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Adversity into Opportunity – Pakistan’s 75th Anniversary

On the occasion of Pakistan’s 75th Independence Day, Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani writes about the initiatives being taken for the development of Gilgit Baltistan in various domains such as economy, women empowerment, climate change and political integration. In the following piece, he discusses the issues faced by the GB population and the actions being undertaken by the current GB administration in order to overcome these issues and create a prosperous and productive society there. The Chief Secretary has shared his optimistic vision for the future of GB and for the optimization of its resources.

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Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), the Northern administrative region of Pakistan, has undergone a dramatic positive transformation over the last few months. Known as the region of mountains, its rarely known for its romance, food, culture, and people. The “GB Dream” aims to finally bring the spotlight to these concepts.

Despite the challenging environment, difficult terrain, harsh topography, and other administrative issues, GB is transforming due to the efforts and resilience of its people, but in line with ideas of eco-sustainability. Only a few years back, this region was grappled with unprecedented crises in the form of sectarian violence and law and order situations. However, with prudent decision-making, inclusivity of local stakeholders and special attention given by successive representative governments, this sordid past is well beyond us as we look forward to usher a new phase of progress and development.

The wave of development in GB is impressive and based on social and human development with a focus on women and youth, backed by serious political and administrative support under the dynamic leadership of the very able GB government. No longer will the people look at the past in which they were cut off from other provinces, were administratively governed, had a lack of resources and more. On completion of these glorious 75 years of Pakistan, we aim to further look ahead to a future of GB which is beautiful, making it a tourism hub of Pakistan that is connected with the world and progressive in its thoughts.

This article stems from the ideas of how “adversity was transformed into opportunity” through proper attention to the basic needs of the people. The key policy interventions are aimed at fiscal reforms, capacity building and sustainability backed by technology.

Read more: GB Assembly unanimously demands provisional provincial status

The government is serious about human development, particularly in the education sector. In its aim to appreciate teachers, the GB National Teachers Award of PKR 10 lac each is reserved for three teaching professionals to appraise their commitment, dedication, and excellence. Moreover, to address stunted growth in children, the first government-funded “meals and health improvement for students in schools” program has been started. The GB government has also initiated the Taaleem Finance scheme that aims at providing soft loans/scholarships to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

To acquaint children with potential career choices, the government of GB organized events for career counseling and the first ever ‘GB Career Fest’ is scheduled for 15th to 18th August to open doors of opportunities for the youth. Also, the government has decided to hire tech fellows for middle schools to teach entrepreneurial and STEM education to students of the region. They will also work on their communication skills and impart public speaking and debating capabilities. Additionally, Rs. 5 crores have been reserved for the establishment of new libraries and computer labs in schools. The initiative will be completed in the next 6 months and all schools in the province will have functional computer labs and libraries. To change the mentality from prisoner to pioneer, the Old City prison building is being converted into a ‘Centre of Learning’ with the provincial government’s approval.

Since we live in the IT age, particular attention is being given to the department. IT Software Park providing free-of-cost co-working spaces to IT companies at Polytechnic Institute Chilmishdass, has been made operational to further push the startup revolution in Pakistan. To make the students competitive and create a small Silicon Valley, boot camps have been put together in schools to teach the basics of computer programming and coding to budding students by professionals. Furthermore, the Cabinet approved the creation of GB’s own IT Board to spearhead an IT revolution. In the coming 6 months, IT parks in all districts of the province will be established to augment the IT sector.

Reforming the dilapidated health sector is high on the government’s agenda. Renovation of sports complex at Jutial, Gilgit and establishment of gyms in all districts is to be carried out to promote physical activity among residents of the city. Apart from that, weekly medical camps have been set up under the supervision of Assistant Commissioners to focus on the mental and physical health of the people of GB. Regulation of food items in educational institutes and vicinity areas through the “GB Educational Institutions Food Standard Regulation, 2022” will provide hygienic food to people.

Read more: Development of Education Sector in Gilgit-Baltistan

There was only one operational MRI machine in the province, which was in Gilgit city. Therefore, two additional machines have been procured and sent to Skardu and Chilas. Lastly, in another first, the retirement age for medical experts was increased to 65 to retain talent and fill the existing specialization gap while empty seats are being rapidly filled on concepts of skill, meritocracy and experience. Meanwhile, medical fellows are being employed by third-party recruitment on market competitive salaries to address the paucity of specialized doctors.

GB is a hub of tourism, and no reform will be complete without addressing it. To boost tourism, prefabricated toilets are being rapidly installed at the tourist sites under the administrative control of the Forest Department to assist the travelers. For a revolution in tourism, the concept of a Tourism Authority will also be approved after further deliberations and GB Tourism App will be made functional to further boost tourism. This App will be an information interface for potential tourists who will have knowledge of weather, route access, traffic and hotel availability with the click of a button. On top of that, cleanliness and beautification campaigns by all municipalities in GB will make this region the heaven of Pakistan. Reforms in police are underway to make it more tourist friendly and receptive to the needs of the tourists.

Furthermore, to move towards self-sufficiency through its own source of revenue generation, the creation of GB Revenue Authority was also approved. Additionally, a gemstone market is being constructed in the Chinar Bagh area of Gilgit to create business opportunities.

Read more: Understanding the geo-strategic significance of Gilgit Baltistan

All in all, in order to fully utilize the potential of Gilgit Baltistan and to give it the attention it merits, the GB government is taking the necessary measures in a multitude of domains.