GILGIT: Possible change in the legislation for gemstone industry in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has been a cause of concern for the local businessmen. However, the government on Saturday assured of people friendly policies and implication of only those who are involved in malpractices.
“The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government will only act against those who got bank loans to invest in gemstones trade but did not spend the money accordingly.” This was stated by Chief Minister of G-B Mehdi Shah. He also shot down the allegations of acting against the interest of the people involved with the industry. “It is a false claim that we are against local people’s gemstones and minerals business,” Mehdi Shah.
Earlier, people associated with the gemstone business in Gilgit and Skardu said that the government was barring and discouraging locals from investing in the region. “The government is making anti-people policies and barring people from conducting business in this industry,” said Wazir Abbas, a local businessman.
He said that this was an attempt to alienate locals from this lucrative business. He said that the government was planning to lease out the mineral sector. “If this is done, thousands of people in the associated businesses will be left to die of hunger,” he added.
Nasir Hussain, another resident of Gilgit echoed the same feelings, saying that the government should help businessmen instead of putting hurdles in their way.
Earlier this month, the news of new legislation for the minerals and gemstones business in G-B triggered a debate that still continues in various forums.
The G-B chapter of the Labour Party had also criticised the government for making anti-people legislation and threatened to bring people onto the streets against the government. “These resources belong to the local people and they are the sole custodians. Legislation should be according to what we want,” said Labour Party President Ahsan Ali.
The chief minister however said that the ‘fears’ of local people were baseless and unfounded. “We would never deprive people of their sources of income, rather we want to help them,” he said, adding that people doing their businesses legally would be appreciated.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2011.