By Farhana Gohar
Before you label me as an ignorant part of the country, let me tell you about how I feel today on my 71st independence day.
Today, I have mixed feelings as I write this letter. I am overwhelmingly happy as well as sad. Today was the day when I became free of Dogra rule and the rising sun of November 1st, 1948 brought with it freedom for the people of the North. But the story of my freedom is different from the rest. Its not the kind of freedom where you are finally free of all the oppression, the struggle and the victimization. Its not the kind of freedom where you are finally rewarded. My story rather goes something like this; my freedom lead to a struggle more demanding, more difficult. It lead to the fight for identity, the fight for self recognition. And after 70 years of freedom, the battle for identity still exists. I am still struggling to find my voice, to find my place in this homeland.
I have witnessed a history full of events so different and diverse that I can’t remember exactly which happened in reality and which are just dreams; yet to be fulfilled. As long as I can trace back down the memory lane, only one thing I clearly remember; struggling for identity and self recognition. I have started the fight to find my identity since my birth. With every new leader, with every new prime minister, it brings hopes. Hopes for a constitutional status, hopes for a better lifestyle for the my people, hopes for a better educational system and health facilities, hopes for a better life for the sons and daughters of all those martyrs who were killed while protecting the borders of this beloved country, hopes which have long been buried in the soil of this country that it has now started to turn the youth of this land into rebellions. Beware! for the fire in the hearts and souls of these rebellions can burn the whole system.
I feel lost, I feel suffocated. Despite crying out loud for help for nearly 70 years now, my voice can’t reach the huge buildings of the parliament and senate. Despite celebrating Independence day for 70 years, I am still deprived of my basic human rights. I call this land my homeland, my Alma Matta, but it refuses to feed me. Its such an irony that nearly 2 million people are deprived of their rights yet I don’t believe in riots, wars and strikes. I am epitome and a firm believer of peace and patriotism. Despite everything that you have deprived me of, I still hold on to the patriotic emotions so much that my sons are ready to sacrifice their lives while protecting this land, my daughters are ready to risk their lives to make the country proud. I have opened the doors of my heart as well as to my scenic mountains and lush green valleys to my brothers from the other provinces. But they, in turn refuse to be by our side while I ask for my rights.
70 years and counting. There is only one university in the whole area and that too does not provides quality education. Hence it won’t be wrong if I say that its not the right university to prepare your kids for today’s competitive world of technology. Hence the lack of universities lead the students to move to cities which increases the gap between culture and education. Also, it develops a sense of deprivation in the students and they grow more confused about their identities which gives birth to many problems like suicide and depression. No government hospitals are to be seen anywhere which can provide good health care facilities for the population of 2 million. Infrastructure is such that accidents are a daily routine. Despite having worlds best qualities of fruits, no market is available. Despite being the center of fresh water resources like glaciers, people are suffering from the scarcity of water because there is no proper irrigation system. Despite having resources like Attabad lake which can provide enough electricity supply for the whole area, no electricity is to seen for weeks because of zero interest of the federal government. Internet facilities and mobile services are horrible.
I am proud of the fact that despite the educational deprivations, I have the highest literacy rate in the whole country. But how does literacy rates matter when the circumstances have not changed a single bit. Education changes circumstances. Then how is it that almost everything was the same back in 90’s when the literacy rate was negligible. Does that mean the gaps between being educated and being literate are more widened? Does that means no matter how competitive I am, I would still be the unrecognized part of the country? Does that mean no matter how patriotic I am, I would still be among the ignored citizens of the country? Does that mean no matter how many of my sons sacrifice their lives protecting this country, I would still be unable to vote and take part in choosing the next ruler? Does that mean despite being aware of my rights, I would be unable to ask for it? Does that mean every time I ask for my rights, I would be taken and kept in custody for years? Does that mean seventy years of citizenship is still not enough to gain my constitutional status? And if it does, then you have failed us miserably, you’ve failed the population of 2 million women, men and children as a state.
But I won’t let the hopes die without achieving my second freedom for the struggle of identity. I will fight despite the oppression and deprivation with the hope that one rising sun of another morning will bring with it another freedom. A freedom from the crisis of identity.
I am bothered by leaders who remain silent on this matter because my air is now polluted with deprivations and silent crys so much that breathing has became a new struggle for me. Today, the pleading land is asking for its rights through its fully aware youth, through its activists that are still in jails, through its beautiful and magestic mountains that are tourist spot for the whole world, through its daughters like Samina Baig who has received the attention of the international media, through its martyrs who are laid to rest with the hope that one day, their sacrifices will bear fruits, through its 2 million population that are still looking at the government with the light of hopes in the their eyes, looking for a leader who has the ability to address the issue with courage and determination.
Now its a big time for you to stop hiding behind the curtain of those reasons like Kashmir issues and come forward with an interest for this piece of land called Gilgit Baltistan, for I can wait for yet another 70 years but the awakened people can’t. Hence if you are willing to make an effort, I am willing to give you yet another chance for the hopes of creating a Pakistan free of any oppression, any maltreatment and any tyranny.
One of you provinces (but not constitutionally),
Shared by: Farhana Gohar, Forman Christian College