Portfolios for Gilgit-Baltistan ministers announced

Express April 26, 2010

GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah on Monday announced portfolios for ministers in his newly sworn-in cabinet.

Senior minister Muhammad Jaffer has been given the portfolio of Agriculture and Fisheries, Wazir Shakil has been given the Ministries of Law, Planning, Water and Power, Muhammad Ali Akhtar has been given the charge of Finance, Revenue and Cooperatives, while Ali Madad Sher has been given the portfolio of Education, Social Welfare and Women Affairs. He will also be the spokesperson for the chief minister. Muhammad Ismail will be looking after the Ministry of Local Government and Census, while the lone cabinet member from the JUI-F has been given the portfolio of Population, Health, Zakat and Ushr.

The chief minister decided to retain key portfolios of Environment, Tourism, Public Works and Minerals. Shah said that he was planning to induct a couple of more ministers in the cabinet after consultation with the lawmakers. Speaking to reporters at his office, Chief Minister Shah refused to support or oppose the demand for more provinces in the country, saying that he would give his opinion, if consulted by the PPP to which he belongs. “If I am consulted, I will give my opinion,” Shah told journalists.

He was asked if he supported the creation of new provinces in the country as demanded by the people of southern Punjab and the Hazara division. “For us it is sufficient that Gilgit-Baltistan has been given the status of province,” he added. The chief minister strongly criticised nationalist politicians in the region for, what he called, “their dual policies”. “On the one hand they are using Pakistani currency, while on the other hand they are demanding autonomy,” Shah said.

“I ask these nationalists to ask their relatives serving in government departments to resign before making such demands,” he said referring to some regional groups opposed to self-rule in Gilgit-Baltistan. On Sunday, chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Sardar Muhammad Sagir Khan had called the Gilgit- Baltistan Self-Empowerment Order 2009 a “joke”. He had urged the government to form a one-unit constituent assembly by combining the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). However, the chief minister rejected the criticism, saying that it was a national responsibility of all the people to work for strengthening Self- Empowerment Order which paved way for self-governance.

Asked why PPP lawmakers did not respond to the opposition’s tirades in the assembly, Shah said that his party was following a policy of reconciliation. “It is the beauty of democracy,” he said.

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