By Gohar Abbas
A delegation of advisors from northern areas, headed by Chief Execitive Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, met Prime Minister Sayed Yousuf Raza Gilani at the PM House, here in Islamabad on Tuesday. Prime Minister was briefed on issues of the region of which the constitutional status of the region and construction of Diamer Bhasha dam were worth mentioning. Mr Gillani assured the delegates that Diamer Bhasha dam will be constructed only after taking the local population into confidence and told the delegates to form a committee which will determine the constitutional status of the region under Qama Zaman Kaira with help of the law minister. He said he will consider granting an Azad Kashmir like set up to the region only after the recommendations of that committee and added that Benazir Income Support Scheme will be implemented in northern areas through transparent assessment and its benefits for the poor and needy will be assured.
Chief Execitive Mir Ghazanfar demanded the prime minister to change name of Diamer Bhasah dam to Diamer Dam and complained that the powers exercised by members of NALA (Northern Areas Legislative Assembly) were not even equal to that of a General Councilor in the four provinces of the country. He said legislative power of elected representatives was indispensable for the development of the region which currently was exercised by the civil and military beurocracy. He demanded the implementation of interest free loans of amount Rs. 50,000 announced last year and elimination of ban on job recruitments in the public sector.
While talking to this reporter after the meeting information advisor Capt (retd) Sikandar Ali said Prime Minister assured them of granting legislative rights to the region and he praised Kamar Zaman Kaira for his role this regard.
Economic Advisor Mirza Hussain said the Prime Minister was briefed regarding the ground realities and the current political scenario of the region. He said from last sixty one years every government had neglected the region creating a sense of deprivation among the people and they feel alienated. Warned that if proper attention is not paid to the region a situation like FATA and Balucistan will be created there as in the current situation nationalist movements and separatist sentiments were rapidly gaining grounds. He alleged the local leadership of PPP for spreading rumors regarding constitutional status and new set up and said he came to know after meeting the prime minister that no ground work exists regarding a new set up. it should be noted that the local leadership of pp had announced that the government was to grant a new set up like that of Azad Kashmir for the region the ground work of which has been completed and the prime minister or president will announce it any time before march2009. Local leadership has already started horse trading for positions and posts in the new set up soon after this news made leads of the local papers.
One participant of the delegation on conditions of anonymity told this reporter that prime minister met the delegation with an open arm but the attitude of people here in the Prime Minister House was discriminatory towards people of Gilgit Baltistan. He said it became evident after meeting the Prime Minister that the announcements regarding new set up made by the local leadership of PPP were mere rumors and that he dose not see any progress in this connection in the coming future.
Members of the delegation included Mrs. Rani Ateqa Ghazanfar, Mrs. Nurul Ain and Mr. Abdul Hameed.