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 firstname.lastname@example.org