For good or bad

Rizwan Karim Qalandar

Baba Jan a federal committee member of Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) and a leading activist of Progressive Youth Forum (PYF), is high in the social media networks where socialists, eco-socialists , environmental Marxists and youth organizations are demanding, collectively, of the state authorities to acquit Baba of the fake charges and  release him.

A notable newspaper knighted him as the “prisoner of Climate Changein an article which is very much justifiable if we look back over the major events that took place resulting in the arrestment of Baba Jan. It all started in the January of 2010 when due to a massive landslide at Ataabad, a village in Hunza Nagar district of Gilgit Baltistan killed 20 people and formed a lake in result of blockage of the Hunza River. Around 20 kilometers of the Karakoram Highway was submerged and this flooding displaced about 6000 people upstream while the water bomb threatened a considerable population of people down the stream as well. In the aftermath of this natural catastrophe, around 500 households were internally displaced of whom the direct sufferers were the people of Ataabad who were left homeless with an equal loss of their lives to lands, livestock and properties.

The PPP government promised to settle the IDPs somewhere else while providing compensation for their losses of lives, livestock and property. In July of 2011, in the aftermath of government’s failure to compensate the affectees after a year and half, they were on a peaceful strike led by Baba Jan in Aliabad Hunza where the Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan, Syed Mehdi Shah was to cross the area. On the orders of a police officer, a police constable opened fire on the protestors killing a father and his son while leaving a number of them injured. This resulted in waves of violent protests by the affectees accompanied by the people of Hunza. Subsequently police brutality continued and Baba Jan fearing for his life in the hands of agencies, surrendered to the police who allegedly made a number of fake cases and took him to an unknown place for interrogation and since then it is reported that he has been made subject to torture and abuse. This has produced calls for condemnation and urge to release Baba Jan by activists of various cadres on social media networks, local and international newspapers. My concern in this regard is not different from any of the people I have mentioned earlier but added to that I have concerns for a dilemma that is spreading up universally.

Being a student of international relations with a background in governance, I see another picture developing on the backstage of this drama. I refer to it as a commonality among the unfortunate failing states where the people look towards an alternative for the


government. It is understood that the responsibility of any government is to provide a safe livelihood, freedom of life and association, freedom to practice their faith, safety to life and property, education, health, energy and most important of all is provision of justice to its law-abiding citizens.  Now, that we all are well aware of the fact that like in all other sick and underdeveloped states of the world, Pakistanis too have been deprived of almost all of the aforementioned basic rights in last 5 years of a civilian democratic government.

I repeat this isn’t a Pakistan-specific condition and it has become quite common among states that have either failed already or are on a verge of failing. The governments of likely states are making their own ends meet ‘hardly’ by exploiting the public enterprises and resources. This condition leads to another fatal situation where poverty elevates leaving bare minimum options of escape for the masses like separatist movements, mass migration, human trafficking and in most of the cases religious extremism leading towards terrorism. As the last route fits our unfortunate situation and people turn towards the  ‘agents’ of God for an easy way out of their misery.  This situation leads to another lucrative opportunity for corrupt governments of states  who take up such issues to the international community and as projects they are heavily funded by the international powers to achieve their hidden interests of let’s say countering a rival state in the region. Now comes the worst case scenario where natural catastrophes like floods, earthquakes etc. add up in misery, chaos and loss of lives, livestock and properties of the poor. Again the governments exploit these events by seeking funds internationally and spending a little or none out of the fortunes they make. Ataabad case was not any different from this later scenario.

Moving on with all this mess, there is news that I want to share with my readers. For good or bad we are on a journey towards the formation of a stateless part of the world or at least a state government-less part of the world where the very definition of the states would be revised. Initially a state was defined as people occupying a territory and with a government but in the near future the governments would be mere symbols of governance like the British kings and queens in the 20th century. A new era is about to come and that is the NGO era. The era of non-governmental organizations is evolving and covering up all the issues left unsolved by the governments. I opine this by the careless attitude of the Pakistani general public and civil society to the failures, corruption, inflation, energy crisis, sectarian terrorism, ethnic conflicts and collision of institutions and subsequent changes in the government. I am afraid the turnover for the upcoming elections would be lesser than ever, hence condemning the traditional systems of a governing of a state either by corrupt groups or by iron grip of a military government.

The theory of neo-functionalism seems to have space in the future where international non-governmental organizations would cooperate and coordinate to work together in providing solutions to the people of failed states with increased regional integration towards peace in a transnational manner. Having said all that, the nongovernmental organizations can provide what is noncontroversial and non or less political in nature like education, health and energy but what would be the situation of provision of law and order, justice and security to life and property etc are huge questions that need to be thought about sooner. The issue of Baba Jan brings with it grave concerns for the future of our whole damned region and likewise all around the world.

The contributor hails from Gilgit Baltistan and has a masters in governance with Mphil in European Studies. He works with an NGO in Karachi and can be reached at rizwan.karim86@gmail.com

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  1. Mr Rizwan’s attempt to explicate the complexity of Hunza politics by inferring or generalizing from the situation around the world is conceptually wrong. His intention was honest but I am sorry he is conceptually mistaken or his thinking is very much informed by the prevalent theories of the subject he studied – governance. The projection of governance as remedy for all ills is another ploy of neo-liberal agenda that want free hand in the market for capital.
    Before asking for good governance we need basic human and political rights. Rizwan is favoring the theory of withering away of state touted by Neo-liberalism. My dear brother, the state of Pakistan and others starting to show weaknesses after 1990s when liberal model of economy and politics dominated the world not vice versa. Secondly, you did not substantiate your assertion that the future era will be of NGOs with proof. If you read modern literature regarding development, there is lot of criticism on I/NGOs and some predicted that the time of NGOs is over.
    You cannot extrapolate experience of Hunza to Pakistan, let alone the world. The very process of discontent with state and absence of leadership in Hunza is very much product of de-politicization by NGOs in the region. There is as much anger among people against NGOs as it is against the government. NGOs made people to neglect political question in development, whereas the reality is that development in itself is political by nature. We people of Hunza has lost the capacity to engage with the state.
    Finally, I have one question: what is role of NGOs in getting fundamental rights of people of GB? Is lodging a protest not a basic right of citizen? Have NGOs condemned the brutal killing of father and son in Hunza by police last year? The answer is big NO. Instead of taking back people in the fold of depoliticized NGOs, I urge the youth to support people like Baba Jan and his colleagues to make the people empower. NGOs are spent force now. Time has changed. They will have to follow local political leadership but cannot dictate them with their borrowed “ideas”. Mr. Rizwan these are not view against you as a person, but sentiment of a layman on street. Nothing personal and wish you all the best.

  2. With reference to to the analytical expression of Mr.Rizwan and vice versa,my personal openion is that our country as well as our nation as a whole, wants a revolutionary change in our life style. This change is possible in two ways. Bloody revolution or Intelectual revolution.Bloody revolution is against the law of nature as the blood of one mankind is the blood of total humanity.We need such an intelectual leader like Mohatir Muhammad of Malaysia.Although it is very difficult to trust a leader in such a confused society,but still hope is there. We need a change that never took place since the creation of Pakistan.

    Let us hope and join our hands together as citizens of Pakistan for the achievement of this goal .

    Jehangir Shah

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