Home Global Village GB chief promoting tourism while traders continue to strike

GB chief promoting tourism while traders continue to strike

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The province of Gilgit-Baltistan has invited private airlines to collaborate with the regional government and start off local flights to the scenic province. Talking to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Malik Tahir Javaid, the Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister Hafeezur Rehman said that the region had immense opportunities in tourism, energy and infrastructure sectors.

There is one PIA flight that has been connecting the country to Skardu commercially. “Pakistan International Airlines’ operations in G-B are not enough to cater to the needs and the increased role of the private sector is important to boost tourism,” he said.

The president of the traders’ association, Muhammad Ibrahim, regretted that the traders were already facing huge losses because of the ‘cleaning taxes’ and now the government.

The Chief Minister also stressed on the role of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in generating lucrative investment opportunities, which must be tapped by local investors. The GB wing of CPEC has under its cap, industrial and economic zones that are being established which will create ample employment opportunities for the people of this area.

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Talking about the energy sector, Rehman said GB was not linked with the national grid, which was a major hurdle in the way of tapping power generation potential of the region. German development agency GIZ and the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) have estimated in feasibility reports that G-B has the potential to generate 40,900 megawatts.

He also announced that work on establishing the first grid in GB was at the tender stage, adding that no serious work had been done in the past on Diamer-Bhasha Dam. Now, he added, land acquisition for Diamer-Bhasha had been completed in a transparent manner, which helped save Rs. 12 billion against initial estimates.

A march towards Islamabad will also be organised if the government does not accept our demand,” said Nisar Hussain Raki, president of the GB Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Diamer-Bhasha, Bunji and Dasu dams will generate 4,500MW, 7,500MW and 5,000MW respectively of cheap and environment-friendly electricity that will reduce the oil import bill considerably.

Talking about tourism, the chief minister emphasised that various measures were being taken to tap the region’s vast potential in that field for higher economic gains. Saying that the number of tourists was increasing, he termed it a good sign. Speaking on the occasion, the LCCI president said GB had immense importance in geo-economics and geo-strategic terms.

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“Geographically, Gilgit-Baltistan shares borders in the northeast with China, in the extreme north with Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan, in the west with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and in the south and southeast with Azad Kashmir,” Javaid said, adding it was also endowed with vast metallic, non-metallic minerals, precious stones and different rocks of industrial use.

This move came amidst yet another strike by traders in Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday against the imposition of taxes on residents by the government without determining the constitutional statues of the region.

Markets, shops and business centers remained closed throughout the day in almost all 10 districts of the region, while public transport remained off the main roads, including the Karakoram Highway.

“The government’s attempt to divide trade bodies, bazaar committees, transporters and political parties has further strengthened the protesters who have now announced a series of strikes, long marches and sit-ins across GB against the imposition of taxes,” the demonstrators said.

Surprisingly, while life in the region came to a standstill following the strike, GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman and his key ministers went to Lahore on Thursday to attend a wedding ceremony.

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The strike call was given by GB Central Traders Association, Awami Action Committee, GB Chamber of Commerce and Industry, transporters’ association and opposition parties; Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pakistan Peoples Party, Islami Tehreek Pakistan, Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl.

The imposition of taxes in GB was also opposed by the Supreme Court Bar Association, High Court Bar Association, Hotels Association, Petroleum Dealers Association, Transport Association, Timber Association and Minerals and Gems Association.

This move came amidst yet another strike by traders in Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday against the imposition of taxes on residents by the government without determining the constitutional statues of the region.

Markets, shops and business centers remained closed throughout the day in almost all 10 districts of the region, while public transport remained off the main roads, including the Karakoram Highway.

The protesters also threatened the government to face a Faizabad-like sit-in in every district. “A march towards Islamabad will also be organised if the government does not accept our demand,” said Nisar Hussain Raki, president of the GB Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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“First decide our constitutional position and then impose any tax being levied in other provinces,” he said, adding that it was unconstitutional to impose taxes on traders when no benefit was being derived from it by the locals, traders or even the government.

The president of the traders’ association, Muhammad Ibrahim, regretted that the traders were already facing huge losses because of the ‘cleaning taxes’ and now the government had introduced banking fee on transfers and transactions as well.


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