By Musa Ali Khan
People in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) love Pakistan with national pride. This culture of chauvinism dates back to November 1, 1948 when this region got liberation from the Dogras. This love affair continues despite the absence of constitutional reforms due to myopic leadership at the center.
The question arises, why do we love Pakistan? There might be many reasons and some of them are as under:
The first reason may be the Karakoram Highway (KKH) which connects the most isolated mountainous region to the other parts of the Pakistan and the world. Before KKH, poverty and ignorance were dancing in the landlocked region where a piece of salt was far expensive than gold. In such a pathetic situation, KKH brought positive change in the areas in the form of cheap products.
The second reason might be the end of princely states because the autocratic heredity rulers had levied unbearable taxies against the local population with zero returns. According to Leitner GW (1866), fighting amongst royals for thrones had made the entire mountainous region deserted and crippled with no option to escape. In such a panic situation, brining political and administrative reforms made the people love for Pakistan. Third, getting fuel, wheat, gas and many other products at subsidized cost made the mountainous people love Pakistan.
Due to above mentioned favorable change in the G-B paved the road of getting education aiming at bringing quality in their living standard. So the government, army and a few renowned NGOs invested in education. As a result a middle class evolved while playing positive roles in the socio-economic and political sphere of the G-B and the country.
With the passage of time, getting mass education becomes trend in the area without vocational schools and professional colleges. In the absence of proper planning, unemployment increased and frustrated youth started questioning the government as it failed to address the basic needs of the citizens.
The situation further aggravated when positions and authority bestowed on religious, caste, and political affiliation rather than merit basis consequently, people without proper capacity in the helm of affairs could not address the basic concerns and aspirations of the people. This is because Gilgit city remained a battle field between sects for many years taking away the lives of innocent people and spreading unrest in the area.
Villages were invaded, infant to old aged assassinated and passengers were brutally killed taking them off from the buses. Moreover, when peaceful community in Hunza demanded for the settlement of Attabad Lake displaced people, police opened fire on peaceful protesters and killed a father and son on the spot. Their festering wounds are still waiting for fair trial and justice.
Moreover, most of government projects which were meant to develop infrastructure have been sick for the last many year due to greedy bureaucrats, contractors, and political elders. Likewise, shoddy development work and unchecked corruption in every walk of life dented the trust of common people in the business of government affairs. Thus, the gulf between the people and the government service providing agencies is getting widened day by day.
No rational person can ever think to harm Pakistan and its institutions. Currently, the police chief of G-B seems to be very hard on some youth as he accused them of getting money from enemies to sabotage CPEC.
It is the duty of the security agencies to be hard on wrong doers but at the same time there should be mechanism to address the unemployment, frustration, corruption and merit violations.
If KKH has brought such prosperity to land locked region then imagine what would be the fruits of CPEC. However, demanding fair distribution of its benefits amongst different parts of the country is a sane voice.
It is not too late to address the genuine concerns of educated youth in order to rejuvenate their aspiration through social justice and democracy and providing jobs on merit basis. Thus, using power to curb frustration is a wrong approach and listening and addressing the genuine concerns of people through justice is a right one as we are by choice Pakistani not by chance.
The writer is head of a private school in G-B and works on a mission for education and social justice