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Gilgit Baltistan

PM announces Rs3b for flood-stricken G-B

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ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced a relief package of Rs3 billion for the restoration and reconstruction of the damages caused by the recent floods in Gilgit-Baltistan and directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chairman to complete the damage survey immediately.

Shehbaz visited Gilgit-Baltistan to take stock of the devastation caused by the recent floods. Went to the worst-affected areas of Ghazar district and met with the flood victims in Bobar village, where 17 people died in the calamity.

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The prime minister was informed that a total of 10,000 kanals of agricultural land, more than 1,000 houses, dozens of bridges, hundreds of water supply lines, water channels and hundreds of kilometres of roads had been partially or completely damaged.

Read: PM announces Rs15b grant for Sindh

After the briefing, the prime minister announced Rs3 billion grant to G-B for rehabilitation and reconstruction. He also announced to give Rs1 million compensation for the families of the deceased persons, besides Rs25,000 support for each affected family.

The prime minister also announced the release of Rs100 million for the development of Bobar village. He said that the 5 km long road in the village would be constructed from federal grant. He instructed the National Highway Authority (NHA) to help restore 6 bridges in the district.

On the occasion, Prime Minister Shehbaz announced Rs5 million for a specially-abled girl, who lost her 6 siblings, her mother and grandmother. He gave special instructions for heath and well-being and the creation of an endowment fund in her name.

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Shehbaz ordered the NDMA chairman and the G-B chief secretary to complete the flood damage assessment as soon as possible. Adviser to Prime Minister on Kashmir and G-B Qamar Zaman Kaira and former G-B chief minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rahman were also present.



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Gilgit Baltistan

G-B on brink of food crisis as KKH remains closed for trucks

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GILGIT-BALTISTAN:

A food crisis is likely to hit Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) as heavy traffic on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) remains suspended.

Dozens of Gilgit-bound trucks laden with grain bags have been stuck in Kohistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, for almost two months.

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The suspension of heavy traffic on the main highway is giving rise to a food crisis that could grip the region of 1.5 million people in the coming days.

“Grain stocks in G-B have almost runout and a serious crisis may hit the region in coming days,” an official privy to wheat business in the province told The Express Tribune.

Traffic on the KKH remained suspended repeatedly due to devastating flash floods that damaged infrastructure in G-B and K-P. The highway was later cleared for light traffic but remained closed for heavy cargo trucks.

The newly built Kayal bridge in Kohistan was also struck by gushing flood water four times in the recent past, affecting its foundations. It is one of the main bridges connecting the province with the rest of the country.

Read: Floods wreak havoc in upper country

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“It has been almost two months since heavy traffic has been banned on the Kayal Bridge because of its precarious conditions,” an official told The Express Tribune.

“The heavy traffic ban means our G-B bound loaded trucks couldn’t cross it till it is repaired,” he added.

Gilgit-Baltistan, saidto have only 1 per cent of cultivable land, depends heavily on wheat supplies and other basic necessities from Punjab.

The official added that using the Babusar road, an alternative route available to approach G-B, is not suitable for loaded vehicles due to the high altitude.

He furthered that loading and unloading trucks to cross the Kayal bridge is not a “viable option” either.

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According to witnesses, dozens of loaded trucks can be seen parked on the KKH as they wait for the bridge to be repaired.

While criticizing the rehabilitation efforts by the National Highway Authority (NHA) another official said, “NHA officials in K-P are least bothered about Kohistan Bridge repair and the looming wheat crisis in G-B”.

As winter is round the corner in G-B, the lack of stockpiling of wheat in high-altitude valleys, inhabited by half of the area’s population, is turning out to be a serious concern for the government as well as the locals.

Also read: GB cabinet donates month’s salary for flood relief

Meanwhile, Director Food Department of G-B Ikram Mohammad confirmed the depleted stock of wheat in the province and said it couldn’t be replenished over the past two months due to the blockage of KKH.

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“The matter has been taken to the highest level though,” said the director, adding drastic steps need to be taken to avert the crisis beforehand.

G-B receives around 1.5 million bags of wheat as its quota annually from the Pakistan Agriculture and Storage Corporation (PASCO) at subsidized rates.

Lack of proper grain storage facilities and poor road infrastructure coupled with climate change has put G-B on the top of the vulnerability index for food shortage.

Opposition parties blame government

The opposition party heads including former chief minister Hafizur Rehman of PML-N and the opposition leader in the G-B assembly Amjad Hussain of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) called the current government inept and blamed it for the looming crisis.

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Gilgit Baltistan

Former G-B top judge tenders apology in contempt case

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ISLAMABAD:

Former Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) chief justice Rana Shamim on Monday tendered unconditional apology in the contempt of court case against him in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), saying that he could not “even think of scandalizing” the judiciary.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the contempt of court case that started last year after the publication of an affidavit of Shamim regarding the appeals of the Sharif family, in a local newspaper.

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The affidavit of Shamim had accused former chief justice Saqib Nisar of influencing the case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.

In his apology, submitted through his lawyer Latif Afridi, Shamim stated that the affidavit was written after three years, under “extreme mental stress” and at the age of 72. He added that he was “sorrowful and regretful” since the proceedings against him started last year.

“From the beginning of these proceedings, I have always shown deep regrets and have been apologizing for the circumstances that have been created due to my misunderstanding,” Shamim said.

“I cannot even fathom of scandalizing the very institution I have served so dearly and with utmost professionalism,” he said, adding: “I reiterate that no sitting Judge of this Hon’ble Court involves in controversy mentioned above.”

He said, “I tender unconditional apology to all sitting Judges of this Hon’ble Court for the grave misunderstanding and mistake on my part & place myself at the mercy of this Hon’ble Court with humble request to graciously forgive me.”

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During the hearing, Afridi told the court that his client had asked for unconditional forgiveness and left himself at the mercy of the court. The chief justice said if a genuine apology was tendered, it was not a matter of ego.

Afridi then read from Shamim’s statement. The chief justice told the lawyer that he was making the case even complicated. He asked whether Shamim was still sticking to his sworn statement, adding that sticking to the affidavit and seeking apology could not go together.

The chief justice said that the court could not ignore the allegations. He told the lawyer that the court was giving him one week’s time to submit his affidavit after thinking carefully.



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Gilgit Baltistan

G-B forms body to remove riverbank encroachments

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ISLAMABAD:

The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region has formed a three-member committee for the removal of encroachments, especially on the riverbanks, using latest GIS technologies and remote sensing.

The decision was taken during a meeting of the administrative secretaries chaired by G-B Chief Secretary Mohiuddin Ahmed Wani on Friday.

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Other decisions included putting together another committee for the resolution of issues related to land reforms and instructing the Local Government and Rural Development Department as well as the law department to expedite law making on building by-laws for all major population centres for public safety.

The chief secretary said, “We want to make land available for our citizens to make safe homes while ensuring writ of the state.”

The three-member committee would work with all commissioners and deputy commissioners to immediately remove encroachments harmful to human life.

The chief secretary said that “risky hotspots” will be identified using the latest GIS technology and remote sensing, and strict action will be taken against those involved in encroachments.



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