Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday,June 28—-July 4, 2008
The reality of President Pervez Musharraf’s financial and constitutional package has gradually dawned on everyone. The hopes from the new democratic government in Pakistan for the relief to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are still to be fulfilled. The dreams of drafting a single entry budget have shattered. The annual budget, like always, has been prepared by the bureaucrats in Islamabad – the elected representatives not getting air of the entire process.
The democratic government formed by Pakistan People’s Party has further discredited members of the so-called Northern Areas ‘Assembly’ by curtailing their role in development of the region. The annual development fund of the members has been decreased from Rs50 million to Rs15 million and all the powers still remain with the bureaucracy.
According to President Musharraf’s package, the annual budget had to be prepared by the assembly under single entry formula. For the purpose the chief secretary had been given the additional charge of principal accounts officer. The package was implemented to the extent that the non-local chief secretary was made the principal accounts officer, but NA Assembly is merely a spectator as far as the budget for Gilgit-Baltistan is concerned. The budget that was to be prepared by the representatives (a local council type body) of Gilgit-Baltistan was drafted by bureaucrats. Thus, the bureaucrats became even more powerful during the times of the PPP and the people lost power, prestige and honor, like they experienced under the past dictatorship. Elected members of the NALA and advisors are lamenting the situation. In the pre-budget meeting, the members of the assembly passed a resolution, because they don’t have the right to legislation, denouncing the decision and threatening protests in this regard.
There is a feeling that the democratic era has dawned with installation of the PPP government but ironically the despotism and deprivation are getting deeper and deeper with every passing day. It is surprising to note that the local ‘Jiyala’ PPP leadership had struggled hard to obtain Ministry of KANA for Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira. They had been making claims of dissolution of the NALA, change of leadership and, at least, change of the cabinet in Gilgit-Baltistan.
However, after the first visit of the federal minister, the local leadership went into a state of coma, from which it has yet to recover. They termed the decision of retaining the same setup as a “wise tactic” and tried to defend the federal minister’s decision.
Now the situation has deteriorated to the extent that the local leadership is keeping mum about the bypassing of the so-called assembly in the budget-making process. The second-tier Jiyalas of Gilgit-Baltistan have no moral obligation to defend the first-tie leadership, the federal minister for KANA or chairman or king whatsoever.
In a state of embarrassment, the second-tier Jiyalas are running from pillar to post in Islamabad in search of such an influential person from Lala Musa who can manage a meeting with the chairman of NALA or any senior party leader. A few days earlier, the secretary general of local Jiyalas from Baltistan, Mehdi Shah, somehow got access to Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman and lodged complaint against Kaira. The information minister assured him that a meeting will be arranged with the premier.
Mehdi and Jafar Shah, instead of being happy, became apprehensive. They might have thought that a meeting with the premier might not get them the relief they are looking for but it definitely will irk and annoy Kaira, who is the actual king of this ill-fated and disputed region. Thus, the local leaders of PPP disowned the offer of a meeting with the prime minister and said that their premier is the minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas, so he should be told to take care of people in the future.
Ms Sherry looked at them with surprise and told them to leave, assuring that the KANA minister will be informed about their ‘sentiments’. This attitude of the local PPP leadership is humiliating and degrading for the nation to say the least. The issue is a jolt not only for the PPP but is a wakeup call for all the federalist parties of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The graph of desperation and deprivation is going up with every passing day. The trend has also influenced the thinking of several federalist leaders. Advisor on Finance of NALA Mirza Hussain has a prominent place among the federalist leaders but his tone against the government has gone harsher than even the nationalists. He has demanded of the international organisations and Western countries to take notice of the grave injustices of the government of Pakistan with Gilgit-Baltistan. He has been accusing the government of gross violation of basic human rights in the region.
Other federalist parties are numb about the entire situation. The stance of nationalists is being accepted and understood by the masses with every passing day. The biggest nationalist alliance included in Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA) are gaining fame and confidence of the people. Processions and public meetings in Gahkuch, Skardu and Gilgit have stirred the political environment of the entire region. Now people are no more demanding ‘rights’ from the government of Pakistan, self-rule is slogan of the day. Independent state is being declared as the ‘destination’. Those who were fighting for Pakistan are now terming Pakistan’s control over the region as an era of slavery. Withdrawal of Pakistani administration from the region is being demanded. Every decision of the government is being criticised by the public quarters. Members and advisors of Q league are distancing themselves from the government. These members and advisors are the ones preferred by Kaira to the local leadership of PPP. The existing situation is clearly revealing that nationalists will win the future election and represent this nation in the future assembly.
Expectations from the democratic government of PPP are taking last breaths. Neither the system has changed nor have the people got any relief. The tsunami of inflation is playing havoc with lives of the people and the situation is becoming dangerous day by day. In Islamabad, however, the flute of peace and tranquillity is being played by the master players. The voice of this flute is so loud that none is listening to the noise emanating from the bosom of the Himalayas, the Hindukush and the Karakorum Ranges. God bless the two million people of this planet!!