DevelopmentGilgit - BaltistanPakistan

op-Ed: United we stand, Divided we fall

Ali Al-Hakim

In the land of Gilgit-Baltistan at least six major languages (dialects) are spoken and as many cultures and ethnicities exist, three distinct sectarians groups practice their respective interpretation of Islam. But this whole region shares a beautiful landscape of terraced fields, high-mountains, and clean glacier water. Most people practice some form of agriculture and their beautiful orchards and wheat and potato fields are fed by these glacial waters.

More than that the people inhibiting this region have a common memory of gaining independence from the Dogra Raj on November the 1st 1949. These diverse people who also proudly claim distinct cultural heritages, however, find unity in many important dimensions of their respective cultures such as the commonality of musical instruments and their tunes, and unique methods of dance. These people can also be uniformly identified from their headgear the Farzin and the long coat Shoqa, and of course in their food.

Today, these important origins of cultural unity are auspiciously overshadowed by a plethora of common problems. These are issues of poverty, education and access to primary health care. Still, perhaps more importantly, the people of Giligit-Baltistan can be singled out for their common attitude and frame of mind. Weather it is a spell-binding pleasant smile of a young boy in Phander valley to a foreign or a local tourists alike, or whether it is an attempt to start an English primary school in Shimshall, or an endeavour to establish a small health centre in the Hoper village of Nagar, or a meeting of a youth group in Kashrote to demand constitutional rights these desparate people are united by a common desire to attack the problems they have been facing over the last sixty years. To seek a solution to end poverty, to think about getting education in the hope of landing a respectable job,  these are the goal-posts of Balti, Burushaski, Khowar, Shina and Wakhi speaking people of Northern Pakistan. They are united in their aspirations, their hopes, their fears, and above all in their sense of a common destiny. 

Ironically, this destiny and hope of a peaceful, harmonious, tourist-friendly, serene, and a progressive Giligit-Baltistan has been frustrated by a variety of factors. These retrogressive processes include violent conflict along sectarian lines, lack of mature and ‘clean’ political leadership, and a pathetic deficiency of commitment and interest by the bureaucracy and the central government. The people of Giligit-Baltistan can only hope to recapture their long-cherished hopes and aspirations through a sustainable will to unite. They should patch-up their rifts because these differences can only serve to weaken our political, social and economic ambitions. Only through unity we can gain strength because united we stand and divided we fall.


The contributor is a student of London School of Economics.

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  1. Very interesting notions. God bless you bro
    “Only through unity we can gain strength because united we stand and divided we fall”

  2. dear Al hakim and all
    your contribution is valueable on this platform. the idess you people have and the analysis are quite impressing. I would like you to give some suggestions that how to get united and avoid breakage. i think that there should be some practical development rather than only making discissions
    AAJ TV

  3. good article. i agree to al hakim fully. people of northerne areas should now foreget their differences. enough unimportant enmity among the people has created divisions. If people don’t concentrate on fighting our problem then it is difficult to development and change. i think discussions like this shold be encouraged.

  4. Thanks for your article, it is all about developing the sense of coexistance (living together and respecting each other). With our diverse ethnities curture, languages we speek and having so maney thing in common we should bridge our gapes and this can be done by taking every body on board and highlight real problems confronting our people and come up with concrete solutions to solve the problems of poverty, quality education for our boys and girls, basic healthcare, consumer awareness against sub-standard medicines and food items, use of drugs and substances and other social problems confronting our youth.

    We should also encourage our educated youth to participate in active politics and lay a foundation to eradicate dirty politics which has been the mother of all problems. The existing politicians have devided the people on sectorial grounds and promoted sectarianism which I think is the cause of huge gulf between our people.

    May Allah bless us with unity and a vision to our leaders to lead the people into the future with pride, dignity and prosperity.

    Sher Karim

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