by Farman Ali
Elections in Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday would be an historic occasion but a lost opportunity for the people of Ghanche District as none of the candidates contesting there campaigned on the issues fundamental to the people.
Ghanche covers an area of 4,116 square kilometers and is the most strategically placed district of the disputed region — and also the most backward. It borders the Ladakh region of the Indian-held Kashmir and has two military fronts — Siachin and Kargil.
But neither its social and economic backwardness nor the misery of its people cut off from their relatives across the Line of Control figured in the election campaigns. Their hopes that the India-Pakistan agreement that opened border-crossings in Kashmir for visits by divided families would extend to Gilgit-Baltistan also have not been realised.
There are 10 candidates in the run for three seats in this district afflicted with poverty, lake of social infrastructure like tap water, shortage of irrigation water in most places, lack of better health and education, telecommunication, and electricity facilities and unemployment.
The problems of the people of the district aggravated when the government imposed a restriction on the entry of foreign tourists, expedition and trekking parties in Siachen and other tourist spots after the 1984 Pakistan-India war on the longest glacier outside Polar region. A large number of people attached with tourism were rendered jobless and deprived of their livelihood.
In LA-22, Ghanche-I, sturdy competition is expected between Mohammad Jaffar of PPP and Ibrahim Sanai of PML-N, who defeated the former in the last elections. Mohammad Jaffar, a committed senior politician. But his opponent being an educated person and having better working experience in the social sector has a strong position and good reputation in the constituency. The population of this constituency is 45,000 and the number of registered voters is 26,499, with 13,084 women.
In LA-23, Khaplu-II, the headquarters of Ghanche district, four candidates — Maulana Mohammad Mufti Abdullah of PML-N, Advocate Ghulam Hussain of the PPP, Amna Ansari from PML-Q and Abid Hussain of MQM — are contesting election. Ama Ansari who won the 2004 election on women reserved seat is now contesting on general seat from this con
stituency. She seems to be a strong candidate given her past track record as people of the area are happy with her for the development work she has done during the last four years. Her opponent PPP candidate Ghulam Hussain was also member of the last legislative assembly as a technocrat, but according to various public circles his performance was not satisfactory. Maulana Mohammad Abdullah, though a noted religious personality, is a new entrant in politics. The MQM’s Abid Hussain is also a new face. Though a substantial number of people in the constituency have been affiliated with MQM, he has a bleak chance to win the seat as people in rural areas mostly cast vote on personality basis.
The population of this constituency is approximately 40,000. The number of registered voters is 25,187, with 12,404 women.
In LA-24, Ghanche-III, two candidates — Mohammad Shafique of PML-N and Engineer Mohammad Ismail of PPP — are in the run. A committed and well-reputed worker, Mohammad Ismail has been continuously winning the elections for the last three years. In the 2004 elections he had defeated Mohammad Shafique. But this time around Shafique seems to be in a stronger position.
The population of this constituency is 24,000, and the total number of registered votes is 17,886, including 9,000 women voters. The number of poling stations here is 39. The famous Mashabrum and other peaks are situated here. —Additional reports by Farman Baltistani and Nadir Aman Tajik from Skardu [Source: DAWN]