Development and Poverty Alleviation  in Gilgit-Baltistan

Development and Poverty Alleviation in Gilgit-Baltistan

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Khalid Jan Bari

The pictures or site of children picking food leftovers from garbage dumps, trash or on the roads as beggars; is difficult to withstand, emotionally. Though we may feel emotional guilt or remorse but, most often we forget the site in a while and carry on with our lives. It’s only the garbage pickers that we see, but there are hundreds if not thousands of households facing extreme poverty and they go unnoticed in the region.  How can we assist these households in getting a better life and having a prosperous future? These are not only moral questions that we need to respond to while addressing the issue of poverty in the region. It would require more than empathy to curb poverty in the region and to understand the many facets of poverty is equally important.

 The Noble laureate in economics, Amrtya Sen, in his book, Development as Freedom asserts that “development is freedom of opportunities” (Sen, 2000) and further notes that “poverty is capability deprivation”. (Sen, 1981) He argues that income though necessary should not be used to measure poverty instead the capability of persons should be examined. UNDP defines poverty as the “inability of having choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity” (UNDP, 2011. Whereas. Townsend points out that “Poverty is defined as those people whose resources are so seriously below those commanded by the average individual or family that they are, in effect, excluded from ordinary living patterns, customs and activities.” (Towsend, 1974). The notion of capability is helpful in considering and providing capability and opportunities to help assist the marginalized. Thus, development if achieved wholly could eradicate poverty by providing opportunities.

The World Bank, explains poverty as defined deprivation in well-being with many dimensions (WB, 2017).  Moreover, the gross happiness index of Bhutan, assesses the collective happiness instead of gross domestic product. Moreover, another World Banks reports observes, that “education or health outcomes have intrinsic values beyond their costs while the welfare loss from unemployment is potentially associated not only with the observed income loss but also with a lower perception of quality of life and human dignity. Health, nutrition, education, physical security, voice, justice, and capacity and opportunity to improve one‘s life are also essential dimensions of poverty and wellbeing (World Bank 2010).” This arguments augments the dimensions of poverty and provides a bases for thorough examination.

Though poverty is measured as; in absolute or relative terms but measuring other dimensions has increased the scope of study. UNDP Pakistan’s Multidimensional Poverty Index “uses a broader concept of poverty than income and wealth alone. It reflects the deprivations people experience with respect to health, education and standard of living, and is thus a more detailed way of understanding and alleviating poverty. Since its development by OPHI and UNDP in 2010, many countries, including Pakistan, have adopted this methodology as an official poverty estimate, complementing consumption or income-based poverty figures” (MPI, 2016). Moreover, Pakistan’s Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) emphasizes on the concept of spatial poverty i.e. “refers to the existence of clustered poverty in certain regions or areas because of unfavorable conditions such as lack of infrastructure, unfavorable geography, climate or soil not being conducive for agriculture and political/social marginalization etc”. AKDN’s concept of Quality of Life (QoL) adheres to the notion that  if the basic needs of any person are provided, they could prosper in life (AKDN, 2017) and the QoL survey likewise assesses the prevalence through (quantitative and qualitative studies) in any given area or region.

The measurement and assessment of poverty or identification is carried out through various approaches having a set of indicators or variables.  The Government of Pakistan assesses the poverty rate through various research surveys such as, Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES), Pakistan Social, Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) and HDI. Initially, the PSLM was designed to gauge the progress of Millennium Development Goals until, 2015. Moreover, the Multi-dimensional poverty index (MPI, 2016) combines both the before mentioned survey’s in its approach to assess the “Incidence and Intensity” of poverty and MDI is formulated by the Oxford University in collaboration with UNDP and Government of Pakistan.  Another approach used during the BISP survey was the poverty score card (PSC) that comprises of 13 indicators to identify the poor households. Furthermore, non-governmental organizations such as AKRSP in some of its programs to identify poor households had opted for participatory development “approach of wealth and well-being ranking” along with PSC to validate the findings.

According to the World Bank estimates, the poverty rate of Pakistan remained 29.5 % in 2013. Whereas, according to multidimensional poverty index (MPI) of Pakistan, the head count ratio of poverty (incidence) remained at 38.8%, whereas the average intensity of deprivation, each poor person experiences on average is 50.9%. (MPI, 2016) Furthermore, the MPI report states that in Gilgit-Baltistan, head count ratio of poverty was 43% whereas average intensity of deprivation was 43.2% (i.e. Incidence: Rural 49 % Urban 7.9%) whereas (Intensity, Rural 48.3, Urban 45 %). Though the districts wise breakdown of the information for Gilgit-Baltistan is not available but the aggregate data provides data concerning the rural and urban ratios. This depicts a very stark and important statistics for G-Bs, overall situation and mostly the rural areas seems to bear the brunt of deprivation as compared to urban areas. As per the findings of this study, the provision of educational and health facilities along with social infrastructure could increase the social capital as well as the other aspects of the people and result in improved quality of life and decrease the intensity.

There are strong basis and anecdotal indications that support the notion that; provision of micro grants to the ultra-poor households and community revolving funds by AKRSP have had promising results (AKRSP, 2015). As the incidence and reasons may vary from region to region so the approaches need to aligned with the bases in each area. The data from the NASSD documents states that roughly 1% (of total 7250 i.e. 000 hac) of land of Gilgit-Baltistan is cultivable area (NASSD, 2003) whereas, average cultivable landholding is around 7 % (JICA, 2007). In light of these data, it’s a point of concern that as majority of the population is related to agriculture, and given if during the next generations, the average landholdings will lessen and negatively impact the development of the region. Furthermore, it needs to be ascertained in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan: whether, poverty alleviation projects/programs or the provision of cash/money directly to the vulnerable households would have far reaching impact on poverty reduction or a combination of the both. So, far AKRSP’s programs evaluations by the World Bank have provided positive picture of the development achieved (Next Ascent, 2002).

According to the World Bank’s strategy to eradicate poverty, the three significant areas that need to be are the following i.e. grow, invest and insure. “Grow in an inclusive, labor-intensive way. Invest in the human capital of people, especially those who are unable to benefit from basic services due to circumstances beyond their control. Insure poor and vulnerable people against the shocks that can push them deeper into poverty- things such as severe weather, pandemics, food price variability, and economic crises.” (World Bank, 2017). These strategies could further aligned to the regional context. Though, on national level, the macro-economic policies would have significant impact on the level of destitution and there are many arguments that over the past many decades, the IMF’s structural adjustments conditions, have not had much affect. None the less on provincial level in Gilgit-Baltistan, various interventions or strategies could be devised to alleviate poverty. It’s very crucial, to provide safety nets for the people rising from poverty so that, in case of any sudden shocks, they should not instantly fall into the trap again. Safety nets or services such as, micro insurance for Health and Education could be beneficial for the youth.  Human capital is the most promising aspect to invest in, as due to youth bulge youth could have a bright future and skills for the emerging markets. The skills must be provided with regards to the labor market assessments. The small enterprises are crucial for the employment creation and support to the youth of Gilgit-Baltistan and hopefully would bring about significant change in this regard.

Though, the government institutions, non-governmental organizations and civil society are doing tremendous job in this regard to alleviate poverty in all its forms but more needs to be done. Furthermore, development inclusive for the differently abled, senior citizens and all segments of society must be ensured. It’s also important to assess that more variables that could also complement the swift reduction in poverty such as shame, happiness, social capital, marginality and minority in the context of GB’s regional basis. Addressing the issues of child labor and provision of technical education along with stipend for the households would be a better way to provide livelihood as well as education. Hopefully, our beloved country Pakistan’s economic forecast seems to be very positive in the light of CPEC and other mega projects and it will result in better quality of life for all the citizens.  To discuss poverty aspects in details is beyond the scope of this article however it’s intended to humbly summarize the underpinnings of poverty and needed solutions to formulate sustainable development interventions in this regard.


Aga Khan Development Network: 15/05/2017

AKRSP: JICA Horticulture Study, 2010

AKRSP: PPAF funded Livelihood enhancement program’s report

NASSD papers ( 2003) : 15/05/2017

Poverty Measurement Index Report, 2016 [] 15/05/2017

Sen Amartya, (2000) Development as Freedom, Oxford University Press

Townsend, P. (1979). Poverty in the United Kingdom. Poverty and social Exclusion London: Penguin

World Bank: The Next Ascent, [] 15/05/2017

UNDP, Indicators of poverty & Hunger []: 15/05/2017

World Bank, Poverty and Inequality Analysis in a General Equilibrium Framework, []: 15/05/2017

World Bank, Overview – Strategy ( 15/05/2017

World Bank, ( 15/05/2017: 15/05/2017

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Pamir Times

Pamir Times is the pioneering community news and views portal of Gilgit – Baltistan, Kohistan, Chitral and the surrounding mountain areas. It is a voluntary, not-for-profit, non-partisan and independent venture initiated by the youth.