early elections?

Centre asked to bail out GB from financial crisis

ISLAMABAD, Jan 20: The financial crisis in Gilgit-Baltistan has reached such an alarming level that the chief minister and some of the members of the GB Council have sought an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to bail the provincial government out of the mess, it has been learnt here.

Media reports said that Chief Minister Mehdi Shah in a communication to the prime minister house has requested that they wanted to meet the prime minister to apprise him of the situation and seek help to overcome the problems arising out of the financial crisis. Mr Ibrahim, one of the members of the GB Council, told the media here that most of the members of the GB Council and the legislative assembly were already in Islamabad and they wanted to meet the prime minister under the head of Mehdi Shah to request Islamabad to come to the rescue of the provincial government facing the worst financial crisis.

It may be noted that the GB government has been unable even to pay salaries to most of its employees as its coffers are empty mainly due to mismanagement and king-like lifestyles of its governor, chief minister and all the cabinet members. Now when there is even no penny to pay for the fuel and other expenses of the rulers, they have gone berserk and want to meet the prime minister to get some funds. Shortage of funds has long been the main headache for the PPP government and it has failed to get any help from the centre despite the fact that the party is also in power in Islamabad.

During the 2009 elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, the then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the region and promised funds but after the PPP came to power in the region, the promise was never fulfilled. At the end of 2012, Mehdi Shah and his cabinet members managed to persuade PM Raja Pervez Ashraf to visit Gilgit in the hope that he would sanction some funds. He came, promised Rs2 billion and went back never to talk about again.

A few weeks back, the chief minister even went so far to announce that one billion rupees of the promised Rs2 billion had been released. However, to this day there is no account of the funds and the situation is worsening. The troubling matter for the rulers in Gilgit now is that as the election days are nearing in Pakistan and there is no hope that the PPP would come back to power due to its failure to deliver, there is no hope that the next government in Islamabad would come to the rescue of the Gilgit government. Keeping in view the fast changing political situation in Islamabad, it is not difficult to judge that the days of the GB government not only numbered but also troublesome. Due to the lack of funds, the wheel of development has come to a grinding halt and even government employees are without salaries for months. The government officials in the region say that the federal government had to pay the area sufficient funds but due to the delay the situation had worsened.

They say that the issue would be resolved very soon. But this we have been hearing for long and the federal government has not paid any heed to the requests from Gilgit. It is feared that as the federal government has its own issues and priorities keeping in view the forthcoming elections, Gilgit-Baltistan would not be in its priority. Secondly, Islamabad has become fed up with the financial irregularities in Gilgit-Baltistan and now it also knows well that funds provided to the region are not judiciously used and most of it land into the pockets of the rulers instead of being spent on the welfare of the people.  

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