Gilgit-Baltistan: The Neglected Region of Pakistan

Nevertheless, Gilgit-Baltistan is an attractive place for tourists, but the outer glamour cannot hide its internal problems which are buried deep inside. Unfortunately, each and every government has neglected this region, and it was only treated as a buffer zone, strategic location, vote bank for Kashmir’s plebiscite, and most importantly as a military barrack (due to security dilemma). There is a notion that, ‘Pakistan don’t need Gilgit-Baltistan’s people but only its land’. So, this makes its people a long-term liability and its land a long-term asset. Although, it is not plausible to elucidate all problems in a single article. So, here are few issues which need proper attention.

First of all, education is a neglected thing in this region. But, one may argue that, G-B has a good literacy rate but that is a half-baked truth. Though, literacy has been improved in the region but it was only possible due to NGOs and private institutions and the  government has no role whatsoever. Most importantly, It is a harsh reality that this region has: no medical college, no engineering university, or any other high standard university. It is worth mentioning that, we are living in a ‘knowledge based society’ where “knowledge is power”. But, the state is not doing enough to sort out this issue. Moreover, students have to go to far-flung areas to seek education which is again costly and difficult especially for females and poor. Many bright students may not continue their studies due to all these issues.

Secondly, there is also another issue of finding a good and respectable job after, somehow, completing education. Nevertheless, students struggle and work hard during their educational career but then they do not get according to their potential and struggle. For instance, recently, incumbent government had reduced federal quota for G-B from 4% to 1%(including women and minorities). This 1% quota in Federal Public Service and Central Superior Services is indeed a peanut; this has closed doors for youth who were waiting in a long queue. Moreover, Gilgit-Baltistan Government’s jobs are distributed on: sectarian, ethnic and political affiliations. This has also murdered the meritocracy in the region. Furthermore, there is no concept of big corporations, factories, private firms; neither there is any agricultural sector in the region which would provide employment opportunities for the masses. So, this has put people into the quagmire of underemployment and unemployment. Moreover, this will also increase poverty; class difference will also arise. As Marcus Aurelius said, ‘poverty is mother of all evils’. Lack of employment opportunities will breed social evils and class conflicts which will further deteriorate situation.

Thirdly, there is a serious issue of electricity in the region. Load-shedding is a normal thing; for instance, Gilgit City which is the Capital of G-B has no electricity for 12-hours-a-day i.e. people have electricity for two-hours then next two-hours there would be no light and so on. But, situation in backward areas is even worse where people have to stay for even longer hours and sometimes weeks if there is any technical issue. One might get shocked to know that Gilgit Baltistan has a potential of producing 40,000 MW ;so, the fact is that, it is negligence of subsequent government’s which has worsen the situation. We are living in the 21st century where almost every thing is done electronically but due to negligence of the government people have to live like they are in the stone ages—-not in the globalised world of 21st century.

Lastly, Gilgit Baltistan is neither an independent area nor a province. And it has no representation in Senate and National assembly of Pakistan, which is a serious issue. So, this puts GB into the quagmire of statelessness, lack of representation, identity crisis and political impotency. Furthermore, it brushes aside Gilgit Baltistan from the mainstream parliament which is a forum for raising issues and solving issues. Moreover, due to this impotence and no representation in the centre: voters in G-B are forced to vote for the ruling party of the centre in the local elections; it is an open secret.

In a nutshell, Gilgit Baltistan is a neglected region with no rights, no opportunities and no facilities whatsoever. Nevertheless, its outer glamour lures and attracts tourists but its internal debacles remain unheard and the state has turned a blind eye towards the region since 1st November, 1948(Self attained Independence of Gilgit Baltistan). This is the right time to change the fate of this neglected region. We need to decide whether this status quo shall prevail or change has to be brought. Our state has to stop alienating its own people; if the state is not doing its job then these loopholes might be exploited by some non-state actors and enemy states which would further jeopardise security, unity and sovereignty of the whole country.

Zeshan Ahmad
Zeshan Ahmad
Zeshan Ahmad holds Masters Degree from Qauid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.