Provincial status sensitive issue, says Kaira


Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, April 26—-May 2, 2008
GILGIT: Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas Qamaruz Zaman Kaira during his visit to Gilgit-Baltistan said the issue of giving provincial status to the region was sensitive and a decision in this regard would be taken only after consulting constitutional experts.
He said if needed the constitutional status of the region could be debated in the parliament. During his address to the Northern Areas Legislative Assembly after taking oath as its chairman and later talking to local media persons, Mr Kaira dwelt at length on the issues of the region and his government’s plan to bring reforms to the region. The minister said he would soon visit all the district of the region to apprise himself of the local issues. He said democratic culture would be promoted in the region to end polarization in society. He said to bring drastic changes in the area foreign firms would be invited to launch development works in the area. About the Diamer dam, he said the demands of the affected people would be looked into and their reservations allayed.
He said his government would introduce further constitutional reforms in the area. He said his government believed in respecting public mandate and the present setup in the Northern Areas would not be disturbed.
The minister asked the Army Monitoring Teams to complete their work within 90 days in the region. After this period, they would have no role in the area. The minister said in accordance with the demand of the assembly, a Public Account Committee would start functioning from July 1.
He told the house that a committee headed by Secretary Kashmir Affairs had been constituted to work out a mechanism as to how much more powers could be delegated to the assembly and to what extent the administrative as well as financial powers of its speaker could be enhanced.
He also announced that from now onward the Northern Areas Legislative Assembly would prepare budget as is done by other legislative assemblies.
“As far as enhancement of development budget from Rs4 billion to Rs6 billion is concerned, I would take up this matter with the relevant quarters. At the same time, other resources will also be explored,” he assured the house.
Mr Kaira said he was aware of the hardships being faced by the newly-created districts due to shortage of manpower and, “therefore, approve the filling of required vacancies on an emergency basis.”
Mr Kaira said he would also take up the boundary dispute of Shandur and Diamer-Bhasha dam with the government of NWFP for amicable resolution.
He said relevant departments had already been directed to start work on establishment of road networks and expansion of the Karakoram Highway.
He said measures would be taken to curb illegal cutting of forests and a public-friendly policy shall be evolved. He said he would personally look after reforestation in the region so that more saplings are planted. He said nature has bestowed the area with huge water resources and the government would harness it to produce maximum energy.
The minister said vocational trainings for unemployed youth was top priority of the government.
PML-N: Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Northern Areas chapter president Hafizur Rehman has said they have presented their demands to the federal minister during his visit to the area. He expressed the hope that the minister would resolve most of the issues before May 5, when the representatives of PML-N and the PPP would meet in Islamabad and hold a meeting with Mr Kaira.
He said people from all walks of life in Gilgit-Baltistan have asked Mr Kaira to withdraw army personnel from the civilian institutions and abolish the army monitoring system in the region. He said they have also demanded that the scope of the assembly should be extended from the current 47 subjects.

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