Jan 14, 2011

Gilgit-Baltistan: Foreigners Involved in Gemstone Smuggling


Authorities suspect that foreign tourists have been smuggling precious stones out of the country and steps are being taken to reduce such incidents.


Below is an article published by The Express Tribune:


“Foreign tourists either purchase these gemstones at nominal prices or just pick them up while visiting various valleys,” an official requesting anonymity said on Wednesday.


“Even federal minister for industry and production Mir Hazaar Khan Bijarani has expressed reservations over this issue which deprives Pakistan of huge revenues,” another source said.


They disclosed that the federal government is trying to plug the ‘leakage’.

In one of his recent remarks at an exhibition, Bijarani had said that the matter of foreigners taking gems out of the country illegally “is a serious issue”. Pakistan, he said, also “lacks trained gemstone experts” which results in wastage of precious stones.


Sources said that the federal government “is also planning to train local people in the art of cutting and polishing gemstones”, adding that the ministry would soon import modern equipment.


Experts believe that proper investment will increase employment opportunities at the local level. At present, scores of independent groups are involved in mining in Gilgit, Skardu and Ghizer districts but none of them have become profitable for various reasons.


Since most Pakistanis, especially local people, cannot differentiate ordinary stones from gemstones, they cannot make a good deal while selling these stones to foreigners.


Sources said that the ministry of industry and production “is interested in revamping the sector to generate as much revenue as possible”.

If the gemstone project was fully implemented, people associated with mining and gemstones would be able to generate much more income in a proper manner.


According to information collected from various sources, Pakistan has deposits of over 240 precious gemstones, including Peridot, Ruby, Aquamarine, Spinel, Emerald, Tourmaline, Garnet, Topaz, Pargasite, Diopside, Moonstone, Serpentine Jade, Sphene, Zoisite, Lapis Lazuli, Turquoise, Kunzite, Epidote, Pink Beryl (Morganite), Purple Beryl, and a number of varieties of quartz.