Mon. Jun 21st, 2021

Disastrous Politics in Gilgit-Baltistan

Shared by Nosheen Ali

It has merely been nine months since the federally-controlled Northern Areas were transformed into the more province-like Gilgit-Baltistan, with triumphalist claims about how the Pakistani state had finally empowered this marginalised region. Yet the regions people are already realising that a more democratic set-up does not translate into better policy-making and substantive recognition of their rights.

This disillusionment has emerged in the aftermath of an ongoing natural disaster, which started when a massive landslide on the Hunza river in early January caused the formation of an artificial lake. Over the last four months, the overflowing lake has destroyed hundreds of acres of agricultural, residential, and commercial land in the upper Hunza area of Gojal, while also blocking the Karakoram Highway and submerging two bridges. The only road link between Pakistan and China is now disrupted. Over 20,000 people have already had to move to IDP camps, and 50,000 more could also be affected as the lake continues to swell.

Many in Gilgit-Baltistan argue that the damage could have been reduced if the government had taken the disaster seriously much earlier, and released water from the lake. People have strong grievances against the National https://i2.wp.com/tribune.com.pk/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Nosheen-Ali.jpg?resize=269%2C151Disaster Management Authority, the Frontier Works Organization, and the Gilgit-Baltistan government for their lack of political will, technical incompetence, and overall posture of normalcy throughout the past four months. The situation in Gilgit-Baltistan also raises larger questions about the politics of disaster relief in Pakistan. When the 2005 earthquake hit Azad Kashmir, there was an overwhelming public response accompanied by sustained relief efforts. Part of the reason for this response was the sheer magnitude of the tragedy, but part of it was also because Kashmir has been constructed as the bedrock of nationalist ideology in Pakistan, and hence, intimately appeals to our national sentiment. When a devastating cyclone hit Balochistan in June 2007, the relief efforts by the Pakistani government were dismal and the humanitarian Pakistani spirit was also conspicuously missing. As the situation in Gilgit-Baltistan becomes worse, it remains to be seen whether the region will also meet the fate of Balochistan in terms of political negligence.

It is also important to note that in the case of the 2007 cyclone and flash floods in Balochistan, a key factor that aggravated the damage was the ill-planned Mirani dam. In the ongoing Gilgit-Baltistan disaster, a warning issued by the flood forecasting division has similarly pointed out that the massive landslide can potentially be traced to an earthquake that resulted from blasting done by KKH constructors. This needs serious attention, as development visions in Gilgit-Baltistan have increasingly promoted the widening of the KKH as well as the creation of dams without a thorough assessment of the social and ecological impact of such mega-projects. In the wake of the Hunza disaster, the very need of these mega-projects needs to debated and reconsidered, particularly given the fragile terrain of the region. As a nation that is increasingly affected by natural disasters, we also need to re-evaluate our political and economic priorities. We need to ask why our civilian authorities remain so woefully under-equipped to deal with disasters, and why an already over-stretched military is the key decision-making and implementing authority in the context of a disaster. Most importantly, we need to ask why our resources are overwhelmingly spent on developing missiles, instead of facilitating disaster preparedness and humanitarian relief.

The immediate need, of course, is to provide care and compensation to those who have been affected by the tremendous loss of homes and livelihoods. People are extremely angry about the political disregard that has caused the loss of their land, which is the source of their history, identity, and life. These grievances add to an already existing sense of alienation that stems from the denial of constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to the region, under the garb of the Kashmir issue.

In the short-term, the least we can do is to whole-heartedly support local relief efforts. Among other sources, donations can be made to the Gojal Emergency Relief Fund, Account Number 851405, The First Micro Finance Bank, Sost Gojal, Branch Code 0208.

The writer is a development sociologist and postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University.

Also published HERE

11 thoughts on “Disastrous Politics in Gilgit-Baltistan

  1. I like your passionate response, Nosheen. I am a Stanford Alum from the GSB, and I worked with KADO on an emergency loan program to provide fertilizer and seeds to the people of Gojal. Would love to get to know you – please contact me privately
    Frieder

  2. The local govt of G-B is speachless over the issue.! Where is our Information Minister, our Finance Minister n all others..!!!
    I agree to writer’s poltical & geographical assesments and particularly the point that we need to re-think over our political periorities. Chairman NDMA was saying on a private TV chnnel that, ” I am gettiing diff ideas frm the locas like to pump out the water through high power generators, I have asked the experts, they told ME that it is nt possible.” Mr chairman, this is not about your backyard pond that you are worried about, you are not supposed to be the only person who is asking and getting technical plans on your own behalf..!!! get yourself out of here, let a multinational and generic company make the assesment and find out a solution, before it’s too late..!!!

    1. Gulmit…..!!!!
      what should i say lupyor…, our paradise sank infrot of our elders who had spend their all life in building and developing that piece of land…. people feel so helpless, and our socalled politicians are still asleep….
      the water has reached uncle muhammad rahim’s home and further it has sumerged the (karkhana) of late pup sumbul khan…
      and specialy todays bad news is that the houses of uncle khawaja, pup shamsher, Fida, Sajjad(Fida ALi) and Ameen has been demolished today….
      what should i say more…
      take care.

  3. @Nosheen
    Dear it’s all humanistic what ever you have mentioned about the socio-politics and situations of right and happenings in the GB. But you have taking a huge thought which we the people of GB cant even think of and never will be allowed by the serving agencies of the government.
    We are not human, we don’t even have the right to legally call our self Pakistani citizen. We have the passport and ID of Pakistan but cant call because Kashmir is not solved.
    This situation can bee seen in two country in the world, one in Israel, where a huge number of Muslim and christen are form the country but they are not allowed to vote or to be first class citizen, and second is Pakistan where we the people of GB are of the same statues.
    So if the UN cant do anything who we people without voice can do
    Good topic to think, hope and hope for what we don’t even know that too.
    Best of luck to us

  4. dear Nosheen the step that you taken to illustrate the true side of Attabad disaster is a good step, but one thing that give us alot of grief that you people of Hunza Gojal are still silent about the affecties of Attabad you people making corner meetings ,when the mothers and sisters of Attabad came on road where were the Hunza and gojal people ,this is not a matter of Atttabad people you should come to give your hads , where is Garyat of Hunzais , why they are still in their houses , why they are not came to us , to guide us , to give a courage, to show their assistance, this give us shoke , six months over no any person came to give any suggesation, you people critice governement i ask you what you did for victims ?
    This is time to come on single platfrum , united and show the brotherhood we should avoide biasness,discemination, cast color and regions , if we are still in thses stone age thoughts then its mean that we never get our objective, this message to all people belonging to hunza and gojal

  5. i salute the brave mothers and sisters of Attabad , who bravelly faceing the difficult time since 4 jan and come on roads to show their assistance , i want to told the gov’t that this is our intially stage we will continue our struggle till we are compansate, ready for next strike we will fight for our rights no one can stop us to doing so.
    regards
    faryad (Attabad)

  6. Thanks Nosheen Ali for your concern and reflecting on the grave situation of the disaster.

    Darjat

  7. MS. Nohseen has done magnificent work. I think the Government of Pakistan(PPP) is still seeking international aid to give relief to the affected people of Hunza. We are also missing our former leader General Pervez Musharaf, he was a strong leader and pure Pakistani. We would not face such difficulties if Mr. Musharaf would be the president of Pakistan.

  8. Disastrous Politics in Gilgit-Baltistan

    I rarly gone through the articles of paamir but Noshsen’s article impressed me. Thanks you Noshen for your tremendous work for
    such a comprehensive article. It would be better if you could highlighted the real problems facing by the affected people in atleast
    national newspapers.
    Muhammad Ali Balti
    SBP Karachi.

  9. Well, it is sad to learn about the possible disaster lurking in our backyard. By being in the area so many times I know the problems of local people to some extent BUT one thing always bothers me is that Why the intelligentsia always brings every debate to missiles and nuclear.
    These are way different things. It clearly seems as if there is a hidden agenda to serve when these writers write about problems faced by people as if by not spending on nuclear or missile programs would have prevented 2005 earthquake or formation of this lake.
    For God sake, stop criticizing in such manner and don’t serve your masters at the cost of our existence/defence.
    Now as far dealing with lake is concerned, this is an engineering problem and no one in the Military advised Civil Government to not to seek expert advice. They (politicians) run the govt, they control the budget and they call the shots (apologies if ‘they’ is offensive to anybody). The Government must be held responsible for not doing what should have been done and must be credited for doing whatever they could in areas called ‘roof of the world’.
    It would not surprise me if the writer holds any grudge against our defence programs or the military.

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