The last seven years have seen an alarming in crease in the number of alleged cases of suicide in the Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan.
According to Ghizer’s Superintendent of Police office, 125 people have committed suicide between 2010 and 2017 in the region. 67 of them were students, 27 house wives and 31 from other social groups.
Police records show that in 65 cases, the offenders (under the Pakistani law suicide is a criminal offense) were in their 20s. Out of 125 cases of suicide, the victims were in their 30s on 101 instances. 70 women opted to end their lives.
The main method used by victims for committing suicide was hanging (45), followed by gun shooting (36), jumping into river (29) and self-poisoning (6).
Police records show that between 2011 and 2013, two cases of women’s murders were initially reported as suicide. Later, investigation revealed that Suria w/o Muhammad Ayyub r/o Gahkuch Pain and Noreen daughter of Tai jan were killed.
According to Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report, during 2000- 2004, 63 cases of suicide were reported in different police stations of district Ghizer and none of the victims were men. The record disclosed that reasons behind most of the cases were failure in examination, failure in love, domestic violence, depression and other issues.
Coordinator HRCP Gilgit-Baltistan Chapter, Israr Uddin Israr says mostly women were opting suicide in beginning but men are also committing suicide in Ghizer for the last few years.
“More than 10% honor killings are named as suicide in Ghizer”, he claimed, adding that suicide prevention policy should be made to control this curse and awareness among the youth was indispensable.
It is pertinent to note that the literacy rate of the Ghizer is approximately 85%. According to the locals there was no trend of suicide in Ghizer before 2000s.
Asif Hussain, a chemist, runs a medical store outside the District Headquarter Hospital. He says that almost 70% of his customers buy various medicines to release tension, depression and anxiety. He further added that majority of the patients in Ghizer were suffering mental illness, depression and stress. However, there are no psychiatrist in the entire district.
Yaqoob Tai, local journalist, said that he found depression related medicines in two cases of suicides involving his relatives. He added that highly fatal narcotic medicines were widely used in Ghizer, and that they were being used without a lot of carep0lo.
Acting Medical superintendent of DHQ Ghizer, Dr. Wilayat Khan conceded that medico legal process was not opted for in many cases, and therefore, the majority of murders may also have been called suicide. He said that he has conducted many postmortems of alleged suicide cases, and it appeared that more than 90% were murders. Khan added that there is no police surgeon in the entire Gilgit-Baltistan region to expertly review and comment on such matters.
It is worth to mention that 23 cases of suicide have been recorded in 2017 alone. May was the worst month, with 10 people, including 5 men and 5 women, committing suicide.
Following the May 2017 increase in suicide ratio, Provincial government of Gilgit Baltistan constituted a special committee under the Chairmanship of Minister Works, Law and Prosecution Dr. Muhammad Iqbal to ascertain the main reason behind the increasing numbers of suicide cases in district Ghizer.
A member of the committee, Minister for Tourism Gilgit-Baltistan Fida Khan Fida told this scribe, “GB government had formed a committee to prevent people from suicide there are different causes behind it”.
“We have directed the police to conduct postmortem of suicide cases before handing over bodies to their heirs because at many instances, honor killing was named suicide in Ghizer”, he added.
Renowned researcher and columnist Aziz Ali Dad was of the opinion that there is a need to carry out research to ascertain the main causes of suicide in Ghizer.
“Ghizer is facing rapid transition. The old tradition, norms and values are eroding, however, the people in Ghizer are reluctant to accept the transformation of the society. Having rich traditional values of forefathers in mind, the new generation facing difficulties in adaption. The elders do not allow youngsters to opt modern values. A society where social changes are not managed, social contract are broken down and people become directionless and that leads to suicide. The ideas and inspiration of young generation are global but their freedom is being snubbed leaving no option but to kill themselves.
He stated that the suicide ratio can be controlled if the youth are allowed to go with the modern world.”
Hajida Parveen, a social worker, says that in early 2000, only women used to commit suicide in Ghizer. However, men are also attempting suicide for last few years. Commenting on the causes of suicide she said, “There are lack of friendly relation between the parents and their kids especially with the girls, therefore, they do not share their problems with their parents”.
The behavior and affairs at in laws is also one of the reasons of committing the crime because the family doesn’t allow a woman to come backs to her home after divorce. The society response leave no option but a suicide.
Bakhtawar shah, a local business man said, “The most educated people of the Ghizer prefer to get government or private job instead of developing of their own business. Post graduates students apply for the post of Levis and office boy etc. The outsiders are moving to Ghizer and earning money by doing business. Ghizer is culturally rich region and it has many historical place where large number of tourists visit the peak during May to November.” He said that economic stress is also pushing a lot of people to the extremes.
Chairman Zakat Committee of Ghizer Raja Adil Ghayas told this scribe that Ghizer is the land of bravery and Nishan Haider laureate Lalik Jaan was from Ghizer. He added that District Ghizer of Gilgit Baltistan is very beautiful valley surrounded by lofty mountain but unfortunately suicide trend became fashion in Ghizer.
“The people of Ghizer are very emotional, and that’s why they prefer to commit suicide over different issues, instead of solving their problems”. He added that active and positive role of all stakeholders, government official, civil society and people belonging to different walks of life is the need of hour to control the suicide in Ghizer.
Ghizer is almost home to 0.17 million people and the four languages including Shina, Brushuski and wakhi are spoken. Majority of the population almost 75% belonged to Ismaili muslim whereas remaining 25 % are Sunni Muslims. It is pertinent to note that 431 soldiers from this district have embraced martyrdom while defending the country, and 135 have became disabled after sustaining injuries.