GB politics

Published October 8, 2020

WITH elections due in Gilgit-Baltistan next month, this would be an opportune time for those who make decisions in Pakistan to study the northern region’s political situation, particularly the legitimate demands of its people. While the region opted for Pakistan soon after the partition of the subcontinent, successive governments in Islamabad have been very slow to grant full political rights to GB. Even today, while progress has been made, GB remains outside the political mainstream, with a hybrid system in place where the area’s elected representatives compete with powerful, unelected bureaucrats sitting in the federal capital to decide its fate. Moreover, when movements for rights gather steam, these are quickly subdued with often harsh penalties imposed on political leaders. Take the case of Baba Jan. The Hunza-based activist was handed down a 71-year sentence by an antiterrorism court for raising a voice for victims of the Attabad Lake incident. Hundreds of people held a protest in Aliabad, Hunza, on Monday demanding justice for Baba Jan and 13 others who have been in jail since 2011. The protesters slammed the application of terrorism charges against the activists, and called for the release of all political prisoners.

Instead of clamping down on all those who demand their rights and terming them ‘anti-state’, the rulers need to deal with the issues that confront GB in a democratic manner. Using heavy-handed tactics will only add to the discontent that is bubbling in the region. For example, when Baba Jan contested local elections while imprisoned, he managed to bag the second-highest number of votes. Before the situation in the region deteriorates, the state must address the people’s genuine concerns with empathy and in a manner that gives them ownership of the political process. For instance, the elected Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly must have more powers. Moreover, the centre must give serious thought, though keeping possible drawbacks in mind, to the plan to give the region provisional provincial status, and thus representation in the National Assembly and Senate; waiting endlessly for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute — to which GB is historically linked — is unfair in the eyes of GB residents. GB has a young, educated population aware of its rights. Denying them the space to express their rights, and using failed methods to suppress opinions diverging from the official line should be shunned. Instead, an attitude of accommodation and dialogue must be adopted by the state in GB.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2020

Opinion

Budgeting without people

Budgeting without people

Even though the economy is a critical issue, discussions about it involve a select few who are not really interested in communicating with the people.

Editorial

Iranian tragedy
Updated 21 May, 2024

Iranian tragedy

Due to Iran’s regional and geopolitical influence, the world will be watching the power transition carefully.
Circular debt woes
21 May, 2024

Circular debt woes

THE alleged corruption and ineptitude of the country’s power bureaucracy is proving very costly. New official data...
Reproductive health
21 May, 2024

Reproductive health

IT is naïve to imagine that reproductive healthcare counts in Pakistan, where women from low-income groups and ...
Wheat price crash
Updated 20 May, 2024

Wheat price crash

What the government has done to Punjab’s smallholder wheat growers by staying out of the market amid crashing prices is deplorable.
Afghan corruption
20 May, 2024

Afghan corruption

AMONGST the reasons that the Afghan Taliban marched into Kabul in August 2021 without any resistance to speak of ...
Volleyball triumph
20 May, 2024

Volleyball triumph

IN the last week, while Pakistan’s cricket team savoured a come-from-behind T20 series victory against Ireland,...