ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday stated that socio-economic development of Gilgit-Baltistan was a priority of the government and an amount of Rs52.3 Billion has been earmarked in the ADP for 563 schemes. The Prime Minister who is also the Chairman of Gilgit-Baltistan Council addressing the second Budget Session of Council at the PM House said a considerable amount of development funds have been provided to the provincial government by the federal government.
Gillani explained that the overall size of ongoing ADP projects in Gilgit-Baltistan (comprising 563 schemes) was about Rs52.3 billion while projects worth Rs13.2 billion are being funded through Federal PSDP. He said an allocation of Rs6.076 billion has been made for Gilgit-Baltistan government over and above the PSDP allocation of Rs1.58 billion for the current financial year. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani told the meeting attended by Minister in-charge, Gilgit-Baltistan Council Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo, Vice Chairman and Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah, Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah and members of the Council, that the Gilgit-Baltistan government was fully autonomous in running its affairs. He said the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have their own governor, chief minister and an assembly with powers to legislate on scores of subjects. They have their own judiciary with their Supreme Appellate Court having original jurisdiction.
Need for joint policy
Gilani said that the introduction of Income Tax in Gilgit-Baltistan would be an important step towards financial autonomy through mobilisation of domestic resources. The Gilgit-Baltistan Council has been assigned legislative and executive powers over 53 subjects. He said both the Gilgit-Baltistan government and the council, remaining within their respective domains, need to work in close coordination and complete harmony to ensure welfare of the people of the area. Gillani emphasized that the Council and the Government need to jointly chalk out policies and plans in the fields of Minerals, Forest, Tourism and Energy to tap the resources of Gilgit-Baltistan to most efficiently.
Developing Hydel power projects
Gilani stressed that Gilgit-Baltistan has vast potential in power generation, tourism, mines and minerals. The mega hydro-power projects such as Diamer-Bhasha Dam he added are extremely vital for country’s energy and food security. The dam, on completion, will have the capacity to generate 4500 MW of electricity and store 8.1 MAF of water. The project he said, will generate vast opportunities of employment for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and its multiple benefits for economy cannot be quantified.
Engaging regional partners
The construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam occupies a central place in government’s efforts to find a long-term solution to the problem of addressing the energy deficit in the country. Gilani explained that the government also plans to initiate work on Bunji Dam with a power generation capacity of 11,000 MW. Apart from these mega hydro projects, work on different small hydro power projects was also under way, he added. Stressing on engaging regional partners, the PM stated that China was Pakistan’s major ally and an important trade partner. He pointed out that trade with China has been adversely affected due to submersion of a part of Korakoram Highway under Atta-abad Lake. “We are working to develop an alternate artery not only to revive the quantum of trade with China to its previous level but also to raise it even further.”
While talking about political and administrative autonomy the PM said that it was a long standing demand of people of Gilgit Baltistan and added that it was democracy only that resolves the age-old problems by addressing their grievances and accommodating their demands.
The Council Secretariat was providing complete institutional support to the Council to work out policies aimed at achieving welfare of people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Over the past few months, the Council Secretariat, the Council Members and the Committees constituted in the first meeting of the Council, have worked hard to prepare reports in different fields.
He noted that these committees have completed preparatory work for legislation on important subjects like income-tax, hydel power, mines and minerals, and tourism.
These reports and related legislative work will greatly help in putting in place the institutional framework for gearing up the pace of development in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani earlier also administered oath of new advisors to Chairman Gilgit-Baltistan Council. Advisors include Prof. Ghulam Hussain Saleem Ebadat Ali and Attaullah Khan.
He congratulated the advisors to Chairman, Gilgit-Baltistan Council, on taking oath of office and hoped they would discharge their responsibility with sincerity.