The issuance of permits to foreigners for mining precious stones has triggered unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), as people consider the move an attempt to rob them of their rights and property.
“We warn the government of dire consequences if it allows mining rights to people other than those from G-B,” Raja Azam, an MQM member in the G-B Legislative Assembly (GBLA), told reporters on Wednesday. He said that he had raised the issue in the assembly too, but the government took it lightly.
Following speculation in the local media this week that a foreign interest had been issued a mining license, politicians from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Skardu warned their own government that issuing permits to foreigners will lead to people standing up against them.
“Issuing permits to foreigners is like allowing them to rob the G-B people,” said the PPP leaders including Lumberdar Yousaf, Fida Hussain, Abdullah Haidery and others. They asked the government to immediately stop Mohsin Industries -- a once-banned Korean company that was awarded the contract earlier this month -- from extracting precious stones, which they felt is the sole property of G-B.
It is believed that over 500 varieties of gemstones including amethysts, aquamarines, spinels, corundums, emeralds, garnets, peridots, rubies, pyrites, moonstone, fluorite, pargasite, quartz and tourmalines are hidden away in the mountains of G-B. Experts blame a lack of technical expertise and equipment behind the improper utilisation of the resources.
Mohsin Industries was earlier banned by the government in G-B after intelligence agencies had suspicions over its activities in the region.
However critics believe the fresh permission for the company will mean it will expand its operations to all seven districts of G-B, encroaching on the livelihoods of a number of people associated with the industry.
In view of the hue and cry over the issue, the GBLA also discussed the issue this month as all the members of various parties unanimously passed a resolution against the extraction of gemstones by foreign parties.
The issue was also taken up by G-B Metals, Minerals and Gems Association, which said that a “nonlocal mineral mafia” has blocked access for locals to the gemstone trade in G-B, adding to poverty and joblessness in the region.
Advocate Shahbaz Khan, chairperson of the association, and former assistant inspector general of police Hashmatullah, who is vice president of the association, said that the mafia controls minerals spread over 40,000 square kilometres through various mining and exploration licenses.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ