by Ali Al – Hakim
What was common between former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Aaj TV anchor Syed Talat Hussein, and MNA Marvi Memon is their sporadic and marginal interest in taking a relatively favourable stand on the issue of constitutional rights for the people of GB. In a recent TV debate Talat Hussein tried to introduce the infant and fledgling struggle for rights and justice in NA’s, by inviting few of the so called elected members of the toothless NALA. In a similar vein Gen. Musharraf who ultimately became unpopular across the country had however a soft corner for the people of Giligit-Baltistan. Karakorum University, expansion of KKH, and upgrading NALA to a relatively respectable position will certainly form part of Musharraf’s legacy in Northern Areas. I think Marvi Memon could well be one of those people who have taken upon themselves to touch the lives of our people one way or the other. She has introduced this new bill in the National Assembly apparently to kick off a debate that would perhaps pave the way towards granting a provincial status to Giligit-Baltistan. I think this must be welcomed on several grounds.
While it has been pointed out that Marvi Memon failed to take such a step when her own government (PML-Q) was in power, and the latest attempt is nothing but a parochial political game to drag the incumbent government into a tasteless battle. However, I believe that this should be of marginal interest, or of no concern to us. The proposal should be welcomed because such steps not only seek to put the concerns of GB on the national agenda but they also expose both our well-wishers and ill-wishers alike, sitting in the corridors of power in Islamabad.
Let’s remember that when Congress was founded in 1886 by a Brit, it was intended to channel political views of Her Majesty’s Indian subjects through a proper platform. Viceroys and British establishment saw this move as an apparently harmless attempt to give Indian people some sense of political participation in the affairs of the state. A. O. Hume and his compatriots might never have imagined even in their wildest dreams that Indian National Congress would subsequently emerge as a formidable political force that would unleash a great wave of resistance to British Empire, ultimately dislodging the Raj from Indian sub-continent. Like A.O. Hume, Marvi Memon and others may have ulterior motives, business, or commercial or whatever we should however consider her desire to be part of our struggle. Such bills would surely serve as wake-up calls to members of Pakistan’s slumbering political class. After all we count and remember Major Brown a Scotsman as one of our heroes who helped us free ourselves from the Dogra Raj in 1949. History, including our own in GB is full of mysterious stories in which various forces have ‘conspired to help’ us what we have wanted and willed. Now, if we want our rights, identity and political struggle to be re-asserted then we should seize every opportunity to take forces of politics on our side.
The National Assembly bill tabled by Marvi should have elicited a healthy debate that could have helped sharpen the edges of political impasse on the question of Giligit-Baltistan. Very sadly members of the Pakistani ruling class choose to truncate this important concern of ours by not taking it seriously. Let us also remember the loathsome world ‘sensitive’ that has been uttered countless times by the members of the Pakistani establishment when it comes to answer a question regarding the problems of Gilgit-Baltistan. In response to Marvi’s proposal our so called Federal Minister for Northern Areas and Kashmir Affairs used the word ‘sensitive’ to project our issues as if we are some sort of a sacrificial animal who must be locked up until the time for the ritual is up. I sadly note that the deceptive word ‘sensitive’ is nothing but a big smokescreen that helps veil unwillingness of Pakistani establishment to seriously address issues of GB. When Kaira visits Giligit next time our people should make him realise that time of playing hide and seek game with the people of Giligt-Baltistan is over now.
Now is the time to snatch ‘sensitive’ from the vocabulary of our alien rulers sitting in Islamabad who have frustrated the political journey of the people of GB to achieve our long-due and deserved destiny of equality, liberty and brotherhood. We have nothing to lose but our subjugation and we have our deserved freedoms to be won.
The writer is studying at the London School of Economics (LSE).