Public Finance in Gilgit-Baltistan

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Gilgit–Baltistan formerly known as the Northern Areas) is the northernmost territory of Pakistan Gilgit–Baltistan is an autonomous self-governing region that was established as a single administrative unit in 1970, formed by the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan region and the former princely states of Hunza and Nagar. It covers an area of 72,971 km² (28,174 mi²) and is highly mountainous. It has an estimated population approaching 1,000,000. Its capital city is Gilgit.

An Overview

Gilgit Baltistan
Established 1st July 1970
Capital Gilgit
Largest City Gilgit
Government Type Self governing territory under Pakistani control
Body Legislative Assembly
Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah
Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah
Area 72496 Sq Km
Population 1800000
Main Languages Urdu, Balti Tibetan, Shina, Burushaski
Assembly Seats 33
Districts 9
Tehsils /Town 9
Geography

Gilgit–Baltistan borders Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province to the west, a small portion of the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the north, China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the northeast, the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast, and the Pakistani-administered state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south.

Gilgit–Baltistan is home to five of the “eight-thousanders” and to more than fifty peaks above 7,000 meters. Gilgit and Skardu are the two main hubs for expeditions to those mountains. The region is home to some of the world’s highest mountain ranges. The main ranges are the Karakoram and the western Himalayas. The Pamir Mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat, the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world.

Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the Polar Regions are found in Gilgit–Baltistan: the Biafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier.

The Deosai Plains are located above the tree line and constitute the second-highest plateau in the world at 4,115 meters (14,500 feet) after Tibet. The plateau lies east of Astore, south of Skardu and west of Ladakh. The area was declared as a national park in 1993. The Deosai Plains cover an area of almost 5,000 square kilometers. For over half the year (between September and May), Deosai is snow-bound and cut off from rest of Astore and Baltistan in winters. The village of Deosai lies close to Chilum chokki and is connected with the Kargil district of Ladakh through an all-weather road.

Economy

The economy of Gilgit Baltistan (Northern Areas) has undergone considerable expansion and diversification, much of it in the areas of trade, transportation, housing and construction, mineral resources and communication, etc. This region is a notable supplier to the country as well as the world of many important minerals. In the Southern part of the region, it has major deposits of Nickle, Cobalt, Copper, Lead, Tin, Bismit, Mica, Quartz, Zircon, Coal and Actonolite that are famous for their exceptionally good quality. It also has substantial resources of Iron, Silver, Gold, Zinc, Marble, Granite, Sulpher, Calsite, Fluorite, Lime Stone, Arsenic, Spinel, Garmet, Epidot, Topaz, Moon Stone, Pargasite, Tourmoline, Aquamarin, Pyrite and feldspar in the North-eastern, Northern and North-western parts of the area.

It is also one of the country’s largest producers of stone jewelry. Gilgit Baltistan has a broad small industrial base, producing manufactured goods for local and foreign markets. The production of beef and poultry is well developed and well known for its quality and taste.  With the improvement of infrastructure, considerable investment continues in export oriented items or products. On the other hand, the rapid growth of communication has given ample opportunity to foreign investors to flourish their deliveries. In recent years, the growth of hotel industry in the area has brought a new dynamism and prosperity to the common man. This seems befitting, since it was the scenic beauty of the Gilgit Baltistan that has convinced the local and non-local investors to develop tourism industry.

It is tourism only that fills the new province’s coffers. Although, the federal government allocates funds in the annual budget, yet, Gilgit Baltistan makes most of its assets from tourism and minerals. Besides, Northern Areas produce over 70 percent of dry fruits consumed inside the country and abroad. Another distinctive component of the region’s economy is its capacity to become a hub of energy sector. There has been a slight improvement in the installation of high-tech and heavy industries than in the past in this largely rural society. However, it is hoped that after becoming a province, the government will pay more heed to reinvigorate the economy on modern lines. The future discoveries of rich minerals, oil and gas deposits will definitely help the government and the people to consolidate on the rapid transition towards building a strong industrial base.

Government

The Government of Gilgit Baltistan also known as the State Government of the Northern Areas, is the highest governing authority of the territory and its 7 districts. It consists of an executive, led by the Governor of Gilgit Baltistan, a judiciary and a legislative branch.

Like other states in India, the head of state of Gilgit Baltistan is the governor. The governor is chosen by the President of Pakistan on the advice of the central government. The governor’s post is largely ceremonial. It does not have much power. The Chief Minister is the head of government and is holds most of the executive powers.

The Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly is a 33-seat unicameral legislative body. It was formed as part of the Gilgit–Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009. This order gave the region self-rule and an elected legislative assembly. Before this, the region had been directly ruled from Islamabad.

 Administrative Divisions

Gilgit–Baltistan is administratively divided into two divisions which, in turn, are divided into nine districts, consisting of the four Baltistan districts of Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang, and Ghanche, and the five Gilgit districts of Gilgit, Ghizer, Diamer, Astore, and Hunza-Nagar. The principal administrative centers are the towns of Gilgit and Skardu.