Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023

Depoliticized Society of Gilgit-Baltistan

Israruddin Israr

Israruddin Israr

An in-depth study of current political history of Gilgit-Baltistan reveals the actual situation and reasons of powerlessness of existing political parties and their leadership in GB.

Modern period in the political history and political processes in GB started from 1974 with the abolishment of FCR and princely states in GB. For the first time the practice of elections on party basis in Gilgit-Baltistan started in November 1994. The last election of GB assembly constituted under the GB empowerment and self-Governance order 2009 was the fourth election contested on party basis, whereas, since the establishment of advisory council in 1972 it was tenth election in the region.

Although, there were political movements in GB before abolishment of FCR, like a movement started in early fifties against it (FCR) which caused 7 causalities in Punial Tehsil of Ghizer; agitation also occurred in Hunza and Nagar as well. In the early fifties a local nationalist political group named Millat Party was formed in Gilgit headed by Mr. Johar Ali khan advocate. However, despite of these undercurrents, due to FCR there was no room for the political activities in GB from 1947 to 1974.

Israruddin Israr
Israruddin Israr

The “Golden Period of political activism, so to say, started soon after abolishment of FCR, which allowed political activities in the region. The first local right based political party “Milat Party” was merged into Pakistan Pople’s Party (PPP) by its leadership after the promise of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to abolish the FCR from the region. It seems that the ultimate objective of Millat party was the abolishment of FCR.

Now the ground was empty after the FCR to play an effective role by political leadership. But due to the conspiracies of outside bureaucracy with the help of local clergy, the political leadership was precluded from playing its role and political activities were banned in the region again.

The local administration showed high handedness to local people, which led to an attack on Gilgit jail by large numbers of local people who broke into the jail and released political activists who were incarcerated for agitating against the local administration.

After that incident the local administration devised a long term strategy to weaken the political leadership in the region. The strategy involved enabling the formation of an alliance between the bureaucracy and the clergy. From there on both, the clergy and the bureaucracy, became became more powerful actors in the local political arena.

In 1980s the region witnessed emergence of NGOs on the screen. These NGOs attracted the people due to their fascinating slogans of development. The NGOs took over the responsibility of development. Instead of government local people considered NGOs as their service providers in the fields of education, irrigation, livestock, agriculture, health and building the basic infrastructure and social development. The mere political activity in the region was to engage with these NGOs, while the whole Government machinery was in relaxed mood due to lack of public pressure and no criticism on their performance. So the NGOs were the third nail in the coffin of political parties after the clergy and bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy, clergy and NGOs were the three main factors that led to the depoliticization of  the whole society of Gilgit-Baltistan. Still these three segments are the centers of power. A lay man considers these the real providers of security, jobs, shelter etc. While the political segment of society has a weak say in the society. Politician themselves need the support of above mentioned three segments. Main power in politics is lacking while the cream of society is harnessed by those three elements.

The ground in GB has generally not been feasible for political movements to flourish. Therefore, almost every political movement has been initiated outside of GB, like the Karakuram Students Organisation (student wing of Karakuram National Movement), Balawaristan National Front, Baltistan Student’s Federation and the Ghizer Students federation etc. were formed in Karachi in late sixties and eighties.

These secular and nationalistic movements were gradually increasing their influence in the society of GB but the sectarian clash in 1988 sabotaged all political efforts. Later on Gilgit-Baltistan National Alliance (GBNA), an alliance of 14 political parties of GB, and Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance, which was alliance of 5 nationalist parties of GB, had also increased the political awareness by their campaigns, but the murder of Agha Ziauddin Rizvi of 2005 and ongoing sectarian violence sabotaged the efforts of both alliances.

The weak element among above mentioned three segments is the NGOs which seeks the support of bureaucracy and clergy. The latter mentioned two segments have shifted their pressure to NGOs for taking the responsibility of service provision. I am an eye witness of an event, when some people blocked the road in Silpli village of Punial accusing an NGO of not providing teachers in a school in the village established by that NGO. When I asked one of the protesters whether they have Government schools in their village or not? He replied, no. Then I asked why he had not protested against the Government for not providing the school in the area? He had no answer. But I understood that they were not aware about the responsibility of Government because the responsibility has been taken by the NGO. There are so many examples in the field of health, agriculture and development. Apart from it these NGOs engaged the ‘cream’ from among the local people who could, otherwise, have played a good role to activate the Government functionaries.

On the other hand to carry out political activity means to oppose the three segments. Therefore, people do not like to detach themselves from the power centers and  people hate the politics and not ready to guide their children to choose the field of politics due to fear of clergy and establishment.

The result of above mentioned trend is that we have no visionary political leadership in the region that will be able to utilize the strategic importance and natural resources of the region to improve the living standard of people. More than fifteen main stream political parties of Pakistan have their provincial chapters in GB but they are silent on the issue of political rights of GB. The available political cadre who represents the main stream political parties in GB is on the pay role of establishment because the establishment and clergy are the centers of powers. Chief Minister, Governor and ministers are just puppets. The GB empowerment and self-Governance 2009 is nothing more than a new face of previous LFOs and the new names of old public office holders. Nationalist parties have lost their trust due to their wrong strategies. While some progressive parties have recently attracted hundreds of youth from GB but they have no say in GB like other parts of Pakistan. So it’s a challenge for the youth of GB  in future who are interested to take part in the practical politics of GB that how can they play their role in political arena of Gilgit-Baltistan to remove above mentioned four hurdles that strangle any movement for political awareness?

The contributor is a Gilgit Based senior journalist and columnist. E-Mail:

10 thoughts on “Depoliticized Society of Gilgit-Baltistan

  1. Its indeed political history of GB with an insight into the movement for people’s right. Wonderful article.
    Being part of the process of imparting political education I must admit the role of “ideological politics” in Pakistan which had divided the politics between “right” and ‘left’. The Nationalist politics of GB initiated from Karachi has been influenced by the left whereas the students in Lahore were still with the religion syndrome and Islamabad gave a cadre of opportunist leaders. The author is right in blaming NGOization of the region in 1980’s for the situation today.

  2. a good piece of read. but i don’t agree with you on the notion that NGOs have hijacked the role of government as service provider. say if NGOs were not present in GB ,would the situation be better than what it is today? Also compare the area of GB those who didn’t accept NGOs to intervene in their region you think the people of those area are more aware or government has been providing more facilities to them? the answer is NO..i think what are we today is because even in the absence of government services NGOs have done a lot. whether it is in the field of education or health. if today our society is well educated NGOs especially AKDN has played instrumental role in this regard. awareness comes from education.

  3. kudos to the writer for taking up such an important issue. By highlighting the causes of lack of the political culture, he has done a great job. the next step should be to devise strategies to overcome the four political hiccups outlined by the writer. @Writer: would you mind sharing the reference for the study on political history of GB you have mentioned for the benefit of potential researchers. thanks

  4. Sakhi sb the topic describes the negative impact of NGOs on the political process in GB, it doesn’t discuss the advantages and disadvantages of NGOs. You are right NGOs have some advantages in some fields but you cant deny the disadvantages of NGOs. You must ponder on both sides of picture.

  5. Imjee sb
    Following are some references of the study.
    1. GB empowerment and self Governance order 2009, published by GB assembly secretariat in 2009.
    2. Preface of LFO 2004 written by Hafiz ur Rehamn, published by GB legislative council 2004.
    3. A strong yearning for autonomy , report of HRCP mission , published by HRCP 2006.
    4. GB election 2009, report of the HRCP observer mission , published by HRCP 2010.
    5. Dilemmas of pride and pain sectarian conflict and conflict transformation in Pakistan by Dr. Mohaamad Waseem Lahore university of Management sciences.
    6. Sectarian conflict in GB by Mr. Mohaamad feyyaz published by PILDAT 2011.
    7. A socio political study of GB province by Ummar Farooq Zain Associate professor Bahahuddin Zakriya University 2010.
    8. GB tribune . The history and Dispute ,
    9. Interviews with Mr. Ahsan Adocate president High court Bar associatio, Mr. Wazir Baig, speaker GB assembly, Mr. Hafiz Hafeez ur rehman president PML(N) GB. Mr. Safdar Ali senior leader of BNF etc

  6. Thanks Israr sab for sensitization on politics. As far as the politics of GB is concern it depends of the vision and quality of leader. In GB many political leaders and social activists have earned a good name and recorded their name in GB history. These leaders were free from all types of prejudices like nationalism, sectionalism, regionalism, favoritism & nepotism as well. As you have mentioned about three segment destabilizing the politics. You have mentioned about NGO role as well.
    I would like to make it clear that these NGOs taught the practical examples of integration & unity through organizations and forums. Social mobilization was enhanced. Basic service was delivered to GBIANS regardless of cast, colour and ethnic in form of medical units, schools, and communications means and other infrastructure as building bridges, roads, and channels and tunnels as well by pooling international resources. My analysis shows that these NGOs made popular political leadership of that time. The mandate of these NGOs was to ensure participation of all stake holders in the development. These NGOs helped the people to set a direction towards development whether this was socially, politically, economically.

    It is admitted fact that in any change process the following four stages has to consider:

    1. Initiation
    2. Continuation
    3. Mobilization
    4. Out put

    These NGOs played a positive role to strengthen the political leadership through many interventions like capacity enhancement, bench marking, replicating best models.

    Of course the leadership became relaxed as its assignment was facilitated by other NGOs.
    The purpose of these NGOS was to supplement the efforts of Government in all development sector not parallel institutions to Govt.

    As case studies I give you one or two examples of awareness or development or social change in GB through some NGOs.

    1. Ghutum Jail Astore : We all admit that the education is the only tool to become a civilized citizen as well as to form a civilized society. In 611 AD our Serkar Du Alam had emphasized ummah to acquire education for both male & female. But in GB up to 2004 there were some certain remotest villages where no single Ist class pass Male/ female was found. In such areas these NGos not only gave them awareness but physically established the schools and provide them a set mechanism towards development direction. Today in this village more than 100 students are studying at primary, middle and high level. It means NGOs played a key role to sensitize the people and this sensitization is called politics. The main aim of political leader is to ensure the welfare of people of his jurisdiction but unfortunately in our context some corrupt political leaders destroys these values and their existence is only for party, region or relatives. In my opinion these people are not able to call human being. The animal has only such types of notions for their existence.
    2. In Nagar region the male education was started in 1905 at Nagar khas and female was started in 1986 at Nilt Nagar. An AKDN NGO provided social awareness and influence their perception regarding female education and these social activist became founders and pioneers of female education in Nagar. The other AKDN NGO established 25 female middle & High coaching centres now they have become community base schools. More than three thousands female students have passed their matriculation and in thousands still are studying. These NGOs spent billions of amounts in this area on social development which supplemented the Govt efforts and make easy the work of political leaders. This was the fault of then political leader that he paced his political activities slow down towards development. Through utilizing the resources and expertise of these NGOs these leaders can change the scenario of GB.

    Israr sab you have mentioned about many political parties of GB. Ok fine but my concern is that no single body is there to stop corruption, injustice. If Nawaz Khan Naji or wazir baig or Hafizur rehman or janbaz khan raises voice against corruption than other start to charge allegations one another.

    We all GBIANS would appreciate and encourage those political parties and leaders who run the affairs of province & state in view of our Islamic golden values that is also pillars of good governance as well. Un fortunately it is happening against the good governance and Islamic values.

    Some political leaders and parties need to work on these lines to make the GB welfare zone. They have to change their behaviour in dealing routines.

    1. Some leaders are violating oath as having involved in corruption.( Definition of Corruption attached)
    2. Some are forcing to Govt officials to do illegal favour.
    3. Some responsible leaders and management is still silent over violation of basic human rights like proper distribution of supply food, water, and health & education facility as well.
    Just now I was reading that on stopping corruption governor (that was too late) was opposed by ministers and am ready to complain with president. It means corruption has a vast net work at higher level. What can we expect with such types of leaders who are deteriorating the whole society through inculcating corruption? The senior management is expected to ensure smooth functioning of Govt institutions and never accept the pressure against the good governance and Islamic principles.

    We would expect with top management to continue best practices and discourage the bad practices and play key role to make GB corruption free zone.

    At last I would say that there are some good leaders but kneeling in front of corrupts one they also loose their importance and entity.

    Corruption: Corruption is the abused of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts every one who depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority.

    Types of corruptions:

    Systemic corruption:

    As opposed to exploiting occasional opportunities, endemic or systemic corruption is when corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system, when it is embedded in a wider situation that helps sustain it. Systemic corruption is not a special category of corrupt practice, but rather a situation in which the major institutions and processes of the state are routinely dominated and used by corrupt individuals and groups, and in which most people have no alternatives to dealing with corrupt officials. Examples might include contemporary Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon and many others.

    Sporadic (individual) corruption:
    Sporadic corruption is the opposite of systematic corruption. Sporadic corruption occurs irregularly and therefore it does not threaten the mechanisms of control nor the economy as such. It is not crippling, but it can seriously undermine morale and sap the economy of resources.

    Political (Grand) corruption:
    Political corruption is any transaction between private and public sector actors through which collective goods are illegitimately converted into private-regarding payoffs. Political corruption is often used synonymously with “grand” or high level corruption, distinguished from bureaucratic or petty corruption because it involves political decision-makers. Political or grand corruption takes place at the high levels of the political system, when politicians and state agents entitled to make and enforce the laws in the name of the people, are using this authority to sustain their power, status and wealth. Political corruption not only leads to the misallocation of resources, but it also perverts the manner in which decisions are made. Political corruption is when the laws and regulations are abused by the rulers, side-stepped, ignored, or even tailored to fit their interests. It is when the legal bases, against which corrupt practices are usually evaluated and judged, are weak and furthermore subject to downright encroachment by the rulers.

    Grand corruption:
    High level or “grand” corruption takes place at the policy formulation end of politics. It refers not so much to the amount of money involved as to the level in which it takes place: grand corruption is at the top levels of the public sphere, where policies and rules are formulated in the first place.

    Petty corruption:
    Small scale, bureaucratic or petty corruption is the everyday corruption that takes place at the implementation end of politics, where the public officials meet the public. Petty corruption is bribery in connection with the implementation of existing laws, rules and regulations, and thus different from “grand” or political corruption Petty corruption refers to the modest sums of money usually involved, and has also been called “low level” and “street level” to name the kind of corruption that people can experience more or less daily, in their encounter with public administration and services like hospitals, schools, local licensing authorities, police, taxing authorities and so on.

    Legal and Moral Corruption:
    Corruption is derived from the Latin verb rump ere, to break. According to this approach, corruption is where the law is clearly broken. This requires that all laws must be precisely stated, leaving no doubts about their meaning and no discretion to the public officials. A legal interpretation of corruption provides a clearly demarcated boundary between what is a corrupt activity and what is not. ‘If an official’s act is prohibited by laws established by the government, it is corrupt; if it is not prohibited, it is not corrupt even if it is abusive or unethical’.

    We know that there are some individuals amongst top management and leadership who are free from this curse and evil. While some are working as agent collecting money for seniors against the jobs. What can be expect with such types of officer or leaders with this wrong behaviour and their ultimate objective is only collecting the money and making property at the cost of its public welfare.

    When a society becomes corrupt then all evils become its parts of practices and ultimately the whole society and area becomes under the trial of natural disaster.
    Now a day it is happening in GB.

    After going through this article we came to conclusion that the main source of our survival and revival is to follow the guiding principles of Islam that is peace, equality, equity, justice, transparency, accountability, honesty and fairness. The western scholars have termed it the rules of good governance. The westerns are following it in their routines and we are so called Muslims violating it.

    I appreciate and salute to those leaders and officers who are raising voice against corruption in the assembly and in their offices and practically taking steps to eliminate this social curse.
    We discourage and condemn those party members, leaders, officers who are becoming the cause of defame for GB and their office and position as well by involving in corruption.
    We would assume that if any department head or relevant secretary does not admonishing to his/her staff involving in corruption means he or she has also equally share in corruption.

    All well wishers of GB need to raise voice against corruption, and corrupt elements.

  7. National Consensus on “People’s Governance Model Of Gilgit.Baltistan”
    By Raees Kamil Jan Baigal in Gilgit Baltistan Volunteer Movement (Files) · Edit Doc · Delete
    In my last four years of interaction with youth, social Workers, political party leaders, and the public, I have found amazing confusion in Gilgit-Baltistan, especially on issues related to understanding of the fundamental and constitutional rights.

    Its seems that this grand confusion is an outcome of an organized drive for keeping us divided, and to defuse any serious drive towards change with regards to fundamental rights. I base this conclusion on the following grounds.

    We are confused; because, we have never tried to understand why we, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, were kept isolated and made a part of the Kashmir dispute.

    Why, despite of keeping us as a part of Kashmir, we were not given full rights or status like AJK in Pakistan?

    What role Kashmiri leaders and so many Kashmiri funded, foreign funded, organizations played to merely talk on the constitutional question of GB?

    Local, national and international lobbies, organizations, rights bodies and civil society voices were never raised for the rights of Gilgit-Baltistan, while at the same time these Kashmiri groups in Europe and International Forums held full presence and space.

    It seems that since our case in totally mixed up here, revolutionary steps cannot works in Gilgit-Baltistan, s a result of an organized division, because of which we are not on the same page. On faith basis we have divided our demand. We want either provincial status with inclusion of Kohistan and Chitral or merger with AJK, Independent State or a Fifth Province, depending on our sectarian interests and orientations, without or without understanding of the demand’s background dynamics. Because of this plethora of demands, read divisions, our strategies for gaining rights are not working.

    Every Group is advocating and getting connections with pro and anti-groups in the world and within Pakistan, to either make or get through constitutional drive or rights movements.
    In present scenario, when the demand for fifth province is gaining grounds, one can easily observe and analyze the the moves and drives of different groups, for or against the demand. These moves, unfortunately, are not based on understanding of the issue, but on other grounds, discussed earlier, which makes the demand hollow and devoid of meaning, or impact.
    The division in our society has mixed up many things, which includes transformation of self-governing rules and procedures with desired and demand of people in GB. Now, our Assembly has passed a Resolution with majority of the members supporting the demand of complete provincial statues for Gilgit-Baltistan.

    The “Self Governance Order 2009″ has added further confusions to the governance mechanism, with GBLA and GB Council competing for power and authority, each having its own “list of legislative powers”.

    At the same time, although we are paying huge indirect taxes and remitting billions of rupees to the Federal exchequer, we are not gaining much in return. Despite of having CNIC and passport, we are unable to cast our votes in Pakistan, but mega projects have been started in our land, without giving us due representation in the Council of Common Interests and the National Finance Commission, to ensure equitable distribution of resources.

    In this state of confusion, we have to build a road map based on a rational consensus, derived from the people’s governance model Of Gilgit – Baltistan. In this context, two options come to the mind, one being the Provisional Provincial Setup, as proposed by Justice Gillani (Retired Chief Judge Supreme Court of AJK in PILDAT) or AKJ type of setup, which will still leave a lot of questions unanswered, related to formal representation in federal institutions. There are indications that the GB government is working on “Provisional Provincial Setup”, as proposed by former PM, Mr. Gilani.

    Announcement and promises aside, Gilgit-Baltistan’s youth is demanding a clear route, with defined outcomes, but in this state of confusion and chaos, there is little hope for attaining the same. Meanwhile, we can wish for slow and steady progress towards realization of the common dream and desired goals.

  8. Nice research …I think Israr has succeeded in generating a very productive debate which must be a purpose of this article.

    One needs to understand the tricky nature of religio-political atmosphere created in the GB since early 70s. The vacuum was created in the political sphere of life, not limited to the region but in the entire country. The establishment-mullah marriage has never gave birth and allowed a grooming political child. Therefore, society had to adopt a child that could give them a hope and sense of secured future. NGOs filled this gap.

    There must be a strong ground for responses to the role of NGOs the writer has pointed out. Well there are always two sides of a coin, one should not be too shy of NGOs’ one profile – role in socio-economic development through awareness and participatory approach. This participatory approach particularly bringing women at par with men in terms of respect and contribution, has been generating currents since early 80s when the overall political environment was already polluted by a usurper at national level.

    Most of the people could recall how the NGOs were blamed and what type of fatwas were sermonized and impediments created against their approach. Today, some of these NGOs have contributed in the form of creating a cader of leadership in the fields of politics, civil society, consultants of national and international caliber, etc. The overall performance and delivery of these NGOs (not specific to AKDN) is much more commendable, despite being over capacity – filled with dozens of spy-men, politically appointed and religiously backed ‘ozuw-e muatal’.

    Now come to national scenario. NGOs are mushrooming in the four cornors of the country but still political activities are very much on and progressing. Then one needs to explore reasons why the ‘Titanic of Islam’ is in hard times.

    In fact, we are very much frightened of learning from 1400 years of history. Whenever, Islam flourished it was education, science, research, and practicing on truest teachings of Hazarat Muhammad (SAWW) which were certainly beyond a few rituals. Also, society was never used to ask pay cost for practicing rituals by a selected minor. And whenever, Islam became weak, reasons were obviously within, 1% mighty used to exploit weaker segments with the great contribution of clergy.

    Now that, the overall literacy is significantly high, whoever contributed to this, it is real time to come forward, build confidence on own strengths, trust on other fellow countrymen, understand real value and respect of humans and start rebuilding the region, also through the political sphere. Only this way the region could make realize the establishment to value the inhabitants beyond natural resources and strategic significance of the geography of the region.

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