Gilgit -Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid is a scion of an educated family from Astore. The son of Judge Chief Court of G-B Khursheed Alam was elected as the third chief minister of G-B on November 30 and sworn-in on December 2, 2020 to begin a five-year term.
Barrister Khalid Khurshid was a candidate of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Indaf (PTI), which won the recent election for the GB Legislative Assembly.
He secured 22 votes against the nine obtained by Amjad Hussain, the joint candidate of the opposition parties, in the 33-member assembly. His family is highly educated with a strong political background. He has three brothers and a sister.
In his leadership, the G-B government recently presented the annual budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 with a total volume of Rs106 billion and also received a handsome development package from the federal government. The PTI leaders have termed it an historic budget.
Global Media Association’s senior members’ ask what’s on his vision for Gilgit-Baltistan for the next five years.
Q: What is your vision for GB’s health Sector?
A: The G-B government has allocated Rs4.15 billion funds for 97 schemes of the Health Department in the current budget as provision of quality health services to people is our top most priority.
The health sector remained neglected in the past and our plan is to establish an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facility in all ten districts of G-B as none of the district has the facility of ICU. Since our government assumed charge, we have started OPD operations in four districts and the same operation is being started in the rest of the districts soon.
The government was planning to increase the strength of qualified and trained medical and paramedical staff in healthcare units and in this regard, we have planned to establish a medical college and training institutions.
Every FPCS doctor will be given a job opportunity now.
There are more than 4,000 posts laying vacant in the Health Department as previous governments’ focus mainly remained filling politically-motivated positions.
Now qualified technical staff is also being hired and a network of ambulances will also be provided to the Department. Besides, health insurance has been increased to Rs1 million for every deserving family in GB.
The centre has also proposed Rs 1.20 billion for the construction of the 250-bed hospital in Skardu, and Rs1.10 billion for the construction of a 50-bed cardiology hospital in Gilgit.
Q: Tourism sector has great potential to generate revenue for GB, what’s your take?
A: The government has allocated Rs164.8 million and this amount will be invested for the promotion of tourism, culture and youth affairs. Our main focus is to improve road infrastructure and communication network at KKH to ease tourists.
Besides, the centre has also proposed Rs1.52 billion for upgrading the road from Konodas, Gilgit to Naltar Air Force Base.
Master and town planners will be hired to improve housing and road infrastructures. Start of direct flights from different cities, including Lahore, is an effort to promote tourism in the region. Vaccination process in G-B has been accelerated to keep tourism related activities open for national and international tourists.
G-B has a very rich culture and measures are being taken to promote cultural as well as religious tourism.
Rs.700 million are being invested on Darel-Nagaris Expressway and Rs500 million for Nagar Highway. These projects once completed will prove a game changer in the G-B and national economy. With completion of these highways, tourists will be able to explore new areas, which were so far remained unexplored.
Technical training institutes are being established not only to train the G-B youth in the hospitality sector, but to send them abroad for employment.
Q: GB people are irked by load-shedding, what’s your plan to overcome this problem?
A: We have allocated Rs16 billion for 94 projects in the power sector to overcome the current load-shedding problem. The power sector remained the most neglected area during the past governments tenures due to which the people have to face 18 hours load-shedding here.
With the support of the federal government, Rs 2.50 billion funds have been allocated for a 20 MW hydropower project in Hunza, Rs180 billion for a hydropower project in Shagarthang, Skardu, more than Rs98 million for a same project in Thang, Chilas, Rs1.46 billion for Naltar hydropower project, and Rs 1.52 billion have been suggested for the phase of regional grid station in Gilgit. The projects once completed will be a great relief for the people in G-B.
Q: When will G-B get the status of a province?
A: Committees in the centre and in G-B have been constituted for the legislative work. In the first six months, we were busy in the preparations of a pro-public budget. We have done it and our next focus is accelerating legislative work to get provincial status. I hope G-B will get a provincial status this year as all political parties are on the same page and approval from the Parliament is likely.
Q: What’s your vision for the G-B education sector?
A: The government has allocated Rs484.5 million for the Education sector in the budget. Many new development schemes are being initiated to improve this sector. Besides, more than 7,000 vacant posts in the education department are being filled as past governments remained limited to politically motivated posts to gain the vote bank.
Q: Is the G-B government planning to hold corrupt people accountable?
A: Yes! Corruption free governance system is our priority and the government will soon initiate an anti-corruption campaign. Accountability of corrupt people is our next target to achieve.
Q: What’s G-B plan for Local Body Election?
A: As soon as G-B gets status of province, our government will hold a Local Body Election. And most probably, Local Body Election would be held at the end of 2021 as the government has proposed funds for the election as well.