It is well-known that a part of rocky mountain of the Attabad village collapsed in the narrow place and blocked Hunza River and destroyed a portion of the Karakuram Highway. This blocked river turned into a 25 kilometers long lake, destroying villages in the upstream. Inhabitants cultivable, and non-cultivable land, infrastructures, thousands of fruits and timber plants submerged in the artificial lake.
The catastrophe immediately affected the 25,000 people of Gojal Valley, Upper Hunza, in the beginning. The biggest impact was on the mode of transportation. People were forced to travel on boats, as the KKH was blocked and aerial transport was not possible for the masses. This caused the economic crisis that still haunts the people of the region. Potato, the region’s largest cash crop, could not be transported out; farmers, making more than 90% of the region’s earners, incurred heavy losses, and the economy collapsed.
The psychological impact of the disaster was also immense.
When the incident occurred, the federal government tried to advertise this strategic corridor throughout the world and mobilized immense resources.
During the first six months, the government took step to excavate debris from the blockage and in the meanwhile properties of the local people continued to submerge.
In that situation FWO exercised its usual monopoly to get contracts for excavation of the debris, and yet failed to complete its task. Moreover, when the spillway was flooded by the lake’s water, the FWO took two years to construct a road from bottom of the debris to the area where boats would offload goods and passengers.
After disaster IDPs started to settle in different parts of the region with the help of the volunteers, local govt and community institutions. The IDPs, deprived and hopeless, were put through more political trouble and turmoil, despite of being comforted and compensated. Two IDPs were shot dead when they were protesting on the KKH, on hearing about the arrival of the region’s chief minister to the region.
It was for the first time in the history of Hunza that two men were barbarically shot dead, without any provocation. The shocked and enraged public took to the streets and attacked government offices and police vehicles. The killers of the two people continue to get their perks and privileges, getting promotions, and retiring, while dozens of Hunzais languish in jails for reacting violently in protest.
The Hunza people who had protested against the police violence were tried under Anti-Terrorism Act and sent to jails for life, after torture, humiliation, followed by a vicious propaganda to discredit their cause and efforts.
The government had declared Gojal valley a disaster hit area and made promises for economic revival, but all those commitments are remained bureaucrats files forever; Hunza destabilization and bias tactics and conspiracy are still continue.
In the worse situations in Hunza region the real political (opposition and ruling) leadership seats almost remained vacant. Voters waited for their leaderships (old and new) to lead them but not a single owned his or her responsibility. Some even went two steps ahead to declare local protesters as terrorists and anti-state elements. Some of the so-called leaders were busy in their businesses, while others were making money in NGOs or government organizations, after getting fresh contracts. Others were busy in their businesses elsewhere. In these hours of doom and gloom, local social leaders and community institutions provided leadership, helping the people on many fronts.
Since in those worse situations Hunza people were standing alone without any political (opposition and ruling leaders) to address terrible moments, it is important to review the political activism before going to the public for election campaign.
Some questions the future contestants may ask themselves before coming in front of the public for vote, are;
- What you did in the health sector for disaster affected people when our mothers, sisters and daughters were delivering babies in public vehicles and boats?
- What did you do when Gojal remained cut-off from rest of the world during harsh winters?
- As a ruling or opposition, ruling party, leader(s) what was your effort to bring people from the worse situation?
- As a ruling or opposition leader how many public gathering(s) did you organize or attend in the long terrible situation in Hunza?
- As a ruling or opposition leader did you ever sit with local institutions and social activists to make appropriate democratic strategies to overcome the people political issues?
- What is your view for those youth on whom charges of terrorism have been leveled and who are facing life-terms in jail?