ISLAMABAD - The government on Friday informed the Senate that it had recently abolished the mandatory condition of getting no objection certificate (NOC) for the foreign tourists to visit the picturesque areas of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), formerly known as the Northern Areas of the country.

State Minister for Interior Baligur Rehman, while responding to a calling attention notice said that the Ministry of Interior had abolished the mandatory condition of getting the NOC for foreign tourists prior to the visit of the GB on the request of the government of the region.

PPP Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja through a calling attention notice had drawn the attention of the interior minister towards the imposition of ban on foreign tourists to visit G-B without getting NOC from the Ministry of Interior.

The state minister for interior said that the ban imposed on foreign visitors without the NOC was in place since 1994 and the movement of foreigners was restricted due to the sensitivity of the area.

“However, on 22nd of last month, the ban was lifted only for those having visit visas,” he said.  Rehman further said that it was always easy to mobilise security apparatus for tourists and now GB government had been asked for provision of proper security to foreign tourists.

“GB government has been asked to establish tourist centres and constitute special police force for the security of tourists,” he said.

Earlier, Khawaja deplored that the government had imposed ban on visit of foreigners to GB ignoring that fact that the tourism industry was the lifeline of the people of the area.  This step would damage the economy of the local people, he said.

Senator Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), while taking part in the debate on finance bill 2017 said that there was no rule of law in the country and now the government was trying to get control of the private media.  “Efforts are being made to stifle social media too,” he said.

“Corruption in the country is on the rise and all segments of the ruling elite are involved in it including politicians, bureaucrats, ministers, government functionaries and feudal lords,” Kakar said.

PPP Senator Rehman Malik in his budget speech voiced serious concerns over reduction in remittances and exports, saying that it had resulted in the burgeoning of public debt.

The budget depends upon international and domestic debt and the government has achieved not a single target including the GDP, he claimed.

“This budget is just a play of numbers and there is no relief for the poor people of Pakistan in it,” Malik said.

“The country was going to go bankrupt but credit goes to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar who saved the country from bankruptcy through international and domestic borrowing,” he said, mocking the performance of the finance minister.

Malik said that overseas Pakistanis should be fully facilitated in order to encourage foreign remittances as they were the backbone of the economy but unfortunately there was no allocation in the budget for their betterment.

He said that maximum resources should be diverted towards the energy sector in order to provide relief to the people. Malik said that Rs1,001 billion, that was 62 per cent of the budget had been allocated for infrastructure, and its 33 per cent would be distributed through the parliamentarians.

“This is election year and allocation of these funds will certainly be pre-poll rigging,” the former interior minister said.

PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi appreciated the government’s performance on the front of economy, and said that international financial ranking agencies had declared Pakistan the best emerging economy.