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Keep shining: Ban on gemstone trade lifted after four years in G-B

GILGIT: A four-year old ban on the trade of gemstones in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) was lifted on Thursday, restoring the income of nearly 10,000 families associated with the sector.

The directives came from Chief Secretary Sikandar Sultan, overturning the ban which was imposed by the previous government on the recommendations of the bureaucracy “in order to streamline the trade” by forming mining laws. The mining laws, however, were never drafted during the erstwhile government’s tenure, even as gemstone dealers left no stone unturned in hopes of the ban being abolished.

The federal government later expedited the process after Mehdi Shah’s government completed its term in December last year, paving the way for an interim set-up.

“Till the approval of the mining laws by the federal government, traders are allowed to continue their business as per the previous pattern,” Munir Johar, an official at the information department, said while referring to a meeting chaired by the chief secretary. “The chief secretary has directed staff not to obstruct gemstone traders at police check posts,” added Johar.

‘Economic murder’

The ban was lifted after the gemstone association of G-B threatened to protest against the embargo that deprived nearly 10,000 families associated with the trade of precious stones in the region. The prominent stones among these are ruby, emerald, topaz, aquamarine, sapphire and tourmaline.

The secretary general of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s G-B chapter, Akbar Taban, lauded the party’s regional president Hafeezur Rahman and Governor Barjees Tahir for lifting the ban.

“The ban was like the economic murder of thousands of families,” said Taban, blaming former chief minister Mehdi Shah.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2015.

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