By Muhammad Hashim
The Gilgit-Baltistan region has become the focus of national and international media these days due to political activities, where candidates are vying for 23 of the 24 seats in the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly on November 15. The fate of the candidates will be decided, hopefully, by more than 700,000 registered voters.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly has a total of 33 seats, of which 24 members are elected from 10 districts, while 6 are for women and 3 for technocrats.
An election “festival” is held in the region after every five years, but this time the campaign has been unprecedented. There have been many stimuli, events and activities in the current election campaign that distinguish this election from the political activities of the past. The enthusiasm, passion, awareness and zeal with which the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, especially the youth, have participated in this election campaign is unparalleled and unprecedented. The spirit with which the youth wings, youth communities, student organizations and political parties have made this election campaign colorful and vibrant is unmatched. Women also took part in the election campaign alongside men; “women wings” of political parties have jumped into the fray for the success of their candidate. This extraordinary mobilization of women is undoubtedly a good sign of a bright future for the women of this region.
While the youth took part in the election activities on the ground, they also used the most important and modern platforms, like social media. From political candidates to their supporters, full coverage and attention of the Gilgit-Baltistan election campaign given from the social media platforms of central political parties.
Although federal political organizations have been participating in the Gilgit-Baltistan elections and during the Musharraf era, PML-Q, later PPP and the PML-N have formed the government here, but in this pre-election campaign, the way the federal parties participated and showed interest and enthusiasm was spectacular. For the first time, the central leaders of major federal parties stayed in Gilgit-Baltistan for several days and made stormy visits and meetings in remote areas and mingled with the people. The main leaders of the three major federal parties PPP, PMLNN and the ruling party PTI, including Bilawal Bhutto, Maryam Nawaz, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Saifullah Niazi, Ali Amin Gandapur, Zulfi Bukhari and other leaders, stayed in Gilgit-Baltistan for several days and participated in campaigns of their party candidates.
Prime Minister Imran Khan himself also paid a visit. Although the Prime Minister’s visit was on November 1 in connection with the Independence Day celebrations in Gilgit-Baltistan, the color of political adventure remained evident in this visit as well.
The role of media was key in this election campaign in which local media networks of Gilgit-Baltistan as well as mainstream media and international media also gave full coverage to this campaign. The mainstream media, including electronic and print media, sent their top officials to cover the election campaign. Local journalists and media networks in Gilgit-Baltistan at the same time, fully cooperated with the national and international media to raise the voice of GB.
Another important aspect of this election campaign was that there was no element of sectarianism. Gilgit-Baltistan has been the center of sectarianism for decades and pre-election voting has been decided on the basis of sect, which has led to countless unfortunate incidents, but for the last seven years, the “cancer” of sectarianism in Gilgit-Baltistan appears to have ended and in the current atmosphere of peace and brotherhood, this deadly tradition has come to an end and people are ready to come out of the box and vote on the merit, their choice and personality.
Another highlight of this election campaign was that instead of voting for roads, jobs and personal interests, most people sought to get rights for the region which have been snatched for decades, including property rights and sovereignty, empowering the legislative assembly, representation in the federation and demands for due participation and facilitation as a gateway in the key project CPEC.
Due to this wave of public awareness, the federal parties have also included these demands in their election manifestos. Now the grand finale of this marathon is going to be held tomorrow, on November 15. Whatever the outcome and result may be, this wave of public awareness is a welcome addition to the political atmosphere in Gilgit-Baltistan.