Musa Ali Khan
GBians love Pakistan with a sense of national pride and patriotism since 1st November 1947, despite the absence of constitutional and citizenship rights, due to myopic leadership in the center.
The question is, why do we love Pakistan?
The first reason may be the Karakorum Highway (KKH) which connects the most isolated mountainous region to the other parts of Pakistan, and the world. Before the construction of KKH, poverty and ignorance were dancing in the landlocked region where a piece of salt was far more expensive and harder to get than gold. In such a terrible socio-economic situation, KKH brought positive change in the areas in the form of cheap products. Pakistan, by enabling the construction of the road, came through as a savior.
The second reason might be putting an end to the princely states. The autocratic heredity rulers had levied unbearable Taxes against the local population, with zero returns, and no concept of social welfare, whatsoever. According to Leitner GW (1866), fighting among royals for thrones had made the entire mountainous region deserted and crippled with no option to escape. By managing political and administrative reforms, starting with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s abolition of the princely states in 1974, the state of Pakistan won love and respect of the masses, who felt liberated, and suddenly started getting opportunities for excelling in education and all other trades.
The third reason, connecting with the construction of KKH, might be the constant supply of fuel, wheat, gas and many other agricultural and industrial products at subsidized cost. Living off subsistence farming for centuries, the local poor got access to markets within and outside Pakistan. Dependence on the small landholdings decreased, as people had access to goods and services.
There might be other emotional and ideological reasons for various groups, but I think the above three reasons are very important.
The above mentioned favorable changes in the GB paved the road for getting education aiming at bringing quality in their living standard. The governments, armed forces and NGOs invested heavily in education, enabling the creation of a middle class, which stands at the forefront of change in the region.
With the passage of time, the number of educated people increased manifolds, as women joined the off-farm workforce. Employing the educated, skilled, youth became a major challenge, in the absence of proper planning and allocation of resources. This created a group of critical people who started questioning the governments’ priorities, which was failing to address their issues and fulfill their needs.
The situation also aggravated, because positions of eminence and authority were bestowed on the basis of religious, caste and political affiliation, instead of relying on skills and intellect, i.e. merit. Without proper capacity, the people at the helm of affairs crippled the entire system, failing to address the aspirations of the people. For years, Gilgit city remained a battle field, taking away the lives of innocent people and spreading unrest in the area. Villages were invaded, infant to old aged assassinated and passengers were brutally killed taking them off from the buses. Moreover, when peaceful community in Hunza demanded for the settlement of Atta Abad Lake displaced people, police opened fire on peaceful protesters and killed a father and son on the spot. Their festering wounds are still waiting for fair trial and justice.
Moreover, most of government projects which were meant to develop infrastructure have been sick for the last many year due to greedy bureaucrats, contractors, and political elders. Likewise, shoddy development work and unchecked corruption in every walk of life dented the trust of common people in the business of government affairs. Thus, the gulf between the people and the government service providing agencies is getting widened day by day.
No rational person in Gilgit-Batlistan can ever think of harming Pakistan and its institutions. Currently, the police chief of GB seems to be very hard on some youth and accuses them of getting money to sabotage CPEC. It is the duty of the security agencies to be hard on wrong doers but at the same time there should be mechanism to address the unemployment, frustration, corruption and rampant violations of merit.
If KKH has brought such prosperity to our land locked region, then we can easily imagine the opportunities that would be ushered by CPEC. However, demanding fair distribution of its benefits among different parts of the country is a sane, justified and undeniable right of the locals.
It is not too late to address the genuine concerns of educated youth in order to rejuvenate their aspiration through social justice and democracy and providing jobs on merit basis. Thus, using power to curb frustration is a wrong approach and listening and addressing the genuine concerns of people through justice is the right one.
Our ancestors won freedom in the battle field and decided to join Pakistan. Our love for Pakistan should not be questioned. We are Pakistanis by choice, not by chance.
The contributor heads a private school in Gilgit-Baltistan, and works for social justice through education.