Gilgit-Baltistan’s move to form a parliamentary committee to combat the suicide pandemic that has caused a stir across the world of late is a prudent step in the right direction. Considering the sharp increase in cases in the province, we acknowledge that the government has acted proactively by outlining committee procedures to begin tackling the issue. There are, however, several intricacies that need to be addressed as forming committees has been a favourite pastime for our provincial and federal governments without much effect or result.
In handling a sensitive topic such as suicide and dealing with families who have experienced such heavy trauma, it is crucial that procedures are reviewed meticulously and with proper training imparted to officials. Up to this point, the officials had not been doing their jobs; it is appalling that people were buried without investigation, especially when many of the deaths were suspected to be honour killings. Both, suicide and honour killings, demand forensic investigations. Hence, the development of a procedure to hold officials accountable for not carrying out their duties is welcome but a committee of psychologists should train them in how to deal with suicide matters and the aftermath of trauma as well.
With the enhanced training of officials, there needs to be better awareness, as well as concern, among people. It is crucial to take religious figures on board as many people follow their advice but it is better to provide a uniform public service message that should be conveyed through their help. Oftentimes, vague or ambiguous messages get misinterpreted or misconstrued. Or, sometimes it is that religious scholars are found propagating inaccurate or backward messages. Another crucial aspect is to provide an avenue where people contemplating suicide can turn to.
We hope our provinces follow Gilgit-Baltistan’s suit, especially when there is a suspected misreporting of incidents of honour killings as suicides.
Published in The Express Tribune,