PRIME Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday approved what is believed to be a historic multibillion development package for Gilgit-Baltistan whilst pledging that the development of the region was amongst the priorities of his government.
The package reportedly envisages infrastructure development, electricity projects and protection of environment and promotion of tourism.
Since the PTI has its own government in the region, therefore, implementation of the package should not face any hindrance and projects under the package must be executed within the given timeframe so that the people could actually see the difference in their lifestyle.
The socio-economic and territorial development of GB is of tremendous strategic importance to Pakistan.
Especially ever since the launch of multibillion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, the region has gained much importance in the context of both geo-politics and geo-economics and that it can no longer be treated as an inconsequential backyard of the country.
GB is a spectacularly beautiful area, but is economically poor and environmentally fragile.
Hence it is important the government gives special emphasis to upgrade tourism to bring in more revenues to the local population.
This will require, inter alia, more investment in quality hotels and restaurants; better organized sports and other activities for tourists, particularly in the winter which tends to be a dead period; more experiential tourism where visitors can visit and stay in local houses, eat local foods and participate in local activities.
It is also critical that strong steps are taken to ensure that tourism is environment-friendly.
In particular, strict regulations and guidelines backed up with penalties and fines are needed to control environmental degradation.
Hotels and eating places should be licensed only after they have installed adequate sewage and waste disposal facilities.
Solid waste collection and recycling needs to be improved and the use of the plastic bags must be banned.
Responsibility also rests with the political parties to honour the resolution recently passed by GB Assembly demanding provisional provincial status.
They should sit together and hold negotiations to bring a unanimous constitutional amendment in this regard.
Giving representation to the GB in Parliament will help further address development needs of the region.