Growing dismay in Gilgit-Baltistan

Most people in Gilgit Baltistan feel that the so-called freedom they have today is meaningless and GB’s accession to Pakistan is also fruitless….reports Asian Lite News

The People of Gilgit Baltistan (GB), except the members of the social elite and the ruling class, are immensely depressed and frustrated due to Pakistan’s apathetic attitude towards determining the fate of GB — whether it should be accorded provisional status of province or granted a governance system akin to the PoK.

Their grievance is that they have not been granted freedom in the real sense, though they had attained the so-called freedom 74 years ago through compulsion and muscle power.

Most people in GB feel that the so-called freedom they have today is meaningless and GB’s accession to Pakistan is also fruitless.

They feel that the rights they have under the Pakistani Constitution also have no meaning as they are also subjected to green signal from the Kashmiri leadership.

Whenever any proposal of granting constitutional rights to GB comes to the fore, Kashmiri leaders start making inimical and damaging statements. The general feeling among most GB residents is that if Pakistan has to decide the future of GB in light of the prevailing situation in Kashmir, it should at least create a government setup in GB on the lines of PoK.

Locals in GB feel that Pakistan has been playing the game of granting status of province to GB with not real intention of doing so.

Apart from political and constitutional grievances, people of GB are also passing through miserable times due to poverty, unemployment, sectarianism, increasing honour killings and crime rate as well as lack of health and education facilities.

In Ghizer district, incidents of suicide have been on the rise at a rapid pace. Sources in social welfare department claim that while they have been trying to play an important role in preventing such suicides, they are unable to act due to lack of resources and funds.

Though the local media has highlighted suicide incidents in Ghizer, the fact remains that such incidents are occurring on a large scale in other parts of GB as well, but are not being reported. In the already depressing atmosphere in the region, the locals feel that such incidents of large scale suicides only tend to further vitiate the atmosphere impacting the lives of the people.

Social activists in GB feel that the root cause for such incidents are a range of social problems such as unemployment, domestic violence and humiliation, rather than psychological problems. Some people also attribute increasing rate of suicide to criminal behaviour masquerading as honour killings.

The surge in suicides in GB was also endorsed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) which concluded a five-day visit of a high-profile fact-finding mission to GB on June 8.

The said mission comprised of HRCP members Salima Hashmi and Muzaffar Hussain, senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin, and HRCP regional coordinator Israruddin.

During the visit, the mission was alarmed by the apparent surge in suicide cases in various parts of GB, particularly in district Ghizer.

A large number of these victims comprise women and the mission has reasons to believe that some cases of honour killings have been labelled as suicide and thus ‘ignored’.

Another issue which has adversely impacted the region is the dire situation in as far as medical facilities are concerned. Large number of casualties have taken place as a result of virtual absence of medical facilities in some parts of GB.

In many districts and tehsils, health centres are almost shut down and doctors are missing. Here again, Ghizer District and its sub division Yaseen are among the worst hit.

Meanwhile, a meeting of Kashmiri refugees (of 1989) was held at Manak Paiyan refugee camp of Muzaffarabad recently.

Pasban-e-Hurriyat Chairman Uzair Ahmed Ghazali and other Kashmiri refugee leaders and camps leaders including Muhammad Iqbal, Chaudhry Mushtaq, Bilal Ahmed and Chaudhary Ismail attended the meeting. Participants warned that deprivation complex is increasing among refugees and the PoK government should take immediate steps to end growing feeling of deprivation and grant social, political and democratic rights to them.

The gathering felt that thousands of refugees were still living in miserable conditions in various settlements and that it should be the top priority of PoK government to look after welfare of families of slain militants, orphans and disabled persons.

They regretted that in the face of stormy inflation, hundreds of families are forced to suffer from hunger and deprivation.

As far as children in the Kashmiri settlements are concerned, the future of thousands of children of Kashmiri refugees has been endangered because of non-availability of fees.

Apparently, the problem of shortage of space is so acute that two families each are living in 2 or 3 Marla houses in these refugee colonies, while 2,700 refugee families are living in various cities after paying heavy rent.

Moreover, health facilities and drinking water are still not available to 8,000 Kashmiri refugee families even after passage of 32 years. After years of promises made by Islamabad about the genuine desire of the government to improve the status of the Kashmiri refugees, the situation remains unchanged as on today.

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