Poverty of Politics in Hunza

Aziz Ali Dad

Aziz Ali Dad

A massive landslide in the village of Attabad in Hunza last year buried the whole village and 19 precious lives under its debris. The landslide was so massive that it blocked Hunza River, which has turned into a monstrous lake. In addition, incompetency of government to deal with natural disasters has aggravated the condition of not only people of the affected village, but also people living in the upstream of Hunza River. With the passage of time Attabad Lake has devoured various villages and displaced thousands of people from their hearths and homes. Every natural disaster naturally entails loses in terms of human lives and property. The best policy in such a situation is to take initiatives to contain social ramifications of natural disasters in the future.

In the case of Attabad disaster the government tried to bring in succor to the people who were rendered insecure by displacement. Strategically, relief efforts should be followed by plans and endeavors for rehabilitating Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs). On the contrary the government of Gilgit-Baltistan decided to keep the affected people in a state of perpetual relief for unknown reasons. This has made life more difficult for the affectees. Consequently, fallouts of Attabad disaster has jolted the apparently peaceful folks of Hunza from their political torpor and exposed them to harsh reality of being a politically poor society. Now people are mulling over the causes of political deficit and possible political scenario of Hunza in the future.

This soul searching is triggered by a tragic incident in Hunza when the affectees of Attabad disaster staged a protest for their compensation on the occasion of visit of the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan –Mehdi Shah. In sheer contravention of law, a deputed officer ordered firing that resulted in the death of father and son hailing from an affected village. This incident added fuel to the fire of already simmering emotions that burst forth in the shape of violence and resulted in burning of various government offices in the newly formed district of Hunza-Nagar.

Instead of bringing real culprits of the incident to books, the local administration resorted to mass arrest of political and social activists across Hunza. Ironically, incarceration of political activists on false charges has been happening under a political government and democratic dispensation. Social and political analysts in the region attribute strong tactics of intimidation of political workers as a ploy by some powerful quarters to stifle burgeoning political process in Hunza, which has remained apolitical during last three decades for various reasons. There are many factors that contribute to increasing political awareness and activism on the hand, and consternation of the proponents of status quo about political activism in the region where geo-strategic interests of Pakistan intersect with neighboring states of China, Afghanistan and India.

Foremost among the factors for political rejuvenation in Hunza is demographic shift, for youth comprises bulk of the population in Hunza. Unlike the apolitical generation that benefited from dissemination of education in last 3 decades of the last century in Hunza, the youth of Hunza now are more assertive in political arena. People of Hunza got exposure to mass literacy in 80s. They seized upon the moment to uplift their economic condition by entering into service sector which was opened by modernity, commerce and at the latter stage NGOs. Because of emerging opportunities and absorption of erstwhile educated cadre in job market, the bigger question of political rights vis-à-vis economic empowerment did not emerge.

Until now, electorate in Hunza has elected representatives who belonged to mainstream political parties of the country. While focusing on the bigger picture at Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) level, analysts tend to overlook a new cadre that is emerging on political front at district council and tehsil level. These are the people who are paving the way for creation of critical mass at grass root level. It is because of this cadre the political question reemerged on the political landscape of Hunza after the lull of two decade. This time the political process has slowly started taking roots. Hence, we see emergence of various nationalists, religious and national parties on political scenario of Hunza.

The people apprehended during the last three months on the charges of fomenting violence in Hunza belong to that category of political workers and leaders who feel the pulse of street and are engaged with quotidian affairs of people. This new cadre is more assertive in political rights for they are of the view that attainment of political rights is an effective way to economic empowerment.  Expansion of influence of new political cadre and activists will put an end to the privilege and prestige of the elements benefiting from status quo. One of the strong reasons for use of disproportionate force against people after the unrest in Hunza is to strangle emerging political discourse into isolation. Incarceration of political leaders and activists of progressive persuasion is an attempt to gag voices who reject state paternalism.

During the last one and half month the whole administrative machinery in Hunza is geared towards suppressing people who are engaged in political process. Meanwhile, a crop of readymade leadership has sprouted in field to capture political space by capitalizing on existing political vacuum and leadership crisis. The best course for the civil society of Hunza in particular and region in general is to favour leaders and activists who have been part of political process and rejecting those who emerge as messiahs from a window opportunity provided by coercion of indigenous movement by the state.

For a democratic and political vibrant society, the civil society of Hunza and the region needs to be vigilant about reincarnation of figures who have overtly or covertly contributed to de-politicisation of society to appease the corridors of power. The recent violence in idyllic Hunza valley is just a prologue to the political question that has remained in limbo because of the political amnesia. The future of region will be determined by the answers people give to long overdue political questions and choices they make between progressive forces and proponents of status quo.

The writer is an Islamabad based social scientist and belongs to Gilgit. azizalidad@hotmail.com

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  1. This is the topic i was thinking about for so long time.. thanks for giving such an articles, it reveals many aspects of politics in Hunza,,, I wish maximum readers get this post to read….

  2. Brilliant analysis by Aziz Ali Dad. We need to answer basic political questions that hinder the process of democratic struggle. I wish the writer contribute more on these issues in the context of Hunza and GB.

  3. It is really a remarkable analysis by Aziz Alidad regarding recent political senario in Hunza and hopefully the youth of Hunza will participate in this burning issue. We the people of Hunza are much keen to get the highiest level of education almost in every field of life but unfortunataly we have kept behind the political future of Hunza as it is not even in our least priority. After demise of Hunza State we although got political slogans from various political parties and instead of working to boost political leaderships we used the political slogans for hatard against each other and making small self interest groups to get maximum financial benifits from the imported political parties. Such unserious political attitude of the leaders without broder vision for an common interst and benifit of mass forced to keep people away from politics and resultantly today we the people of Hunza being an civilised, well educated and well mannerd public are still political orphans and even not able to get political, financial and administrative benifits from any government or political parties like other communities with least educational background. The very fundamental issue of our people is that we have kept behind our community interest and have given first priority to the imported political parties. Today there is no one who defend our people at large and give our people a real political vision in future. Mir Ghazanfer enjoyed the position of Deputy Chief Executive and then Chief Executive of GB and the rersult was nill. Mr. Wazir Beg got the position of Speaker and then Governer of GB and instead of giving a political vision to the people of Hunza he moved a resolution in the GBLA in August 2010 against the youth of Hunza to declare them traitors and rebelians on a baseless grounds supported by Mr. Mutabiat Shah, Technocrate Hunza and Mr. Ayoub Shah, Member GBLA Yasin. Such action of animity with his own people of Hunza actually opened grounds to the Administration of GB to impose Anti Terrorist Act (ATA) on our youth in the recent Aliabad incident where two innocent IDP’s were brutally assasinated by police force openly. If we go to the near past such kind of incident was happened at Chillas where two affactees of Diamer Bhasha Dam were fired and killed by police and resultantly the public burnt out all the Diamer District HQ offices at Chillas but instead of arresting the culprits, govt accepted all thier demands. We ask that why there is a separate law for the people of Hunza and how long our people will breath under such opperessed and depressed situation. It is time to come forward and to think seriously for the future of Hunza today before it is too late.

  4. I appreciate the intellectual approach, the meticulous analysis of the present political scenario in Hunza, the bold and lucid statements regarding the real issues of our area and the crystal clear vision of Aziz. It is a thought provoking piece of work and the youth needs to get hold of it. Well done Aziz.

  5. I agree with the opinion of MR, Aziz Ali Dad, as he has highlight’s the relief politics in Hunza valley, the relief is like a fatal after in-taking the relief the people never remain the courage to fight for their rights , even for their self.
    Mostly people at Hunza and upper hunza waiting for relief they are not doing to create something for them, now this is very surprising when the relief stop from china how they can survive? This is very big question for the political leaders they have completely vanished the self-esteem of the brave people of hunza by providing them relief………..

    The important is that to link the KKH again and down the level of water in Aatababd Lake not relief..

  6. It is a good analysis, but please keep your target group in mind, most of the words used in this article were not common for general readers, please, write in simple language.

    Be simple in style

  7. Aziz! Good job…congrats…
    Leadership, more specifically the polititical, as its been given so mandate, must learn looking at its masses through identical glasses. Yet another ironic landmark done by the leadership, Diamer-Basha Dam may be constructed by around 2020, Billions of PKR have been poured into one specific sub-division as compensation to the to-be-distant affectees a decade ahead. While on the other hand, affetees of Ataabad Dam, who have lost all their resources including life, shelter, economic means, etc, are solaced, for the last two years now, with a few relief goods and making them depandant/beggers- the national pride that we possess. Disparities of such nature in a small region may one day crop up issues of extreme nature beyond any cure.

    I would suggest you continue to write on this issue in the national press for wider readership and attracting attention for a serious debate. This would provide a plateform for the youth of the region and bring writers and thinkers of national repute to the debate as well.

    Thanks again for sharing wonderful feelings and keep up.

  8. I have a question do we have nationalist activists or party working in hunza.
    i think we need people like naji and only then we will get of this orphanage of politics.

  9. I appreciate your analysis on the issue. I think this moment is the worst moment in our political as well as social arena. The innocent and empty handed protesters are fired upon and killed and charged the most strict charges on protesters and are put them behind bars and tortured. The irony doesn’t end in here. It is just the beginning. When you listen to our so called leaders one can find them divided and buried in so negligible and pity issues. The most missing thing in them is the absence of a common vision.They want to be the tutors and behavior setters of their subjects instead. We are so disintegrated that we can’t even ask to public the much promised inquiry report and bear the one sided cruelty with frustration. The question is where has that literacy and ratio of education, social and institutional set up, discipline and clarity of purpose and above all a viberent civil society gone??? Someone needs to call all the above and not the scavengers please!!! No matter how long is the night of cruelty there comes always the bright morning.

  10. hunza is very popular name and vry special people in terms of their culture and traditions . we should think where we are lacking so that we can step ahead of these troubles . are we really engaged with the political leaders of hunza ?? our political leader ship needs public support .

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