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Policy failure in GB

Published Aug 15, 2013 07:26am


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BUILDING peace in Gilgit-Baltistan is not a matter of virtue or high moral principle; it is one of necessity and the survival of the people of the region.

Building and sustaining peace is an ongoing process of reform with no clear beginning or end, but introducing a set of reforms is a necessary condition towards the settlement of sectarian issues.

The generic policies introduced by the government of Gilgit-Baltistan in the last two decades have failed to address the issue of sectarian violence.

The reason seems simple; the government was unable to identify the prevalent market and government failures; and thus couldn’t design relevant public policies to address these failures.

Although, given the severity of the problem, a whole laundry list of failures can be presented, the following four, being the mother of all other policy lapses, merit our attention.

First, there can be a causal relationship between sectarian violence and socio-economic factors. Sectarian violence can impede the process of development whereas few economic opportunities have the potential to exploit the situation to generate violence.

According to Hussain Asghar, a former inspector general of the Gilgit-Baltistan police, the high unemployment rate coupled with the high literacy rate is one of the reasons for sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan.

As development funds have more often than not been diverted towards security needs, the government of Gilgit-Baltistan has been unable to match employment opportunities with the burgeoning labour force.

Likewise, the shrinking of both the tourism sector and of non-profit ventures, which were the major source of employment, is deepening the crisis.

The reverberations of this unmanaged recession are manifesting themselves in the form of sectarian violence. However, the government has not even taken up a single policy reform to address this cause of sectarian violence.

Second, in the past, religious bigotry, myths, misinformation for private gains, and lack of trust had been at the centre of the problem.

Nosheen Ali, a professor at Stanford University, in her study on sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan, focused on a classroom situation in Gilgit city where the students were asked to specify their sect on a form: “In my class, I noticed that children were now more aware of each other’s sect. They started to self-segregate, with Sunni ones sitting and socialising with other Sunnis, Shias with Shias, and so on. Several teachers noticed this tendency in their classrooms.”

Imagine the future of these primary school kids who were interacting with their classmates through suspicion and resentment. This ‘sectarian imaginary’ originates from myths — the myths about other sects these students hear either from older people in the streets or from their own parents.

And sooner or later these myths will become the reason for violence of which the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan have been the victims for the last two decades.

Moral suasion that has been the only policy to address this failure seems to be inadequate and a more nuanced policy that also targets curriculums to enhance critical thinking would be appropriate.

In addition, according to one study, democratic governance plays an important role in sustaining peace within societies. While introducing the concept of bad leaders, this study considers them responsible for state failure, which seems applicable to the leaders of Gilgit-Baltistan.

During an episode of intermittent sectarian strife some time back, the head of the Gilgit-Baltistan government couldn’t even make himself available in the region.

The so-called religious leaders are alleged to have hijacked the system by threatening and blackmailing the government for their own sectarian interests. The government seemed paralysed and finally the army stepped in to handle the security situation.

It was a complete failure of democracy as representatives of the people couldn’t voice their voters’ interests. For some, the kind of sectarian influence exercised would rival that of a government.

In such a scenario, the public policy should be to reduce the self-proclaimed arbitrary powers of the clergy while empowering the elected representatives. However, in stark contrast to policy requirements, the government is actually empowering the de facto rulers — the clergy — by constituting ulema boards.

The bottom line is, the democratic system in Gilgit-Baltistan presents itself as a candidate for a major revamp that should include the possibility of a power-sharing formula between the two major sects.

Finally, more often democracy failures are accompanied by bureaucratic failures as a result of a principal-agent problem. The principal is the elected representative in this case, and is weak, thus creating an opportunity for the bureaucracy to shirk its responsibilities.

Working for sect-based interests in the bureaucracy has interrupted the transparent system leading to massive corruption that I call the violence corruption. Violence corruption is widespread, systematic and often interlinked, yet another barrier in building sustainable peace in the region.

Take one instance. According to official estimates; the government of Gilgit-Baltistan spends Rs600 million annually for maintaining peace.

The peace maintenance package includes increased salaries/allowances, luxurious vehicles for officers’ use, rent-seeking opportunities and lack of proper monitoring and accountability mechanisms, thus creating room for massive corruption.

Therefore, the bureaucracy might deliberately affect the peace-building process by creating barriers which involve incompleteness and vagueness in agreements, and lack of coordination between those who mediate peace agreements and those who must implement them. Hence, the bureaucracy failure leads to implementation failure.

Peace in Gilgit-Baltistan might not prevail without the existence of an honest and well-oiled bureaucracy, and therefore, attaching priority to merit and introducing legislation for accountability and transparency in policies would go some way in reversing the situation as it is today.

The writer is a doctoral student at the Claremont Graduate University, Los Angeles.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (12) Closed

adnan hayat Aug 15, 2013 11:59am

Dear saranjum ,

I am real over whelmed that you have high lighted the issues of Gilgit-Baltistan, Here with your concerns , i would like to add few more gray areas such as Schooling of common people and the way they have been pampered , ignorant of real issues ,such as leadership crisis ,here i would give a name to our people as if a" herd with out a shepherd ", grass root education for all kids ,distressing economic reforms, clash of ignorance,poverty and so on. we always blame government , yes they are our leaders and we are directly and indirectly effected by there policies but i would still blame on our self for everything , we need to blame our selves for all failures . we live in a 21st century yet still fighting for basic rights .its nobody fault ,if we kill each other just in the name of religion . i don't find this an education issue because even most literate people have so conservative thoughts about these issues . the best solution that i find is that we need to empower women , only our women can change all this, if we educated them in a appropriate way to teach their kids in a better way then i see some change else things wont change forever at least for a century. it should be our utmost priority to educate all women and give them the best environment so that they can bring all the positive change in to their families . this is the best way to root out the sectarian filth.

Munira Shaheen Aug 15, 2013 02:45pm

Sectarian violence in Gilgit Baltistan is an outcome of trickle down effect of civil war and kindness of 1970's man-made Islamic reforms . Research has already shown there is a weak link between education, poverty and violence. To promote and hasten peace process throughout country we need educated leaders who could at least learn from past, devise and implement strategic adjustments to ensure development in Pakistan which will, automatically, help restraint and curb all social evils!

Mir Aug 15, 2013 02:46pm

A perfect and indepth study of ongoing and continious policy failure from government side in Gilgit Baltistan,the way the GB government is working while using bogus and corrupt practices is fuelling the sectarian strife instead of producing a sustainable sectarian harmony.The end losers are the people of GB.On going conflicts have resulted in social and financial disturbance,majority of development funds have been diverted in name of internal security and all development schemes have been curtailed or left incomplete.Non existance of accountability and punishment has further detrioriated the complex situation prevailing in Gilgit Baltistan.

BRR Aug 15, 2013 07:38pm

People have seen this coming over the last 4 years - no surprise here. No surprise to see the local govt. and the federal govt. have done nothing either. The state has ceded space to militants, and the state will shrink back and hide while mullahs with fatwas and militants with guns ride over the dead bodies of people who themselves proceed to take sides in this conflict.

Alvi Aug 15, 2013 09:44pm

I wish someone could read this well-written article based on bitter realities of today's GB to the policy-makers in Islamabad and Gilgit. The policymakers are still in denial about their own failures. Let's hope this write has a real impact on policymaking!!

Tasawar Aug 15, 2013 09:53pm

Thought Provoking think piece! Socio-Economic Development is ideal situation, when society becomes politically mature enough.

However, I would like to start at early / fundamental stage to have a viable pay off, Gilgit-Baltistan has issue of an IDENTITY search. The entire region enjoyed most of its history as independent princely states, then Dogra rule over some areas, lately "Northern Areas" and now, Gilgit-Baltistan. Being said that, the inhabitants are in fragile process of a nation / community building process. However, this process is hampered with loyalties to respective sects, ethnic / tribal or regional affinities. Those who advocate for building a political identity for region are either tagged with agents of hidden hand or anti-system. Likewise, individuals who are involved in development process and advocated for economic development tagged with corporate or Western agents.

In a blurred divide between right, left, center needs a political solution to fill the vacuum. It needs to begin from base, so a horizontal effect can be achieved instead of top-down mechanism.

Our educational structure never allow students to know about political / civic culture. Most of Western system educate their younger generation about political system and their participation, which in realty empowers an individual to become an active citizen and values the duties of citizen vis-a-vis state. In contrast, people of G-B are segmented into two major groups, majority are less informed about political culture, so they don not participate in any process. Second group of population is moderate / well informed about political processes, but passive or obedient to system and never deliver anything towards societal gains.

The dilemma is equally applies to entire country.

A. Ercelan Aug 15, 2013 10:17pm

Simplistic, and hence disappointing from a 'doctoral' candi. e.g. if its not a moral issue then why should 'we' not let the predatory pakistan state extinguish the people of GB?

Abbas Aug 16, 2013 10:57am

the embedded problems in the governance structure and policy framework are quite well formulated by the writer... Thumbs up :) I just wanted to add few things into it. just as an observation. As u have argued about the need of targeted policy to reduce the influence and power of clergy, I wanted to mention here that it is not that easy to reduce the role and power of clergy in the current scenario especially when there is no substitue for it, like u suggested to rely more on elected representatives, but what i observe is the inability of the political leaders to replace the clergy, lack of chrisma in the political leadersship particularly in this region. Talented and charismatic leaders are not ready to involve themselves in politics. May be bacause they are attracted towards other glamourous fields or may be because they dont see much incentives in this local politics which is limited to the so called province and these politicians have no say at the national level. So, the point is, to replace the role of clergy with that of political leadership, it is first needed to attract talented and charismatic leaders to this field. I believe that it can be done by giving representation to this region at the national level. Also, ability and charisma of the political leaders has unfortunatelly never been the criteria for winning elections in the region. But, yes, this is time taking process and it will develop and preferences of the voters will change with time. Education of the voters will play a major role in this dimension.

Khayambeg Aug 16, 2013 03:04pm

this is an excellent write up...Self driven interests has exploited the region peace and economic development.. we have lust for power and it is impossible to get rid of it without undergoing some drastic change in the public polices.. still stereotypes prevails around us and we dont trust each other.. Let's build new school with a strong curriculum which could alter our future generation into peace and love promoters

Rimsha Aug 16, 2013 08:28pm

i just want to add some thing when you talk about Nosheen Ali's study, i completely agree that in GB's culture they follow stereotypic beliefs about the cast and creed and they socialize their children on these beliefs. The need is to introduce some psychological and social reforms in the culture, that's quiet tough but if they have been established there will be a definite change.

Nur Aug 17, 2013 07:40pm

The write rigorously analysed the prevailing situation in Gilgit-Baltistan ,this policy failure continue specially regarding sectarian violence for a decade or more unless drastic & pragmatic reforms on grass root level in our religious and secular education sector. As the GB has been confronting with indigenous leadership crisis/gap since its independence and this gap was filled by clergy ,the so called Provincial government enslaved the future of peace by establishing Ulma Board with improper representation of the real stakeholders. Initially the inception of sectarian violence was over minor religious issue but know it gone more deeper, its about to control /rule resource of GB.The whole social fabric of GB is divide on sectarian basis and current stability seen contrived. Present provincial assembly failed to provide road map for way forward to the nation of GB. God Save Gilgit-Baltistan

Nur Aug 17, 2013 10:58pm

The writer has rigorously analysed the prevailing situation of Gilgit-Baltistan. The incompetent provincial assembly failed to give road-map for development of any single dimension. The sectarian violence will go on for decade or more in this part of world unless drastic & pragmatic policy reforms take place at grass root level in religious & secular education sector of GB. The GB has been confronting with indigenous leadership crisis since its independence and the clergy was empowered deliberately by the administration to enslave the minds of people of GB. The role of clergy institutionalized by establishing ulma board with out proper representation of real stakeholders and this will further stabilize the contrived law and order situation thus the policy of appeasement will not further .