Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) lawmakers opposed the utilisation of G-B revenue by the federal government and said the regional government should ask for the amount collected and details on expenditure on the third day of proceedings at the G-B Legislative Assembly (G-BLA).
“The federal government must make efforts to return the money collected from the region,” said former finance minister and PML-Q lawmaker Mirza Hussain.
Revenue collected annually from minerals, forests, tourism, wildlife and other natural resources amounts to billions, but goes directly into the federal government’s accounts.
“Nobody in the government is aware of it nor do they bother to inform the public about the details,” he said.
“In actual fact G-B has been at the losing end since its annual development and non-development budgets are significantly smaller than its revenue.”
Independent lawmaker Nazir Naji suggested that the federal government should not be allowed to take G-B’s revenue and that the region should not look towards it for its development budget.
“Since the people are poor, tax should not be imposed on the region.”
Law Minister Wazir Shakil said that the matter does not fall in the purview of G-BLA but the G-B Council, which should take up the issue with the federal government. “A committee consisting of G-BLA members and G-B council are working on it.”
The house agreed to arrange an in-camera session for lawmakers on Friday to discuss the region’s law and order situation. Participants will be briefed by Chief Minister Mehdi Shah.
On a point raised by lawmaker concerning the lack of a promotion mechanism in the army-run Special Communication Organisation, operating G-B and Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s telecommunication networks, Shah said he wanted to hire local people and that only heads of department should be army personnel.
He added that the matter would be taken up at the highest level of government.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2012.