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GBA polls: youth yearning for radical change


By Raheem Sherazi


Unlike previous elections, the campaign this time around seems lacklustre and people are disenchanted. Despite the date of elections for the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly having been drawn closer, no big rallies have taken place except for a few corner meetings. For some, it’s an interesting moment but for others, it’s a worrying and disappointing moment.

There is uncertainty surrounding the polls for multiple reasons. There is chaos in the ranks of the ruling party due to the sudden death of Tehreek Insaf’s Provincial president Syed Jafar Shah and wrangling over the distribution of tickets. The former ruling PML-N is also in straits due to the desertion of almost all electables and joining the ruling party. None of the political parties has yet announced their election manifesto.

There are always some positive points that the people would like to see in a candidate to vote for: he or she should be competent, honest, and above all should have some vision for the constituency and the region and a great responsibility to deliver on their promises and to avoid any inappropriate misdemeanour. The candidates always take an oath to make tall promises and play a role with dignity and honesty during their tenure.

Sadly, these promises and slogans hardly take a practical shape and are fulfilled, nothing has any relevance to truth in the history of democracy in a country like Pakistan. Even the best tool to cheat the public with loud swearing, which is true. When you go back and check with all parties, who misused their power for self-centred benefits cover their misdeeds under the carpet and unfortunately, we are near to celebrating almost one year with the same practices.

Youth are busy with frivolous activities rather than evaluating and doing some deep study on social and economic issues. This is the right time to mobilise the people to take part in changing this obsolete system. People suffer from illness, hunger, cold, shortage of electricity, lack of clean drinking water and basic health facilities, depression and other social issues.

Again, the season of the election in Gilgit-Baltistan has returned. The Nigerian birds have come out of their comfort zones to hoodwink the people. These elements are the real enemies of the people and humanity at large, who play with the emotions of the gullible people. Unfortunately, the jobless youth and the educated people support them just for nothing.

In reality, few will benefit from the elections but the rest will be left in the lurch again.

The people should raise a question from the political parties, particularly from the former government to present their balance sheet and performance during the last five years.

The people of Hunza are dubbed as politically orphaned. Although the valley has witnessed some development after the abolition of the princely state giving access to employment, education and economic opportunities to the common people in the 70s, the construction of KKH and the intervention of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the 80s, the society became apolitical and lost the political ground.

If the most important valley wants to regain its past glory, it needs to reclaim the political space from non-political elements and institutions and give political awareness to the youth to address burgeoning issues such as shortage of electricity, unemployment, health and education infrastructure, sufficient representation in the assembly, share in governance and bureaucracy. Being an egalitarian society with a high literacy rate, Hunza has not been given its due share in development funds and jobs.

Even we are failed to secure the release of 14 political prisoners who are languishing in jail for the last nine years despite protests and sit-ins. The heirs of Sher Afzal and Afzal Baig who were killed by a police officer, are waiting for justice. This shows the political opportunism and selfishness of the elected members who are eager to safeguard their personal interests. The Pakistani rulers and establishment bring them to power to use them as facilitators to grab the land and resources of the region.

The recent historic protest sit-in organized by the family members of the release of 14 prisoners including the Awami Workers Party leader Baba Jan, galvanized youth not only in Hunza District but also in the rest of the GB and abroad. The protest also proved that people, especially educated youth, are fed up with traditional political leaders and are now yearning for leaders like Baba Jan who could stand with the hapless and marginalized oppressed people and raise voices against injustices, corruption, and inequality and for the fundamental rights of the people.

Now is the right time for the people of GB, especially the educated youth of Hunza, to wake up and send the ruling elite political opportunists and seasonal birds to history’s dustbin and support the alternative programme for structural change. We can change the scenario if we elect the right leaders to bring about structural changes instead of choosing the same opportunist elements.

Raheem Sherazi is a hospitality and tourism expert 

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