‘Imran likely to announce economic package, provincial rights for GB’

Sources say govt may also announce plans to build tunnel at Babusar Top to facilitate travelling to GB throughout the year

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ISLAMABAD: Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Governor Raja Jalal Hussain Maqpoon on Sunday said that Prime Minister Imran Khan is likely to announce an economic package for GB during his visit next month as the government contemplates on whether to make GB the country’s fifth province.

According to the GB governor, who met the prime minister last week, Imran is likely to announce an economic package for GB during his visit to Gilgit which is scheduled in the first week of October.

He said that the prime minister, apart from making announcements regarding development projects, would also inaugurate medical and engineering colleges in the area.

He also said that the premier may also take the people of GB on board about the government’s reform agenda for the area through granting a provisional constitutional provincial status to the region.

Although the government intended to grant a “provisional provincial status” to the strategically-located GB through amendments in the constitution, opposition parties wished to hold consultations on the issue after the election of GB Legislative Assembly session scheduled on November 15.

An official source also informed Profit that the premier, who is also the GB Council chairman, would chair the session which has not been held during the past two years.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has been approving the council’s annual budget for not holding the session regularly.

According to sources, the ruling party which wishes to win the election in GB would also announce the construction of rest houses at about 70 places to promote tourism under the economic package.

Additionally, loans will be provided to locals for building huts and guesthouses at tourist destinations.

Further, the government may also announce plans to build a tunnel at Babusar Top to make travelling to GB possible throughout the year.

Earlier, while talking to Profit, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur had claimed that the 73-year long deprivations faced by GB’s people would soon come to an end.

Besides the constitutional rights and the provincial setup, the minister added, important steps were also being taken for the development of the region.

According to the Gandapur, work on the Moqpondass Special Economic Zone (SEZ) would begin under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), while the government would also take steps to improve health, tourism, transport and education facilities.

“To provide better healthcare facilities to the people of Gilgit Baltistan, the government will provide MRI and CT scan machines to all district headquarters hospitals, while basic health units (BHUs) will be provided with ultrasound machines,” he said.

It may be recalled here that the government and the opposition had discussed the issues of granting provincial status to GB during a meeting between a government team comprising Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar with Leader of Opposition and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and PML-N’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal were also present on the occasion.

The opposition parties urged to deal with developments regarding GB’s constitutional issue after the GB Legislative Assembly election keeping the impact on polls.

The elections, earlier scheduled for August 18, were postponed due to the Covid-19 situation whereas the five-year term of the previous assembly had ended on June 24, bringing an end to PML-N’s five-year rule.

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