A new dawn for Gilgit Baltistan: Elections in the fifth province of Pakistan

Gilani declares Gilgit, Skardu ‘major cities’
By Our Correspondent (Dawn)
Wednesday, 11 Nov, 2009

SKARDU: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday promised free, fair and transparent elections in Gilgit-Baltistan and a level playing field for all political parties.

Addressing a public meeting at the Police Ground, the prime minister said the region had a vast hydroelectric potential and development of the sector would help reduce poverty and unemployment.
Mr Gilani said that work on Diamer-Bhasha and Bunji dams would start soon, adding that over Rs5 billion would be spent on hydel projects in the region.

He said 200 schools had been made functional at a cost of Rs2 billion and Rs1 billion was being spent on making 100 dispensaries functional this year.

He said that Rs10 billion had been allocated for education and 33 buses had been given to various schools and colleges.

He advised the finance ministry to approve various projects in health and education sectors so that shortage of staff could be overcome.

Mr Gilani said that Chalat in Hunza-Nagar, Danyur in Gilgit and Phandar in Ghizer districts had been given the status of tehsil and urged the administration to put up files of Gultary, Kharmang and Shigar for their elevation to the level of districts.

He declared Gilgit and Skardu as ‘major cities’ and said that Skardu airport was being upgraded to an international one for developing tourism.

Mr Gilani said that 5,000 people would be recruited in Gilgit-Baltistan police force and their salary would be equal to that of Islamabad police. He said that equal number of recruitment would be made from each district.

Mr Gilani said people affected by earthquake in Kondos (Ghanche district) would be compensated.

The Benazir Income Support Programme is being expanded and a proposal is under consideration to enable it to cover health insurance, electricity bills and school fees. He also said that orphanages would be built in all districts.

He ordered the local administration to pay compensation to people dislocated by Satpara dam.

After the elections, Mr Gilani said, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan would have their own governor, chief minister and advisers.

‘They will have their own government which can make budget and undertake development schemes.’

Qamar Zaman Kaira, the region’s governor, also addressed the gathering and said he hoped the people would support PPP candidates.

PPP’s provincial president Syed Mehdi Shah welcomed the prime minister and called for the establishment of an engineering university in Baltistan.

A massive development package for Gilgit-Baltistan announced

SKARDU (SANA): Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani announced on Tuesday a massive development package for the uplift of Gilgit-Baltistan. Gilani said that the government has already released 10 billion rupees for the uplift of Skardu.

Addressing a mass gathering organized by Pakistan Peoples Party here Tuesday on the last day of election activities, the PM said that the government will declare Gilgit and Skardu “big cities” and will provide all facilities considered necessary for developed mega metropolises.

Gilani announced to recruit 5000 policemen for Gilgit-Baltistan law enforcing force, adding that the minimum wages of the public servants of the region would also be equivalent to rest of the country, i.e. Rs 6000 per month.

The elections in the territory would be free, fair and transparent, assuring the people that their voices are being heard in the corridors of power, Gilani maintained.

The PM announced to provide 100 buses’ fleet for the school-going children of Skardu, saying that 200 more educational institutes and 100 dispensaries would start working in the region this year as well.


Elections today after hectic campaigning
Ruling party has candidates for all 23 seats

By Mohsin Ali, Gulf News

Islamabad: Pakistan’s main political parties yesterday wound up their hectic electioneering campaigns in northern Gilgit-Baltistan region ahead of polls there to elect a legislative council.

The country’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party has put up candidates for all 23 general seats of the 34-member council up for the grabs in the elections today.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), political ally of PPP, has fielded candidates on 19 seats, followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Q with candidates on 15 seats and main opposition PML-N vying for 14 seats.

PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif has been feverishly involved in the party’s campaign, delivering a series of public speeches in which he promised to bring development to the region.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani addressed a large political rally yesterday at Skardu in Baltistan, assuring free, fair and transparent polls and level-playing field for all parties.

He said people of Gilgit-Baltistan would have internal autonomy with their own chief minister, independent public service commission, separate judiciary and election commission.

Gilani announced that 200 new schools and 100 dispensaries would start working in Skardu by the year’s end.

The prime minister said he had already allocated Rs2 billion (Dh158 million) for education and Rs1 billion for health sectors in the Gilgit-Baltistan.

The status of the region has been subject of a controversy, with a segment claiming it was historically a part of Kashmir and the others demanding the region’s representation in the Pakistan parliament.


Gilgit votes

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 (The News)

The upcoming election in Gilgit-Baltistan will be the first since the territory was granted status as an autonomous region in August this year. Though the measure stopped short of making the area a province as its people demand – the Legal Framework Order built on the PPP’s legacy in the area. The late Benazir Bhutto had introduced electoral reform here and her father had played a role in ushering mainstream politics into an area that had at the time been largely isolated from Pakistan. The PPP as such has enjoyed traditional strength in the area. But this could change as campaigning ends ahead of voting on November 12. The failure of the party to bring in new candidates and the loss of credibility of old guns who have frequently failed to keep promises may mean the party fails to secure a full hold over the 33-member Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly. Of these, 24 will be directly contested and nine – including six for women and three for technocrats – will be filled later. Though the significant population of Ismailis is seen by some analysts to give the PPP an advantage, many predict a hung house.

Other parties have been campaigning hectically too. The PML-N chief has made a personal trip up to the mountainous area, donned the traditional woollen cap to guard himself from the freezing winds and – rather oddly – portrayed himself as the true heir of the Bhuttos. The PML-Q, using posters on which the portrait of Pervez Musharraf appears, has also been active and – rather late in the day, the ANP has recently stepped up its efforts, apparently suddenly realizing it needed to play some part in an election being held in what it sees as its backyard. As always, some independent candidates will claim seats. The MQM, eager to expand its influence beyond urban Sindh, has fielded 19 candidates. Only the PPP, with 23, has more. Altaf Hussain has also spoken to people over giant television screens – a novelty in Gilgit which attracted much attention. So too did the MQM’s message against sectarianism and extremism, in a region that has seen repeated Shia-Sunni violence. The MQM showing could prove extremely interesting, with other parties generally steering clear of the extremist question. Even before voting gets underway, there have been warnings about unfair means and neutral monitors have stressed the need for a fair, transparent process. We must hope this advice is taken and people genuinely allowed to determine who they wish to represent them.

Recommended readings:
Rabia Shakoor’s post on “The Gilgit-Baltistan elections” on Grand Trunk Road.
Murtaza Razvi’s post “Away from the Lunatic Fringe” on Dawn Blogs
Three Cups of Tea – by Greg Mortenson

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