case. He said the court had given the decision in the Nawaz case, and he fled abroad. It is a desire of the PTI government that the accountability process reach its logical conclusion, he added. The minister said the local government system is crucial to development of all areas.

To a query, he said the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are being developed in the country to ensure transparency and fast compilation of election results, adding that the gadgets would be used in elections of the Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA), press clubs and bar associations. He offered the EVM facility to the Skardu Press Club for its elections. He vowed to upgrade the building of the press club and assured them of early release of funds.

Fawad said he would consult the Gilgit-Baltistan University to start tourism and environment-specific journalism training classes for budding journalists in the hall of the Skardu Press Club, owing to the massive footfall of tourists to the area as well as presence of diverse flora and fauna there. He said initiation of such training classes would eventually promote environment and wildlife journalism in the area, which is essential to attract local and foreign tourists.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar has said that in the light of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s instructions, the government is working for the development of Gilgit-Baltistan on a priority bases.

He said the development package included in the PSDP envisaged hydel power generation and transmission projects, connectivity projects for tourism, youth skill and scholarship programme, upgrading of health system and water and sanitation projects.

Addressing a press conference in Gilgit on Saturday, he said the message of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan is that if Gilgit-Baltistan develops in the true sense, the whole of Pakistan would be prosperous. He said that under the integrated development plan for Gilgit-Baltistan, 19 mega projects have been included in the PSDP, out of which 11 projects have been approved so far by the ECNEC and the CDWP for which Rs 56 billion were allocated this year, adding that Rs 135 billion would be spent till completion of these projects. The rest of the projects would also be approved soon.

He said Rs 50 billion would be spent on the Gilgit-Chitral Expressway under the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC). With the completion of these projects, Gilgit-Baltistan would develop in real sense and prosperity would come here. Apart from the PSDP, the federal government would also take steps to take Gilgit-Baltistan out of backwardness.

"The projects in various sectors will not only herald a new chapter of development in Gilgit-Baltistan but will also help address the problems of the area and create numerous employment opportunities,” Asad said. For the upgradation and betterment of Internet service in Gilgit-Baltistan, the spectrum auction would be held in the next 2-3 months. He said incubation centres are being set up at a cost of Rs 500 million to enhance the business skills of the youth of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Responding to a question on making Gilgit-Baltistan an interim constitutional province, the federal minister said the entire national leadership is agreed that Gilgit-Baltistan should have constitutional rights. There is no backdoor diplomacy from India in this matter, adding that soon Gilgit-Baltistan will be included in the constitutional mainstream. He appealed to people to get vaccinated against corona virus as soon as possible, adding that for this purpose, mass vaccination centres are being set up at six places in Gilgit-Baltistan. The federal government is providing 30 mobile units to Gilgit-Baltistan, which would be used for vaccination in remote areas.