Fida Ali Shah Ghizri
The title and the story of the famous play of Earnest Hemingway, the renowned fiction and story writer of USA, “the old man and the sea” attracted me to write an article with the title of “The Old Man of Gilgit-Baltistan”.
I know that the old man of Earnest H.W was the man of courage and a symbol of hard work but not the successful one. Meanwhile, the old man of this article, is aging, hardworking, and a successful one. It is also be clarified in the beginning of the article that there is nothing common between the two old men, except age and hard work. There is a huge difference between the two characters; Santiago remained very unfortunate after a long struggle and hard work but every struggle of the old man of this article become fruitful, his every single dream is turning into reality and he is the successful man of Giligit-Baltistan.
The old man of the article is not ordinary. He is famous in Gilgit-Baltistan; one of the rich and elites of the country, and belongs to a very respectable family of Ghizer. He remained a member of Gilgit Baltistan’s various apex elected bodies for 45 years and nobody could dare to challenge him, nobody could defeat him; he won the match and remained unbeatable. Not to mention that the poorer people of his native village turned into the old fisherman of Earnest Hemingway’s play; they struggled but could not catch a fish throughout the half century.
The old man of GB had started his political career with lots of promises and commitments to change the life standard of the poor people of Ghizer 1 (one) and to uplift the poor residents of Chatorkhand, his native village. He is a lucky man. When the first party based elections took place in Gilgit Baltistan under PPP’s government in 1993, he became the Deputy Chief Executive of GB (former Northern Areas), the highest political position in the region introduced by his ruling party in the center.
During the election campaign, he used his religious background and influence and convinced the people of Ghizer and Hunza to vote PPP’s candidates and the output of his campaign was in the favor of his party. He is respected by the all communities, generally but the Ismaili Muslims particularly.
He has been a white elephant for the people of Ghizer 1( Puniyal and Ishkomin) who voted for and elected him for almost five decades but in the response of their respect and love he could even not make a high school in his native village. When the massive flood and rain of 2010, destroyed the lands of his poor neighbors in Chatorkhand valley, the old man was their representative in the assembly. He did nothing for his poor voters and supporters but succeeded in getting Benazir Card of Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) for himself and local administration announced emergency to protect his land in Chatorkhand and started constructing a safety wall around his land.
There is a magical attraction in the old man and that is why the people vote for him despite of knowing that he is old, illiterate and has been deceiving them for fifty years. I have no issue if the people respect and vote him but it is surprising me that the old man has no love and respect for the poorer people of his jurisdiction.
Let me mention Santiago’s love and passion for the boy, who was helping him during fishing despite of warnings from his parent who had threatened the boy to not go with the unfortunate old fisherman.
Meanwhile, the old man had also great love and respect for the boy…. He would stop the boy from going in his boat and tried to convince the boy to stop coming with him to the unsuccessful fishing trip. Santiago would say, “I am an unfortunate fisher man, could not catch a single fish throughout my life, go and search another boat and fisherman”.
But the old man of this article is selfish. He does not realize that he is lucky representative of an unlucky region and his all voiceless supporters and voters are unfortunate and have been electing him for five decades, while getting poorer and poorer throughout this period.
The lucky old man of the article reached at the top of his career with the cooperation and support of the people. He now possesses the top position of the province, ruling on 2 million people as the representative of the federal government. It might be the last position for him; he may get retirement from his political career after catching millions of big fishes, owning a huge volume of lands and property.
I hope, now he will guide the people not to vote for PPP; will not dictate the poor to vote on his will and he will let them decide to vote for the candidate of their choice and preference. I am hoping being an optimist; the old man will tell the people to go with any other option which could deliver and contribute to change and reshape the future of Ghizer and Gilgit-Baltistan.
I must say sorry to the soul of the great writer Earnest Hemingway, for comparing the courageous, brave and brilliant old fisherman of his play- who fished in the sea with great sense of human responsibility, and realized that he is unlucky and had no right to suffer the lives of other fellows, with the old man of this article who has remained successful, unbeatable, throughout his life but could not realize that he is selfish and greedy, caught several big fish for himself and his family and children, but the poor people of GB and his home town kept suffering and still wait to catch a fish.
“The old man and the sea” Santiago! Your soul may rest in eternal peace. The old man of Gilgit-Baltistan! Be merciful towards the poorer people of your hometown.