Muhammad Irfan Chourbati
The news of the catastrophe occurred in the northern parts of the country due to heavy rainfall, especially in the mountainous regions of Chitral, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan, has been circled around the length and breadth of the country. Dozens of people were buried under the mud due to land sliding and hundreds were wounded by falling rocks, or collapsing roofs.
The region of Gilgit-Baltistan connects to the world through the narrow thread like road of Karakuram Highway passing between the mountain ranges of Hamalayas, Karakuram and Hindukush, which is soon going to turn into China Pakistan Economic Corridor and will provide trillion dollars trade opportunities to Pakistan and China in the years to come.
The only land route connection to the region, KKH, was blocked on the 1st of April due to landslide at multiple locations, and it has recently been opened after more than two weeks. The location of the highway in the narrow ranges of the mountains makes the rehabilitation of the road quite difficult. According the government officials, a number of public and private organization remained involved in the rehabilitation process of the highway.
Almost ninety percent of the movements of goods and people to the region takes place through the KKH. When the region cuts off from the rest of the country due to the blockade of the KKH, the only land route, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan face number of public issues including the shortage of food supply, medicine, fuel and disruption of the communication lines to the rest of the world.
The multi-border region, which also connects to the Kargil and Ladakh region from Baltistan, has other opportunities to avoid complete severing of linkages but the opportunities have not been exploited in the past. The locals of the region for decades have been demanding opening of the borders to Kargil and Ladakh so that the basic goods for the livelihood could be transported from Indian occupied regions of Ladakh and Kargil.
The people of the Baltistan region have continuously been demanding the opening of the border routes for several decades to meet their relatives who were separated from their extended families after the occupation of a number of villages by Indian Forces in the 1971 war, fought between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir issue.
This the right time for both governments to take measures to facilitate the people of the region in their time of hardship, by opening the routes. Otherwise, the claims by both the governments of India and Pakistan to develop the so-called disputed region will remain to be seen as mere lip-service.
The writer is a Political Science Graduate and working for a Pakistan based private media channel. He can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/irfanchourbati, or followed at Twitter: @irfanchourbati1
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