The Pakistan Peoples Party has unleashed a reign of terror and coercion in Gilgit – Baltistan, where protesters are routinely being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and indicted in politically motivated cases. Some of the “known crimes” of the protesters, in most cases, are exposing the government’s failure to provide salaries, rehabilitate IDPs, reconstruct flood affected infrastructure and ensure provision of health and education facilities.
The most recent incident of undue state excesses occurred in Diamer district, where the flood affected people of Khainar Valley were roughed up and arrested by the police, while they were protesting on the Karakuram Highway to demand restoration of electricity to their village worst hit by floods last year. The local people pelted the police with stones as the police tried to arrest them.
In Gojal Valley the government has resorted to filing of politically motivated criminal cases against active community members, indicting them in serious crimes, like ‘treason’ and ‘rebellion’.
Very recently, criminal cases were registered against a group of 30 people belonging to Shishkat, Gulmit and Ghulkin, in Gojal Valley. These people were among the hundreds of women, men and children who had blocked boat traffic in the dammed Hunza River, demanding quick and equitable distribution of compensation funds. Similar cases were also registered last year against 11 people. It is pertinent to note that the economy of Gojal Valley has been crippled due to the relevant organization’s failure in reconnecting the strategic Karakuram Highway, which remains submerged since January 4, 2010, the day when a village called Attabad had slid down in a massive landslide incident and blocked the Hunza gorge. 19 people were also killed on that fatal day.
The people of Attabad and those of Gojal Valley have been protesting throughout the country for the past 17 months, but most of their issues are still unresolved. The government has now resorted to harassing the people by indicting them in politically motivated cases, instead of resolving their issues.
In Skardu, the police roughed up and arrested tens of employees of the Water and Sanitation Department, while they were protesting against non-payment of salaries for several months.
People had expected that an elected body comprising of local leaders would bring relief to the impoverished populace of Gilgit – Baltistan, but the incidents of violence and coercion witnessed in Khainar, Gilgit, Gojal and Skardu indicate a completely different phenomena.
The local chief minister and his local cabinet are trying to run the affairs of government through stick, tear gas and other coercive measures, including First Information Reports (Parcha).
Such dirty tactics may help the government in muffling the local peoples’ voices, but there is a danger that the people will gradually lose hope in the newly established system of governance, promulgated through a presidential order two years back.
The local elected representatives, officials of the district administrations and the police officers shall bear in mind that they have taken oath to serve the people. By using force against the innocent people of Khainar (Chilas), Gojal and Skardu, they are miserably failing to fulfill their oath and duties.
Bringing the people of Gilgit – Baltistan to the national mainstream requires a creative, people-centric, system of governance. If the representatives fail to win hearts of the people, the vicious cycles of deprivation will continue and nothing will have changed, except designations, perks and privileges of the ruling elite.