Rizwan Karim Qalandar
People of Hunza all over the world have condemned the series of arrests by the police following the shameful incident of killing and injuring the protestors (who were the affected of the Attabad Lake demanding their compensation) by Gilgit-Baltistan police in Aliabad Hunza. Once again police brutality is on the move as the protestors against this unfortunate incident are now being arrested and a covert operation is taking place in the peaceful valley.
This is expected to lead towards a number of implications and repercussions of both long and short termed nature that will decide the fate of the area as well as its relation to State.
Firstly, the incident of shooting the protestors as a kneejerk reaction against the public in the area has made it quite clear that Gilgit-Baltistan police is untrained and poorly administered. This has exposed the face of Gilgit-Baltistan administration which has failed in providing adequate training to the police and the performance of other public agencies is yet to be seen. Although same is the case with the public sector especially law enforcement agencies all over the whole country where political and other factors come into play hence corrupting the whole system. Courts are being seen as a ray of hope to deliver justice in the wake of a failure due to the pathetic performance of police force. I have no idea how unbiased and just our courts and judiciary in Gilgit-Baltistan might turn out but still I have my hopes in this case specifically because Sarfaraz Shah murder by Rangers in Karachi can be a recent example in the success of a special Anti-Terrorism Court that punished the shooter to be hanged till death and his accomplices with lifelong imprisonment and monetary penalties. But unfortunately this cannot be applied as an average or mean performance to the whole country because it has been over a year to the on-camera brutal murder of two brothers Muneeb and Mughees in Sialkot by a group of blood-thirsty people who are heard to be wandering freely despite a Suo-moto notice taken by the Supreme Court at the time of this incident. Subsequently I have my reasons to be hopeful or hopeless with our Courts in delivering timely justice in the case of police shooting in Hunza.
Another point that attracts me quite strongly here is that this issue has taken place in an Ismaili majority area of Gilgit-Baltistan which is well known world over for its peacefulness and for having better standards of life in terms of education, health and welfare within the community then what led towards such a case of law and order? This raises a question towards the possibility of a sectarian divide of Gilgit-Baltistan by the intelligence agencies working in the area.
The dynamics of politics and administration in Gilgit-Baltistan are entirely different from the other parts of the country. Politics is still naïve as a political school of thought is yet to be formed and well established in the region. And thanks God, people do not worship names and faces as they have been doing it in Sindh and Punjab even before the creation of Pakistan. The point is the soil in GILGIT-BALTISTAN is rich and fertile enough to sow the seeds of an ideology provided that real time performance is being shown and delivered to the public.
By giving a name and a so-called autonomous entity to Gilgit-Baltistan, the present government had made its space in the public sphere but it has lost it again due to the failure in relocating and rehabilitating the IDPs of the Attabad Lake. So in addition to all this mess if the government fails once again in delivering justice to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, they will have to look for other options (i.e. some other political party) staying within the prevailing system or going rebellious at all. The chances for the adoption of the second choice are very evident at the very moment as there has been a rise of nationalist sentiment in the protests all over the country where a number of youth-led organizations and associations under the flag of a nationalist ideology demanded justice at the cost of the sovereignty of the area that is believed to be handed over as a gift to the State of Pakistan.
In this case, if denied of justice, arrested and probed the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will be compelled to shed the self-embraced robe of Pakistani citizenship to which these nationalists refer as ‘chains of slavery’. This will not come easy at all and I am afraid it will lead towards a new Baluchistan-like issue for the country which can be dreadful if backed and supported by an unfriendly neighbor in the region.
On a positive note, thanks to globalization that has given access to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to come to the cities as well as go abroad to work and study . This has created a well educated middle class of the citizens of Gilgit Baltistan who are well aware of their rights and values in accordance with the needs of the time. They have started to sense a need to re-asses the value of their regional importance which is evident on different forums of communication where these GBians are engaged in networking and sharing ideas regarding the changes in their region. So the evolution is in its full swing that must be a ringing bell to the people in Islamabad who are required to empower the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The government must zoom out its view and get over with the age-old, failing techniques of use of force and intimidation on the peace-loving and well educated loyal citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan who demand not more than their fundamental right to justice. If delayed or denied the justice and the arrests continue , there will be more uprising and protest by the civil society of Gilgit-Baltistan against this brutality throughout the world thus showing another ugly face of the state of affairs of our country which is already a victim of terrorism and turf wars from North to its South.
This is the time that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan must be given neither more nor less of what they deserve.
The contributor has done M. Phil in European Studies from Area Study Center for Europe, University of Karachi.