TARIQ RAHIM BAIG
GULMIT: The recent short visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has left behind many questions in people’s minds.
People were expecting a great deal from the prime minister during his visit, but were left disappointed. The visit seemed to be nothing more than an election campaign for the electoral candidates of the PML-N in G-B. The orphaned land, Gilgit-Baltistan, has been neglected since a decade by all government actors and is still waiting for its constitutional rights. Despite the solid stance by its people regarding the region’s constitutional rights, they have been pushed back into darkness and been swindled.
The recent announcement by the prime minister of turning Hunza and Nagar into separate districts has already been welcomed. The question here arises whether the prime minister will be able to stand up to his promise of making Hunza a separate district because such announcements have been made in the past time and again, with little practical action on the ground. For instance, in the past, the prime minister had promised that the number of National Assembly seats from Gilgit and Hunza will be increased, but this has not happened.
Hunza is an area of the country that boasts arguably the highest literacy rate, but it still in need of engineering and medical colleges. Moreover, the area cannot develop unless roads, bridges and other necessary geographical divisions are not made. Education reforms are also badly needed here. The government needs to initiate reforms in the field of education, and not only focus on thoughtlessly building more and more infrastructure projects. The educated youth needs to be provided with employment opportunities, not laptops. The bright students of Hunza need scholarships for higher education — not loans. Plus, there is the energy crisis, which affects Hunza almost as much as it affects Punjab. Most of the announcements made by the prime minister are the same as the promises made during previous regimes of the PPP and in the Musharraf era. It was announced that Kharmang and Shigar would be made separate districts during the tenure of Yousaf Raza Gilani, while Diamer Basha Dam was a project initiated by Pervez Musharraf. Gilani wanted to turn Hunza into Switzerland, while Nawaz wants to turn it into Malaysia. The people of Hunza have encountered enough rhetoric by people who have ruled over them. Now is the time to see words materialise into action. Development and progress do not come through empty words; they come through dedicated and concerted action. - The Express Tribune