Gilgit - Baltistan

Opinion: Who shall lead us?

by Abbas Ali

It is a fact that the existing supposedly legislatively body of Gilgit-Baltistan, which is named as ‘Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA), is an ambiguous and powerless caricature without the real authority to represent the people of this area. However, people could not turn their back from any political activity that is happening in the area. In this regard the upcoming election which will be held in 2009 is very important for the people to participate in and elect political leaders who should have the much needed political acumen, courage, skills, knowledge, wisdom and readiness to serve the people of the area rather than filling up their own coffer with booties of corruption and exploitation of the minimal powers rested in them.

In the past, with respect to Hunza, we have experienced three faces on the political scene as members of NALA. The first one and the most notable is Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, who has been able to get elected again and again over a long period of time by the people of Hunza because of his ancestral role as Mirs of the Hunza. People across the Hunza valley have considered him capable to provide good governance and progressive vision as he grew up and benefited from the statecraft from his father and people surrounded him as a prince. The strategic importance of Hunza has provided his ancestors valued positions among other Mirs of Gilgit-Baltistan and they have been able to developed influential relationships with the people of power in the neighboring regions and Pakistan. However, time tested experiences prove that Ghzanfar has not been able to utilize his influence to benefit the people of Hunza at all except acquiring some privileges at a minimal level for himself.  

 People of Hunza are disappointed with Ghzanfar for his weaker position in relation to his wife Ms. Atiqa, who is considered to call herself illegitimately ‘Rani of Hunza’ and has least interest in the development of the people of Hunza. Ghazanfar is considered to have lack of wisdom, political acumen because of it he has not been able to serve the people of Hunza. With the passage of time and with experience in politics instead of learning and becoming stronger he has become weaker and weaker in the hands of his wife and, currently his sons. In fact he is nothing more than a puppet for which he himself most often repents in public and private. Recently the Sost Dry Port case has pinned the last nail in his political coffin because of corruption of more than Rs. 70 million by his son, the biggest corruption case in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan, including fraud case of Rs. 50 million with the State Bank of Pakistan under the Chairmanship of Ghazanfar. Over a nine years long period of influence he subjugated the rights of poor people of Hunza, who had invested their hard earned money in the dry port with the hopes to have some income for the food, education and health care of their children and families. Ghazanfar and his family used this money for their own personal lavish life, is a strong case that he cannot be a morally and legally capable to be a fair representative any more.

Ghazanfar, is the Chief Executive of NALA during the current term, but he failed to do any considerable good at least for his own constituency of Hunza, leave alone Gilgit-Baltistan. There are two major issues pending for long as demands of the people of Hunza and Ghzanfar promised every time to meet these demands, firstly two seats for Hunza in NALA as it is for Nagar, secondly making Hunza and Nagar a separate district from Gilgit. Althugh a separate district for Nagar and Hunza was announced by President Musharaf but Ghazanfar has not been able to materialize it until now. In short people of Hunza have abandoned Gahzanfar this time for ever and for good, if he dare to contest election his defeat is very obvious.

The two of previously elected representatives  Nazir Sabir and Wazir Baig both unfortunately have not been able to come up to the expectations of the people of Hunza. Both of them have been elected once but bitter experience of both in term of their lack of visionary leadership, inability to mobilize masses and failing to attract and initiate development projects severely disappointed people of Hunza. Although both of them would have their own excuses and blames for the circumstances they found themselves, but a leader is to be expected to face challenges and meet the desires and needs of the people at a certain level of satisfaction. They both were failed and people had rejected them for a second term and it seems would not rely on them in future elections.

In existing situation it is very difficult to get the due rights and funds from the Government of Pakistan because Gilgit-Baltistan does not have any political influence in the power centers of Islamabad and is being treated as a step child.  The question arises, on whom people of Hunza can count to provide a visionary leadership and fight for the rights of the Hunza in particular and for Gilgit-Baltistan in general.

The land of Hunza is very fertile and its people have always achieved what they have set as a goal with hard work, dedication and honesty. When it is claimed that Hunza is one of the most educated regions in the whole south Asia, what does it mean? Of course, Hunza has a pool of competent human capital. It is recognized that the people of Hunza have played important roles in a wide variety of professional capacities and businesses in the region but did not opted for politics because in past it was not considered as an important and common concern by the people. However, with increased level of education and awareness people are giving due importance to politics which need to be strengthened and promoted, this awareness have raised many competent politician in Hunza who could meet the current challenges in a far better manner.

Here I would like to highlight some names for the forthcoming elections, which are discussed in the circles of political thinkers and interest groups of Hunza as potential candidates for the upcoming elections. It would be highly important for the educated and politically interested people of Hunza to look at each of these potential candidates and may be others as well and bring forward their opinions so that it could provide a sound basis for electing a right person for a progressive change in Hunza. The names are Afsar Jan,  Qurban Jan, Noor Muhammad, Hoor Shah, Wajid Ullah Baig, Sultan Madad, Advocate Ahsan, Aman Ullah Khan and Baba Jan.  Yes the three previously elected personalities could also be discussed and how they could fit into the current scenario.

Now it is a time for every educated youth of Hunza to discuss and discern the ultimate source of a real progressive change through politics. History as well as presents tells us that in fact political policies are   the real forces which organizes and directs the societies either towards ultimate heights of success or the depths of backwardness.  We could take examples of countries of the West in Europe and US who have emphasized on strengthening their political systems on the right footings are the prosperous nations. The same way, countries which are progressing fast in the developed world today such as China, Brazil and India have set their political direction right but those which are poor and in crises are, in fact, politically failed states, although they have all other required ingredients for development and prosperity. In Hunza as well as in the whole region of Gilgit-Baltistan, if we would not be able to set our political direction in the right way nothing could help us to be self-sustainable and developed. Thus, now it is a high time to give due priority to set the right political direction and it could be proven as first step by electing a right candidate in the upcoming election who could serve the people of Hunza.

The writer is a graduate of AKU – ISMC. He can be reached at

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  1. Dear Abbas Bhai, thank you for your opinion. I agree we need change in Hunza and change should not be of faces only, we need a change of system. Hunza should develop a model of positive political system for the rest of Gilgit-Baltistan. I hope our people will work for this purpose.


  2. Thank you, Abbas Kako..

    I agree with you, change is must but what you think, if your brother will bring the change…… I have also decided to take part in coming elections for a better change and I need suggestions from you and all the members and readers of PT.


    Karamat Ali
    Censor Executive
    AAJ TV

  3. Abbas, thank you for this piece, which i hope is going to generate a lot of interest.

    While it is important and timely to discuss the ‘electoral politics’, there is a need to analyze the deeper roots of i) depolitisization in Hunza; ii) how to create an environment of ‘political participation’ that is broad-based, home-grown and based on merit? iii) what is the political and development agenda-vision for the next say 5 years, we wish the political parties and (their nominated/elected reps) should commit themselves to?

    In a pluralistic democratic process, the role of civil society is crucial in setting the vision, agenda and in influencing the political processes for public good.

    In the context of Hunza, the role of Village and Women Organizations, Youth groups- students unions, sports, culture, arts groups, journalist unions, lawyers forums etc., Local support Organizations, social-welfare NGOs and CBOs, business associations, town management Societies need to play a pro-active and positive role to create an environment of positive,non-violent discourse in setting the stage.

    Can we create an environment where youth and women are able to participate both in political processes and stand up for elections by contesting direct seats, not only NALA, but district and U/C levels?

    Traditionally, politics in Hunza is clan-based and serving petting village interests, mainly related to inter-and intra village conflicts and based on personality clashes within villages. In this dispensation the Lumbardars play as king makers.

    There is a regional dimension also (central, lower vs upper Hunza), and there is narrowly focussed, PPP- led anti-Mir sentiment, which is only exploited by both sides during elections.

    The NALA seat voting pattern is also impacted by who is contesting on the district seats? The villages and voters, traditionally try to balance between varying interests.

    Lastly, the role of the ruling party in the country always effects elections results in Hunza. The ‘hidden hands’ play their role overtly and covertly. Money, state power and propaganda against the opponent, plays key and decisive role in winning elections. This is the unfortunate part!!

    So, in conclusion, if we wish to change the ground situation from the traditional electionaring to a new pro-active civil society, ready to work and influence the political parties and educate the voters (irrespective of meddling with petting clan-based, village-based and party politics), especially women and young voters, and if we are able to develop a ‘vision of change’ and sell it to the parties, her is an opportunity to take the first step.

    Individuals and personalities should not matter in this dispensation. We need to strengthen the pluralistic democratic processes; educate the leaders, educate the voters and develop the vision and the agenda. Once we do this, lets trust the voter that they will elect the best persons, whatever their political affiliations. Even if they fail, let the process continue and through improvements and filtering, the voters and people will hopefully get the best people to serve them and protect their interests. But the civil society needs to act as watchdogs to monitor their progress and continously educate the voters and the parties and representatives.

  4. I think there are still individials and personalities very much influencal, and civil society is not strong enough to that extent as we expect. Limited number of people vote while considering claim, but majority are still in the state of considering themsilves part of and or strong association with so calle royal familiy. This is not an issue only with the old masses, who still consider themsilves superior, as they surved the royal families, but the generations do follow them. a good example, the loards of past are rules of todays as well.


  5. ehmm…I thin that ppl of Hunza must think over Ammanullah Sahib.He is one of the best visionary leader which our land has ever-produced.He is also a victem of Pak beuraucracy.Sultan madad,Baba jaan & Adv.Ahsan are also good

  6. The general view of the people in Hunza, that a Leader should be from a well known Family then that Leader is strong and he can do whatever he wants with magic of his Family background.

    I request our youth to educate our people that strength of Leader is his community and not his family alone.

    The people of Hunza should choose Leaders who have the ability of listening and understand what the people of Hunza want, and he must have the ability to forward the desires of the community. Without any doubt in a Leader honesty is vital.

    We do politics under the Flags of PPP/MLN/MLQ/ ECT. Why do we accept these parties, they do not accept us as their people. We do not have any rights as Pakistanis.

    We have to ask Government of Pakistan whether we are acceptable as Pakistanis or not, we need our Identity as a Nation.


  7. “So, in conclusion, if we wish to change the ground situation from the traditional electionaring to a new pro-active civil society, ready to work and influence the political parties and educate the voters (irrespective of meddling with petting clan-based, village-based and party politics), especially women and young voters, and if we are able to develop a ‘vision of change’ and sell it to the parties, her is an opportunity to take the first step.

    Individuals and personalities should not matter in this dispensation. We need to strengthen the pluralistic democratic processes; educate the leaders, educate the voters and develop the vision and the agenda. Once we do this, lets trust the voter that they will elect the best persons, whatever their political affiliations. Even if they fail, let the process continue and through improvements and filtering, the voters and people will hopefully get the best people to serve them and protect their interests. But the civil society needs to act as watchdogs to monitor their progress and continously educate the voters and the parties and representatives”
    The above inverted commas r from Mr. Amin Baig, I fully agree with the ideas and speaking the truth, for the truth is obligation on every indiduals who calls himself educated. If we all are still following the norms as it was twenty or forty years before, claiming the education ratio of Hunza specially is useless and based on biases. It is our obligation to tell the common people what is right and what is wrong. The process will take time. one day the comming generation will come to the conclusion wht is good and what is bad—- but taming them at the levels as Amin highlighted is very essential.
    I am of the openion that, it is now on us to speak the truth and nothing else. debate among the condidates should be arranged on different areas where the candidates should explain what they want to do for the comming tenyure, like in education, social and economical and sector etc.

  8. A very thought full article once again by Abbas. I appreciate his efforts on raising the political conscience of the people of our area. The most important issue about politics in our area, unfortunately, is that people do not see it in its true context. A dictionary describes Politics as “social relations involving authority or power and refers to the regulation of a political unit, and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy”. []

    Majority of the people consider politics as a bad thing, which brings no tangible benefits to the people but creates disharmony in the society and disunity within families. For most of the people who are involved in active politics consider it an easier, safer and quicker way of making money, a tool to victimize and harass opponents i.e. (corruption).

    One reason for this attitude of both the masses and the politician is the absence of authority to legislate; making laws is probably the most important function of politics, which is completely absent in our society. This issue is very important if not the most important and is completely neglected by the civil society and understandably is turned a blind eye towards by the non-governmental organizations. The absence of laws/regulations in the area means most of the work done, which involve some sort of regulation, by NGO is based on the goodwill of the locals rather than any rule of law, which is a good thing in a simple society but in today’s complex society is very difficult to sustain.

    The absence of any legislative authority has compelled the local politicians, the ones who run for NALA seats, to use securing of maximum funding for projects in his/her constituency as the one and only manifesto of their election campaign. The most straightforward political issue faced by the area is the absence of self-rule but his does not make the manifesto of any political party or candidate, except of course of the nationalists.

    What is needed today is to highlight the self-rule/sovereignty as a major political issue; suggestions regarding any other political issues are welcomed. Some political parties or groups would be opposed to this idea and other would favour it, but at least this will give the locals politicians/masses/civil society a chance to educate themselves in the art and science of politics. A lot of writers have suggested that with the passage of time things would improve but politics is a process and everyone involved in it is educated over a period of involving in it. Without having an issue, an ideology an agenda it is very difficult to involve oneself in politics and improve. Unless people come to realize that politics does make a difference people would remain indifferent to it.

  9. This is truly an important topic to know about by every individual having any role in the political processes. Certainly politics has been considered job of the ruling elite of Hunza for years, in other words, we have been making kings for ourselves, say, by default for a period of time and thereafter through our votes. But, time demands some hardheaded steps to be taken by our youth. It is not just to participate in voting or contest election, but very importantly, to educate the people about connection of the present with their future.

    We may not expect an ideal leader in very short span of time, because we have immaturity in our electoral process and political system, the case with our country. We have pro-Mir and anti-Mir sentiments as strong as in the past. However, we can encourage our youth through and from every forum, as indicated by Amin Beg Sb, by having the courage and will to support, groom, and tolerate them.

    It would be very important step towards a real development if the projected or potential candidates, as mentioned by Abbas Ali, use online forums like this one, which would be very effective as we claim to be from the most educated valley in Pakistan, to communicate and share their manifestos to the voters.


  10. I agree with the strong views and vision of Amin Baig Bhai. Though half of our youth is still uneducated in terms of his great vision to bring change in electoral politics.

    Change in youth and in political agenda for that region cannot be achieved while gender discrimination, the largest obstacle to bring change persists.

    We have many leaders who are attaching their family chains to the Royal (Mir) Families. If we could not change the minds of the educated people then how can we “preach” to bring change in youth and to empower women of that region.

    Women are still in suffrage era. Stepping into political behavior and women’s role is far away in some areas of Hunza and Gojal region.

    I would like to say in response of Sher Ali’s claim that first equip yourself with fair and transparent public policies for that region and then claim for your National Identity .

  11. Our leader should be a person who can committed to work and accomplishments, everyone know govt is not supporting North, but we should have a leader whoe can inspire us throush performance and results. Eeryone can become leader with promises and shoutings but no one can easily become actual leader. we should have a leader with educational background, trustworthy, committed, not necessry from the families of oLd socalled leaders.

    sarFaraz amin
    Riphah International University

  12. Political Leadership, in a democracry, can be the driving force or the bottle neck in the process of social, cultural and economic change. Thus, ideally speaking, our leaders shall be such that they are imaginative, skillfull, resourcesfull and benovalent. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of the existing or past elected representatives possessing such personality traits.

    Ghazanfar wins because he is a legacy of the past
    Wazir won because he was the ‘mazhab’ ka tarjuman
    Nazir won because he was/is the First Muslim to scale the Everest.

    Each of these has his (I can’t think of a her, confirming Shamim’s comments) strengths. Mir, because of his family’s influence, the machinations of Numberdars, ‘more loyal than the Kings’ and a new breed of opportunist young men/women has been able to hold the ‘office’ for so many years. But he has never been able to prove his mettle in the field of politics. He has even not been able to initiate social welfare projects in the region – look at the state of Public Health and Education system in the region, if you need a proof!!

    Wazir lacks the charisma, and maybe the resources/influence, that are necessary for becomming the leader of a region like Hunza.

    Nazir Sabir, a revolutionary, on many fronts – including scaling peaks, has the determination, interntional and national reputation and money power that can be used to change a few, if not all, fabrics of our society. But he has not been able to impress anyone duirng his tenure in power.

    Nevertheless, politics shall not be discussed in terms of personalities, as suggested by Mr. Amin Baig.

    A breeding ground has to be created whereby the youth of today are able to prepare for key electoral and social positions of the future. But even before that the voters will have to decide whether they want a clan’s representative, an ethnic representative or a wealthy man/woman to be their leader or they are looking for some other traits.

    We all, being voters, can play a vital role by, first, convincing ourselves about our leaders and their characteristics and, later, convincing our kith and kin or friends in this regard.

    If we vote for Ghazanfar because he is a Burushaski speaking person or for Nazir Sabir because he was bron in Gojal, I don’t think we are rising above ethnic and pseudo – regionalist politics.

    Our leaders play the politics that majority of the voters want them to play. They follow the lines that we use for their selections.

    So, if we want change, it has to come from within us.


  13. Do We Need a Hunza Based ‘Think Tank’ ????

    The interest of all the contributors in response to opinion: who would lead us??? Graciously posted by Pamir Times and Hunza Times, has moved me. I would like to thank all individual for their generous and benevolent encouragement and contributions to make efforts to develop understanding of a very crucial issue in the lives of the people of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan, the matter of politics.

    I strongly agree with Amin Beg, who has been very interested and contributed in practical terms towards the development of Hunza and it is continued and we hope will continue. In addition he had been one of my respected mentors in my professional life.

    His ideas of A) Political awareness and education of masses B) Strengthening civil society as a watchdog, an instrument of raising awareness and helping people to raise their voice in a collective ways C) Developing a manifesto of development raising above any sought of political, clan, geographic, linguistic, religious, family and individual concerns and discriminations D) Educating, advising and guiding politicians and voters, are all immensely important and must does.
    What should be the strategy to implement these highly valuable ideas is one of the main questions we need to address? From an friend of me I heard about ‘Hunza Graduate Forum’ which played an influential role in last elections, however he also mentioned that it was more in support of one of the candidates than a neutral body. The above mentioned objectives needs neutral bodies, however the individual serving in these bodies may have certain political affiliations but overall the body itself should be neutral in its approach towards all political candidates.

    Here I will propose to establish a Hunza based ‘Think Tank’ where prominent and interested people from all walk of life should be the members of this group without any sought of discrimination but providing women and equal participation. The possible members could be academicians, development professionals, public intellectuals, political activists, social workers, media representatives, VOs/WOs/CBOs members, women representatives, member of faith based organizations etc. The proposed ‘Think Tank’ should arrange lecture, seminars, workshops and awareness campaigns on important and vital issues of development in Hunza. It should produce papers and distribute among the people through media and other sought of communication channels in order to create awareness and education. It should also frame a blue print and vision for the role of political representatives in the development of the area. In addition, this forum could arrange debates among contesting political leaders about their vision, programs and manifesto of elections and regularly monitor the performance of elected representatives according to their manifestos.

    In the end as we are all agree about the depoliticization in Hunza that has been created by elements who fear that political awareness and activity in the area will challenge their hegemonic rule, needs to be eliminated. The misconception about political process that has been creating on both parts of masses and political leader has been very well described by Sajjad, it is a time of urgent call to re-establish our strong say in politics of Gilgit-Baltistan and beyond for public good on a fair play basis.

  14. salute for your best and bitter true openion on this largest site of gojal i am sure youth will be 100% in favor…. and i hope youth will never do these kind of mistakes in feature. In the past, the people were uneducated and that was the main problem of unawareness but this time in every individual house there are educated persons and they knows their rights better so again i hope youth will never do the mistakes in elecation and will choose right person for leading. I think this the way to share our thoughts togather and i want to tell to the youngesters that give your openion and try to find better solution for our homeland..

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  16. Simply Greatttttttttt
    Because this is the right time to give awarness to the people now a days everybody knows to get rights from any nation we need struggle and i must say meaningful struggle and you have started this struggle so on my behalf i would congratulate you.


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