By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Council budget worth Rs780 million for the fiscal year 2014-15—ending in roughly two months—was passed on Tuesday in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said officials.
This was stated by G-B Council member Amjad Hussain who also attended the meeting in Gilgit. Besides the prime minister, the meeting was attended by six members of the National Assembly including Captain Safdar and Asfandyar Bhandara.
All of them are the federal government’s representative members of the G-B Council and accompanied Sharif for his day-long official visit to Gilgit. G-B Governor Barjees Tahir and Caretaker Chief Minister Sher Jehan Mir were also present in the meeting.
Hussain left the meeting immediately after the budget was unveiled due to the presence of Marvi Memon. His objection was that she was not a member of the council and felt her presence was against protocol.
However, before he left the proceedings, he voiced serious reservations over the undecided constitutional status of the region which has haunted residents since 1947.
“This is not a good omen for the region as your government has weakened the governance order of G-B by appointing a non-local governor,” Hussain told the prime minister while making a reference to Barjees Tahir.
“If the region isn’t part of Pakistan, why are mega projects like Diamer–Bhasha Dam and the proposed Pak-China trade corridor being built in the area?” Hussain questioned.
He was also the sole council member to represent G-B in the meeting, while the rest were from the federal government. The tenure of four other members from the region expired two months ago, while one was absent.
“The mistakes committed by Pakistan Peoples Party should not be repeated by PML-N,” Hussain stressed. He also happens to be a leader of the PPP.
Hussain said the budget was passed too late to benefit G-B as it will lapse after June. The G-B Council looks after areas which do not fall into the legislative assembly’s purview: Water and energy, forestry and minerals.
The council meeting also discussed the “forest working plan” which provides a policy to protect forests in the area for 30 years. It was prepared in consultation with stakeholders after recent directives from the prime minister.
Sharif’s one-day visit, during which he announced some mega projects, is being seen by his opponents as the launch of a legislative assembly election campaign for PML-N. The party already has a strong say in the region thanks to its rule over the central government.
A day earlier on Monday, Amjad Hussain had lashed out at PML-N, saying it has already started “pre-poll rigging” by announcing a development package and interfering with administrative matters. He also accused G-B Governor Barjis Tahir of ‘camping’ in Gilgit and influencing the local administration.
Defending the PML-N, the party’s regional president in G-B Hafizur Rehman also said on Monday that government employees would play no role in the public meeting being arranged on the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“There will be a huge rally that will be made successful by party workers and the public, not government employees,” Rehman stressed on the day before Sharif arrived on his first official visit to the region since the 2013 general elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2015.