ISLAMABAD: Issuance of mining lease to a Hong-Kong based company has become a matter of hot debate in Gilgit – Baltistan. Opposition and treasury members of the Gilgit – Baltistan Legislative Assembly have rejected the move, terming it to be violation of a GBLA resolution which had advised the government against issuance of mining lease.
Nationalist parties, officials of Pakistan Peoples Party’s various chapters, as well as some GBLA members, have denounced issuance of the lease, equating it to “robbing” of GB’s natural resources.
Chief Minister of GB, Mehdi Shah, has said that Islamabad has issued the lease, not his government. He has, however, said that if mining companies offer jobs to the local people more such leases will be issued.
Interestingly, negating the CM’s statement, GB Finance Minister, Muhammad Ali Akhtar, has said that Mehdi Shah himself has issued the mining lease for Mohsin Industries. He has also accused the Chief Minister of issuing the lease “in darkness of the night”. He has further said that blaming Islamabad for issuance of the lease is misleading.
Opposition leader in GBLA, Bashir Ahmed, has also opposed the lease. “We will not let anyone to take the resources of Gilgit – Baltistan”, he has reportedly said while blaming the Chief Minister of issuing the mining lease, in violation of GBLA Speaker’s recent ruling.
The mining company, globally known as Bao-Billion Mining Group (HK) Limited, has in the meanwhile started hiring hundreds of people for working on the future projects in Gilgit – Baltistan. In Pakistan the company is operating under the name of Mohsin Industries.
The Chief Minister’s statement that his government did not issue the lease licence is a serious matter that cannot be put under the carpet and forgotten. How can the dream of self-governance be materialized, if the Gilgit – Baltistan’s elected representatives are not taking policy decisions?
Mining of the mineral resources of Gilgit – Baltistan, has always been a contentious issue because of the region’s ambiguous constitutional status. Despite of operating under Pakistani administration, Gilgit – Baltistan has no clear constitutional status in the national governance mechanism.
While it is important to create job opportunities in Gilgit – Baltistan, in no way shall the legal and natural rights of the region’s politically dis-empowered people be put at more disadvantage due to loss of natural resources. It is duty of the Gilgit – Baltistan Legislative Assembly to make the realities public and defend rights of the region, without any compromise, at any and all costs.
Many experts are of the opinion that heavy investment in Gilgit -Baltistan should be discouraged till resolution of the issue of constitutional status. This is important because weak political representatives, or weak elected bodies, may not be in a position to defend rights of the indigenous people, who are living in a mineral rich region.