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ISLAMABAD: NUST Institute of Policy Studies (NIPS) organised a high-level roundtable on Gilgit-Baltistan here the other day.

The participants discussed G-B’s strategic significance, its rich history, critical placement in the Belt and Road Initiative, constitutional and political evolution, linguistic diversity, socio-ethnic harmony and resourceful human capital.

Prof Atta Ullah Shah, Vice-Chancellor, Karakorum International University (KIU), G-B, highlighted the region’s importance as the gateway to CPEC. He stressed G-B’s immense development potential, and stated that the region’s natural, linguistic, social, cultural, and culinary diversity presented a huge business potential.

He remarked that small business development, high-altitude porter services, supply chain management, e-commerce, green mining, up-skilling women artisans, renewable energy, tourism, agri-business, tech-based ventures, and trade and commerce were major areas of further expansion and growth, provided challenges like climate change, water scarcity, shortage of cultivable land, ecological fragility, lack of proper institutional framework, physical infrastructure gaps, and the absence of good policies could be resolved on an immediate basis.

Talking about the culture of Gilgit-Baltistan, author and historian, Muhammad Hassan Hasrat, emphasised the linkage between geography and cultural mores of the region.

He highlighted the organic link between the region’s mountain ranges, glaciers, rivers, valleys, and flora and fauna and its arts, crafts, languages, architecture, heritage food, sports, cultural pastimes, music, and history.

Faiz Ullah Faraq, spokesperson of G-B government and faculty member at KIU, emphasised the critical role of youth in the development of Gilgit-Baltistan. He said that the youth of G-B represented the intellectual and moral force that could prove to be the decisive driver of growth in the region as well as the rest of the country. He highlighted the crucial role that G-B’s young adults were playing in different walks of life like armed forces, civil service, sports, education, entrepreneurship, and community service.

Veteran law enforcement professional and senior columnist, former IG Sindh Afzal Ali Shigri, talked about the historical and political evolution of G-B. He highlighted the significance of the region’s demand for constitutional rights for overall national development and growth.

He also stressed that issues like land rights, equitable representation in CPEC development, royalty and development of hydropower projects, mineral development, and environmental protection needed to be tackled satisfactorily at the earliest. Ghulam Shahzad, Member Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly, highlighted that granting provisional provincial status to G-B would promote and streamline human resource development of G-B.

Ambassador Riaz Khokhar (Retd), former foreign secretary, cautioned against the negative role of external forces in G-B, which, he considered, required prudent domestic political management and masterful diplomacy simultaneously. Owais Ghani, former Governor of KP and Balochistan, and Lieutenant General Masood Aslam (Retd), former commander 11 Corps, considered that G-B’s constitutional development and regional economic development were closely linked together.

The roundtable was chaired by Dr Ashfaque Hassan Khan, DG NIPS and Principal NUST School of Social Sciences & Humanities, and attended by an overwhelming number of students, scholars and dignitaries from Gilgit-Baltistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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