Chairman Federation Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), Capital office, Qurban Ali on Sunday said the government 15pc cut on Gilgit- Baltistan’s annual budget 2022-23 not a good omen for GB’s economy, which is experiencing severe unrest. The local Annual Development Plan (ADP) in coming budget was also cut , which will slow down the growth process and increase unemployment in the GB , Chairman FPCCIQurban Ali said this while talking to the media here. Hesaid that budget cuts in Gilgit-Baltistan would reduce employment opportunities and increase unemployment in the region. Qurban said that the suicide rate among the youth in Gilgit-Baltistan has been on the rise for the last several months, which is showing great frustration among the local youth. Chairman FPCCI said “For the last several months, the suicide rate among the youth in Ghazar district of Gilgit-Baltistan has been very high as they are fed up with unemployment and economic conditions in the region.” He said that Gilgit-Baltistan had been ruled by both PML-N and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the past but was un-expected from both the parties. He said that during the previous government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a lot of work was done on tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan and many infrastructure projects were launched. When the PTI was in Federal government, the amount of air-flights in GB increased and at the same time Skardu Airport was approved for international flights. These major initiatives would open up vast opportunities for business, industry and tourism to flourish in the GB. He said that special economic package should be given to Gilgit-Baltistan and economic emergency should be implemented there as it is the gateway of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Chairman FPCCI said”CPEC and Gilgit-Baltistan are inseparable without which the concept of completion of the great project of CPEC would be incomplete.” He said that work on Gilgit-Baltistan Special Economic Zone (SEZs) which was included in the 9 Special Economic Zones of CPEC is still incomplete. He demanded that work on Gilgit-Baltistan, Special Economic Zone be started soon so that the industrial sector could flourish there. Qurban said that provincial autonomy to Gilgit-Baltistan was the demand of the people, there for a status of province should be met so that the people there could get their constitutional rights. He said “People of Gilgit-Baltistan love Pakistan and it is called the land of martyrs. Many people of Gilgit-Baltistan sacrificed their lives for the country whose sacrifices will be remembered in history.” He said that the ruling elite of Pakistan and all political parties wanted to give the people of Gilgit-Baltistan the right to an interim province. In this regard, the Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa himself had called on stakeholders and there was a consensus among all political parties that Gilgit-Baltistan should be made a GB, province. Gilgit-Baltistan is an important region in terms of its regional location and geography. He said that Gilgit-Baltistan, which on the one hand is connected to the world’s economic engine China, on the other hand, being close to energy rich Central Asia, Siachen, Kargil and Ladakh are also located in its vicinity. He said that there were vast opportunities in Gilgit-Baltistan in the fields of tourism and hydel energy and agriculture and livestock and horticulture. The Chairman FPCCI said the GB region is rich in precious stones, minerals and various minerals. He was of the view that ‘Gem Testing Labs’ need to be established in GB for gems identification to promote the local industry at international potential market for enhancing the competitiveness in the local market. The senior business leaders said that FPCCI would on-board the government for the initiative of new gems testing laboratories in major gems exploration region of Pakistan to promote the gemstone trade for enhancing the local exports. Qurban Ali said that mainly these precious stones are explored from almost inaccessible territories of the hilly regions in the south and north as the most extensive ruby deposits in Pakistan are located in the Hunza valley of the Gilgit- Baltistan. He informed “After Burma, Hunza is the only other region in the world that has produced “Blood Red ruby”.” Chairman FPCCI said “Some of the finest ‘Emeralds’ in the World are being mined in the picturesque valley of Swat and AQUAMARINE also explored from the Shigar valley of Baltistan and Chitral.” He further said “Pakistan is a country of young people and they need employment opportunities and through the gems and stones industry. “We can create a huge opportunity of employment for local youth of GB region including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan”. He that Pakistan has an export potential of worth $ 32b annually in latent gemstones industry to earn revenue for strengthening the country’s economy.