By Sheraz Ali
As an Islamic Republic, it is the responsibility of Pakistan to provide job opportunities to its citizens, commensurate with their skills and abilities. It is also a constitutional commitment of the state with its citizens under Article 25 of the Constitution. The same rules equally apply to Gilgit-Baltistan, an administrative unit of Pakistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the least blessed portions of the country in terms of livelihood opportunities because of its geography; 94 % Area is covered by mountains while only 2 % land is cultivable). The climate also makes opportunities of livelihood seasonal and limited.
No doubt, GB is blessed by nature with hidden treasure of gems, scenic beauty and geo-strategic position with great potential of prosperity in near future. But currently the inhabitants are struggling to meet their day to day needs.
Most of the inhabitants of the region are dependent on natural resources (subsistence farming and herding), followed by public sector employment; according to the bureau of statistic, the ratio of public sector employment in the region is highest among the other five administrative units of Pakistan.
According to recent media reports, the sitting Government of Gilgit Baltistan led by Mr. Hafiz Hafeez Ur Rehman is actively engaged in rooting out the culture of meritocracy from the region by regularizing the contractual, daily-wager and contingent paid employees through moving a bill in the region’s assembly.
This dark precedent was set by the PPP-led government in 2014 and now it is going to be repeated by the PMLN Government to secure its political future by rewarding their chosen ones.
This systematized corruption technique includes recruiting chosen persons, often relatives and cronies of politicians and bureaucrats, on contract basis during the initial 4 years of the government, followed by regularizing their services in the final year. This technique is used to protect vote bank at the cost of merit. This move sets a stage where personal connections and political affiliations play an important role more than that of education and technical expertise in deciding the future of the candidate.
As a result, the youth are losing interest in getting quality education; the quality of their education appears to be of no importance when it comes to getting a job in a system rigged in favor of the rich, the influential and the powerful. Continuation of this rape of merit and justice will lead to hopelessness, and may even culminate in anarchy. The region is already raft with a simmering political awakening as the alienated masses have started asking tough questions, related to their identity, citizenship rights and the place of their region in the state. Successive governments are adding fuel to the fire by butchering merit.
This myopic move – presenting a bill to regularize services of people hired without any merit – seems to be a good decision to gain sympathies of well-connected persons of society, which is in a small number but, it will have catastrophic impacts on the fragile and fragmented society and especially the well-educated and deserving students of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The direct victims of this move of the sitting provincial government are the fresh talented graduates of Gilgit-Baltistan who have just completed their higher educations from renowned national and international educational institutions. The next five years will see lack of employment opportunities in public sector as all the government departments will be over saturated in the context of human resource by this act of the sitting government. Though the last PPP Government is blamed for the illegal recruitment in some government departments but in fact this single act of the current provincial government will be regularizing multitudes of undeserving, poorly educated and non-technical officers, officials, nearly in all the government departments which will prove a slow poison for the governance system in the region. These ‘contractual’ employees, devoid of administrative skills and specialist knowledge, will continue to add to the miseries of the masses.
To save our young and future generations from the scourge of this bill all the stake holders should put their heads together and come out with ways and strategies to halt this process of regularizing the contractual employees. The civil society, youth, and students circles should raise their voice against this act and especially the parents who are investing huge sums on the education of their children should resist this move of the provincial government and certainly the PMLN is going to loss it popularity among the common mass earned through introducing Mega-Developmental projects; if this bill gets passed from the House. All the elected members of ruling party who believe in merit and transparency must detach them from this false action to avoid the damage the party going to face in next election.
In this connection, the opposition members in the House bear more responsibility. Instead of settling their share in the growing opportunity with treasury benches they must fight for the merit, justice and transparency. Also, the federal representatives in the region i.e. Governor, Chief secretary and other state institutions especially Judiciary should seriously investigate this matter as the provincial government is going to jeopardize the future of the region in an attempt to extend an undue & illegitimate favor to their chosen ones.
Finally, Gilgit -Baltistan is gate way of the mega project CPEC. A well-equipped state missionary in the region, is the need of the situation to tap max profit and to establish the healthy working relationship with the world-renowned Chinese bureaucracy for the larger interest of state and nation as some of scholars see this project as another east India company. Surely the temporary hired employees latterly granted permanent positions through moving a bill in local assembly are lacking the capacity.
Merit is the only key to the prosperity of a nation.
Sheraz Ali is a student of Environmental Science