Dependency on others Gilgit, Baltistan’s Achilles’ heel

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Satuarday, August 2—–August 2008
It is now clear that the world is at the verge of a new political, social and military turmoil due to worst ever shortage of food. The whole world is faced with a food crisis which is getting worse day by day. Though Pakistan is basically an agricultural country but it is also facing food crisis. For the last over one year, the nation has been facing wheat flour shortage and there are no indications the problem would be resolved soon.The major factor is that the country has failed to meet the food needs of its increasing population. In such a scenario, people of Gilgit-Baltistan are even badly affected as they cannot meet their food requirements on their own. Agriculture in the region is facing problems and the area produces a few vegetables and food that too on a limited scale but major cereal crops like wheat, rice and pulses etc are difficult to produce due to geographical characteristics of the region. As a result, we entirely depend on Pakistan to meet our food requirements. The region is run administratively by a handful of Pakistani bureaucrats who have no concerns about the area’s food requirements. If we purchase the food items from big cities and transport them to the region we have no facilities to store them for long. If the food supply line from Pakistan is disconnected for a single day the whole area would face starvation. This is our weakest point, which has been termed the real cause of our region’s perpetual slavery for the last many decades. It is a conspiracy that to subjugate Gilgit-Baltistan the region has been made totally dependable for everything particularly for the supply of food items on Pakistan.For the last 61 years no proper steps have been made to increase the production of food items and promote agriculture in the area despite the fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is gifted with abundance of natural resources.There are millions of acres of barren land in every district of the region which can easily be brought under cultivation to meet the food requirements. With the increase in the population, the government has not taken any steps to enhance food items’ storage capacity in the area.Moreover, wheat cannot be purchased directly rather PASCO supplies the commodity to the area after taking permission from the federal government. The quota for supply of wheat is also based on outdated figures of population and has not been increased in proportion to the population growth. In short, the government has deliberately made the area dependent on Islamabad for every single commodity.It is unfortunate that due to government’s policies, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are distancing themselves from Pakistan. It is high time the government as well as the private sector come forward and took immediate steps to end the food shortage crisis in the region on a permanent basis. The situation also warrants the attention of world forums especially the United Nations, so that the people of this strategically located region did not remain deprived of their basic rights.

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