By RIZWAN KARIM
The independence day of Gilgit Baltistan is celebrated on first November to honor the stand taken by the brave soldiers against Dogra Raj and the common population in 1947. The political fate and identity of Gilgit Baltistan have undergone different phases since then. The resolution of this identity crisis matters now more than ever; since Gilgit Baltistan is the entry point for the biggest investment in Pakistan’s history. The current status of Gilgit Baltistan, which is a provincial type status, allows for certain rights which if used properly can influence the lives of its population greatly. To properly use the speck of power that has been granted in the name of provincial setup we need the right kind of political leadership. The upcoming elections will probably be the most important elections in the history of Gilgit Baltistan. Every new year people examine their goals and think about their future, and people of Gilgit Baltistan need to do the same this independence day, about their political affiliations and selection of future representatives for their region.
The results of general elections, 2018 lead to the triumph of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The election though has been termed rigged and influenced at large by “The establishment”, whatever is meant by that. No matter how the victory fell in the lap of PTI, the significance of the results cannot be denied and the promise of so-called “Naya Pakistan”, doesn’t seem that far now. The change of power has led to the reinvigoration of political activities in Gilgit Baltistan as well, where the seasonal politicians have started seeking the approval of PTI stalwarts to secure tickets for upcoming elections, as it has been in past the party in the center always wins the elections in Gilgit Baltistan as well.
The politician’s lives in Gilgit Baltistan are of two types the first one involving a tale of changing loyalties, manipulating general population based on race, caste and religion, and filling up their own pockets by becoming a YES man for the federal government in the assembly. This self-serving political run results in hindrance in the progress of the region and it sometimes lead to approval of laws that give access to the resources of Gilgit Baltistan, with no strings attached. The recent GB order 2018, is a very fresh example, which thanks to the opposition of a few brave leaders and the general population, was struck down by the supreme appellate court of Gilgit Baltistan.
The second type of political career begins with bombastic speeches of national identity, endless promises of making everything right and not backing down at any cost. This type of career though may have best intentions, still ends with either accepting a handsome government job or by ending up in exile, hence at the end making no difference in the lives of people who see something in them.
The next elections will again provide a chance for people of Gilgit Baltistan to choose their leaders for the GB legislative assembly. If we pay close attention to the recent political activities it seems like in most regions the same people who previously served under Pakistan Peoples party (PPP), or (Pakistan Muslim League-Q) PML-Q rule are now changing parties to Pakistan Tehreek Insaf. This is a very dangerous sign for the political development of the region. As it will not change the overall trend of nepotism and corruption that exist within governmental institutions because of the political influence.
The best approach for the people of Gilgit Baltistan in the next election will be to choose new people, no matter what political affiliations they have, so that the politicians who have been misusing the mandate of people by self-serving politics, could not reach the assembly and thus not allow decisions being pushed down into the throats of the people. To choose people from the party which will have government in the center makes sense, provided the budget and progressive funding is totally up to the federal government and the chosen electives do not have a say in the whole process, as there is no representation of Gilgit Baltistan in the national assembly of Pakistan; but to choose the same faces with new promises and changed loyalties will not bring the change that is associated with the new regime.
The next five years will be years of some major decisions like land acquisition laws, sharing of resources imported via China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), decisions regarding environmental preservation, which is becoming increasingly important in the wake of CPEC, the future of tourism and the control over the revenue generated from the increased influx of tourists, and finally the most important decision of status and future of Gilgit Baltistan. This independence day The people of Gilgit Baltistan need to question their political beliefs and affiliations and to question themselves, what they are celebrating, and what was the main motivation for their forefathers to wage the war of independence, and what kind of political thinkers and leaders can best serve the interests of the people of the region?
The contributor is a Fulbright Scholar at Iowa State University,USA, and is a strong proponent of STEM education and writes about issues of Gilgit Baltistan