Religious and Social Stratification of Politics in Gilgit-Baltistan

By Mesum Qasmi

Social stratification is the socio-economic layering of people in a society according to wealth, power and prestige. It is a system through which a society multifurcates masses into various categories compared to other group or individuals in a society. Class and caste system, slavery and estates are the offshoots of social stratification.

The political spectrum of Gilgit-Baltistan resembles the other four provinces of Pakistan, in one way or other. Feudal lords, elites and industrialists continue to have the legacy of holding key roles in politics to quench their thirst of power and authority. Likewise, the elite of Gilgit-Baltistan have been witnessed playing cards in power corridors to decide the fate of the down trodden and the poor.

Why do we always elect the rich to represent the poor ?

The popular opinion is that the poor lack resources and capital to garner votes. If someone pops up from lower or middle class to raise voice for the voiceless, she or he is compelled to withdraw. This divide erodes the system from inside out. Since the poor and working classes are already the main victims of the rotten policy making process and governance, their inability to contest and win elections further dims the glimmers of hope for the masses, as the the elite and their echelons cling to power. Hence the poor is deprived of the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution.

The political elite is ethically and morally corrupt to the level that they only join marriage and burial ceremonies to pull votes. When someone passes away in a “lower caste” or class, no one bats an eye. But, a demise in the elite class evokes, rather multiplies, all the possible moral values of the political figures who throng to the site, in droves.

The major caste identities in Gilgit-Baltistan i.e., Sheen ,Yashkun, Dom and Kamin, also come into play during elections. The chest thumping ego of Sheen and Yashkun always resorts to confrontation on “Election Day” and during election campaign. Dom and Kamin community replicate the same lines. Therefore the will of the people is docile and democratic norms on which the Assembly should stand gradually atomize.

Though Sslavery is now an old chapter, but “Mental Slavery” is another dilemma which has filled the vacuum. Most of the people vote without a second thought. They don’t even think of the competence and credibility of the person who is going to represent them in the Assembly. At times people are paid to vote or offered some jobs or contracts in services sector. Consequently, they extend their soul in allegiance to the corrupt.

Religious and sectarian divide also plays a pivotal role in GB politics. The populace in Gilgit-Baltistan mostly follow the clergy on religious and political patterns. Clergy is considered one of the power houses to elect the desired candidate and people follow suit. It is an unhealthy and unfortunate practice in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Social stratification in entrenched in the political canvas of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is chronic to the “democratic” institutions and the bulwarks behind.

We need to snub it and revisit our priorities before voting on election day, keeping a simple one-liner question in mind, “Are we voting for a person better than us in intellect, thought, rationale and political exposure?”.

I am going to use this formula. Please think about your vote also.

The contributor is a Telecom Engineer with diverse experience in multiple MNCs. He blogs about socio-political and religious issues of Gilgit-Baltistan.

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