Youth and Political Participation in Gilgit-Baltistan

By Advocate Syed Zafar Ali Baltistani 

Since 2010, the world has been observing 12th August as the International Youth Day across the world. The objective is to draw attention of the governments to address the issues faced by the youth of the respective countries. Youth bulge is one of the most important youth-related issues faced by Pakistan. Gilgit Baltistan, which is home to world’s top tourist spots, is alo badly hit by this. Instead of utilizing the youth population by creating opportunities, the major chunk of this population is neglected, and wasted for being unused. It is highly unfortunate that the youth of Gilgit Baltistan (GB) are kept away from playing their roles in politics. They are mobilized as political activists (karkoons) where they are only used to the extent of arranging rallies and for sloganeering purposes. The younger generation is kept alien to their social and political roles by the dominant political families deliberately with the fear that their active participation can become a challenge for them in the near future.

          This is a predicament, and it seems to be the strategy of the dominant political class to keep these roles limited to their families which is commonly known as dynastic politics. Though this practice is prevalent in whole Pakistan, but in Gilgit Baltistan the youth is totally deprived of their right of political participation. It would be injustice if only the political elites of the area are blamed for this. The masses of the respective areas are equally responsible who have always discouraged the younger generation from entering into politics. People, even the candidates’ close relatives, friends and villagers do not support the young and energetic candidates either due to their limited financial resources or labelling them as politically immature. In most of the constituencies of Gilgit Baltistan, the influential political candidates use money, influences, caste, lineage, religion and all the possible tactics during the election campaigns, and successfully drag the young and educated candidates out of the political contest. This results in highly incompetent candidates winning the elections who are then tasked to represent the area for years.

          Among the political parties, Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) was thought to be revolutionary and different. The youth population had seen ray of hope in PTI for the party members claimed themselves to be different from others, and promised to provide platforms to the youth to enter into politics. But, practically PTI also was no different and acted in the same way, and followed the path of other political parties by giving party tickets to the influential candidates and the turncoats.

          In order to utilize the youth, every member of Gilgit Baltistan must play their part and contribute to the area by providing opportunities to the young population. If they are not utilized, the youth bulge that has already plagued the whole GB can become a hazard for the masses. The leaders and representatives must try to identify the major cause behind this, and provide solutions to overcome this issue. The menace of youth bulge can be turned into opportunity if dealt wisely and sincerely.

The Writer belongs to Mashabrum, Gilgit Baltistan and is a Lawyer currently based in Islamabad.

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