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27 May 2017 Last updated 9 minutes ago

GB lawmakers oppose NOC for foreigners’ visit to region

Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly File photo Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly

As members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly from across the aisle on Friday opposed the federal government’s decision to bar foreign tourists from visiting the region without obtaining a no-objection certificate from the interior ministry, Islamabad has decided to ease the procedure for issuance of the NOC.

Speaking on a point of order, Kacho Imtiaz Haider, member of the opposition Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, said the restriction, which was an insult of GB people, would lead to the collapse of the region’s economy.

GB Minister for Works Dr Muhammad Iqbal said getting an NOC from the interior ministry was not an easy task and it would discourage foreign tourists from visiting GB.

Aurangzaib Advocate, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, asked the federal government to empower the GB government to issue NOCs to foreign tourists.

Minister for Tourism Fida Khan said GB was one of the most peaceful regions in South Asia but the federal ministry had unnecessarily created problems for foreign tourists intending to visit GB. However, there were also voices defending the NOC. Barkat Jamil of the PML-N said GB had a security threat and the house was aware of involvement of Indian intelligence agency RAW in (subversive) activities in the region.

Interior ministry decides to ease the procedure for issuance of NOCs

“We should respect the country’ integrity and accept the policy of the federal government,” he said.

Deputy Speaker of the assembly Jaffarullah Khan, who chaired the session, said they could not compromise on Pakistan’s integrity for economic factors.

He said GB was the entry point of the China-Pakistan Economic Corri­dor and international conspiracies were being hatched to fail the project. “Agents of enemies of Pakistan have been arrested from the region. To stop the enemies from making inroads in the region, the federal government has made the NOC mandatory for foreign tourists visiting the region.”

He advised GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman to approach the federal government to seek withdrawal of the ban or to ensure that an NOC was issued within 10 days.

Taking part in a debate on a resolution seeking an increase in the number of judges in GB higher judiciary, Law Minister Dr Muhammad Iqbal said judges were being appointed on the basis of their religious and political affiliations and personal like and dislike of those who mattered.

The resolution, tabled by parliamentary secretary for law and justice Aurangzaib Advocate, calls for an increase in the number of judges of GB Supreme Appellate Court from three to five and those of GB Chief Court from five to seven.

Meanwhile, the federal governm­ent has decided to ease the procedure for issuance of NOCs required by foreigners to travel to the northern areas.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan directed the ministry to ease and expedite procedure for issuance of NOCs to foreigners intending to travel to GB and asked the relevant officials to evolve a new procedure that meets the desired requirements, a spokesman for the ministry said.

He explained that the NOC was not something new and all the foreigners had been required to obtain NOC from the ministry to proceed to GB since 1994.