GILGIT: The rising incidence of suicide among the youth in Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan has assumed alarming proportions of late, prompting the chief minister to name an 18-member committee to carry out an inquiry into the affliction.

According to a notification, the com­­mittee will be headed by GB Assembly Deputy Speaker Nazir Ahmed.

Other members are: Nawaz Khan Naji and Ghulam Muham­mad, both members of the GB Assembly; parliamentary secretary for women Miss Kaniz Fatima, chairperson of women’s development department Sanum Bibi and the department’s secretary.

Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid Khan appealed to civil society, paren­­ts, scholars and teachers to assist the government in coping with the scourge.

Police say four of 19 suicides this year turned out to be homicides

“The youth are the future of our nation and its most precious asset. The prevalence of suicide among them is a matter of great concern to all. Hence we should work together to eradicate the menace from our midst. Otherwise posterity will not forgive us.”

The chief minister said a number of causes like mental disorder, rapid social change and financial problems had contributed to the problem.

Grim picture

The stats paint quite a grim picture: over the past five years, as many as 222 people took their own life. And 15 persons committed suicide in Ghizer during the first six months of this year.

Ghizer SSP Shahmeer Khalid told Dawn that 19 suicide cases — nine of them males and 10 females — were reported this year, but investigations revealed that four out of the 19 individuals were, in fact, murdered.

The official said police had been told to investigate reports of suicide from all aspects and to conduct postmortem before burial.

On the other hand, experts believe the authorities had yet to grasp the magnitude of the affliction. They contend that many suicide cases go unreported across GB as many incidents of suicide were wrongly treated as murder or accident.

No study has been conducted so far to understand the causes behind the frightening spiral in incidents of suicide, they complain. People feeling alie­­nated from society need counselling, but no such facility exists in the region.

Farman Ali, DIG (Crime) of Gilgit division, said in an interview with Dawn that the spectre had overwhelmed po­­lice and other authorities concerned.

The government, as well as the public at large, needs to wake up from a state of denial, the DIG observed.

Farman Ali said the authorities first took note of the matter way back in the year 2000.

“Many cases went unreported due to social taboos, but police investigations threw a different light in a number of instances. Several cases in Ghizer which were initially declared suicide, turned out to be homicide or murder,” Farman Ali said. But he regretted that cases were not being investigated thoroughly. Even postmortem was not enough, the DIG said.

“It’s alarming that even after so many deaths, neither the government nor social welfare organisations have woken up to the enormity of the matter,” DIG Farman lamented.

No facility exists to treat mental disorder and depression in Gilgit-Baltistan, he added.

Even well-equipped forensic labs are hard to find in the region, Farman Ali complained.

Social change

Adnan Ali Shah, a researcher from Ghizer, said the main cause behind rising cases of suicide was the unnerving pace of social change.

According to him, women are especially vulnerable as a steady rise in female literacy over the decades had, paradoxically enough, thrown up a social problem: educated women cannot find compatible life partners.

The youths of Ghizer district have called upon the authorities to take measures to address the menace.

They said the administration should declare a “mental health emergency” in Ghizer.

A gathering was held in Gahkuch this week to discuss ways to tackle the problem.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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