By Rubab Maryam Khan
London, 21 January 2016 – Gilgit-Baltistan’s Chief Minister, Hafiz Hafeez Ur Rehman, visited the Ismaili Centre on Thursday afternoon, where he met with Liakat Hasham, the President of the Ismaili Council for United Kingdom, Farhad Mawani, Vice President, Nadeem Boghani, Chairman Aga Khan Economic Planning Board and Salim Janmohmed, National Council member. The Chief Minister was accompanied by a high level delegation including Gilgit- Baltistan’s Chief Secretary, Tahir Husain and Sana Ullah, Secretary Education. Shaukat Ali Khan, National Council member responsible for Europe, arranged the meeting originally from Hunza, Gilgit- Baltistan and he was also part of the meeting.
The Chief Minister conveyed his deep admiration for His Highness The Aga Khan, the Ismaili community particularly in Gilgit- Baltistan and around the world, and work of the AKDN globally. The Chief Minister also expressed his gratitude to His Highness for his on-going support towards the development of Gilgit- Baltistan region. He praised the Ismaili community for being forward thinking and assisting sister communities in various parts of Gilgit- Baltistan, and leading communities as role models in peace and in development work in the region.
President Hasham thanked the government of Gilgit- Baltistan and Pakistan in assisting the AKDN and other institutions in fulfilling their agendas. He noted that Gilgt- Baltistan is home to a large community of Ismailis.
The investment potential of the region was discussed at the meeting. The Chief Minister announced the government’s plan of establishing a Board of Investment by June 2016, with a view of facilitating the implementation of investment projects; and more importantly to continuously improve the investment and business climate. The Board of Investment would be the first point of contact for investors exploring business opportunities.
Potential investment plans were also discussed including the introduction of micro-hydroelectric plants, enabling remote communities in the region to gain independent access to energy supply. The Chief Minister highlighted the idea of eco-friendly energy generation in the area with the long-term mission of reducing carbon emissions, reducing the use of firewood, which is a leading source of deforestation in the region. He further requested for support from the AKDN in the execution of these projects.
The AKDN, the President said, have a particular expertise in hydro power stations with the success of Bujagali Hydropower Plant in Africa. He reassured that there is a strong possibility on an institutional level to collaborate in this sector.
The Chief Minister officially invited the European Ismaili business leaders to visit Gilgit-Baltistan and explore the opportunities the area has to offer particularly in the hospitality and leisure industry. He reflected on the surge of tourists in 2015, which is said to double by the summer of 2016 to around a million. He stressed on the need of new hotels to cater the large influx of tourists and emphasized on the major opportunity in the hospitality industry for investors.
The Chief Secretary conveyed the importance of Gilgit-Baltistan in the current context of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Gilgit-Baltistan acting as a gateway. The continuous efforts to improve the road links between China and Central Asia will further open up more avenues for investment in the region.
The Chief Minister emphasized on the improved state of law and order in the region with a drastic decline in corruption since the new government was elected.
The Chief Minister in his final remarks said that he looks forward to working closely with the Ismaili community and the AKDN in various fields.
At the end of the meeting, the Chief Minister and the delegates were given an official tour of the Ismaili Centre.