The agents of progress!!

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, August 9—-August 15, 2008

By Noor Muhammad
No one can debate the truth that there was ‘horrible poverty’ in Gilgit-Baltistan four decades ago. There wasn’t a single college in the region; there were no roads, no hospitals, no markets and no incentives that could inspire the young and old alike to opt out of that state of vulnerability. Diseases were rampant and people died without any medical aid, any prognosis of the ills, and any hope for quick recovery, even from curable diseases.Time did change, however, and with the construction of the Karakoram Highway, majority of our population was able to open its eyes towards a new hope. As roads open, challenges, opportunities and higher expectations also arise. The same phenomenon was visible in Gilgit- Baltistan. Nevertheless, we, the youth of today, shall make it clear in our minds that only roads cannot take a region, a society or a nation out of poverty, ignorance and vulnerability. In many instances the opening of roads further alienates and destroys the social systems of indigenous communities, making them more vulnerable, instead of developing them.Much before the work on KKH began, in the mid sixties, a lot of developmental efforts had been initiated in the region. The Diamond Jubilee Schools, envisioned and funded by Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, played a very important role in awakening the regions. Not only did this system of schools awaken the people of Ghizar District and Hunza Valley, it also provided them the opportunities to master the modern tools that were needed for progress in the days to come. People got their early education from their villages and moved to Gilgit city to study at the only High School of the region. The few fortunate who could pass the ‘board exam’ and afford further studies were able to move down towards the bigger cities in search of education and work. With education also came the desire to get rid of slavery of the tyrants. In some parts of the region, like in Hunza, this was attained through a well planned and executed political process, involving deliberations with top national political leadership of that time. The choice of democracy over fiefdom, by the illiterate populace of the region, led by a handful of ‘educated’ youth, wasn’t a miracle. It was the result of the opportunities and aspirations aroused by the advent of basic educational facilities in the region. As they say, education is the mother of all changes.With the abolishment of small states the opportunities for moving out of the confines of the gigantic mountains increased further. Talented as they were, people excelled in different fields and seeing greater opportunities in the cities, also chose to settle in other parts of Pakistan, and the world. This was a very new trend in our region. Interactions between the cities and the villages increased manifolds and people realized the need to improve their conditions. This process is still going on, at different scales, in different capacities. Today, there is a need to compare our present status with the past and draw constructive and unbiased conclusions. I am sure a lot of changes have taken place. Our literacy rate, both qualitatively and quantitatively, have changed. Our health facilities have increased in number, as well as quality.Our roads have improved and expanded. Several barren land masses have been made cultivable or trees have been planted there. The agricultural outlook of the region has improved considerably, with the construction of new water channels. Production of various corps has been improved because of adoption of modern technologies. Today we are more proud of our cultural heritage than we ever had been. We don’t look at our culture. We admire our culture and have been helped constructively by various organizations in modernizing various forms of arts, crafts and, also, preserving the symbols of our history and heritage.One can notice improvements in almost all aspects of our society. This is not to say that there is no need for further improvement. There are many hurdles, old and new, lying in front of our progress towards a more equitable and prosperous society. And we, the youth, with help of various organizations that have been functional in the region, and organizations that we will envision, establish and govern, have to be part of the efforts directed at further betterment of our society.There is a need to explore and understand the social frameworks that have brought us so far, appreciate those who played a positive role in the process and resolve to further these efforts at various scales, in different modes.In my point of view, the Aga Khan Development Network, among other organizations, has played a very constructive role in development of our region. Diamir, Astore, Ghizar, Gilgit, Hunza – Nagar, Skardu and Ghanche, all districts have benefited from the efforts of this organization. Some districts have chosen to resist the AKDN agencies, because of myopic and ignorant notions pertaining to the ‘intentions’ of His Highness the Aga Khan. However, whenever the regions have chosen to open their doors to AKDN, they have seen positive changes. Hunza Valley and Ghizar District, above all the region, predominantly populated by Ismailis, had, logically, no objections towards the AKDN organizations’ working in their region. Gilgit District and Baltistan also received these organizations warmly and have benefited from their efforts. However, as I said earlier, the job is not finished yet. There is a lot that has to be done.There are still mothers who die because they can’t reach hospitals. There are still poor individuals who commit suicide because they can’t afford to live. There are still women jumping into rivers, finishing their lives, because the men are too proud, ignorant and too arrogant. There are still famine like situations, occasionally, arising due to blockade of roads. There is a lot of work, still undone. We shall be part of the developmental processes, initiated by AKDN agencies, the government and other local, national and international organizations, instead of creating hurdles for them. Indulging in mindless protests, agitations and expression of frustration is not going to do us any good.The government, above all the development players, is mostly responsible for the ills that plague our societies across Gilgit-Baltistan. Lack of political freedom, lack of constitutional rights, sectarian militancy and unending uncertainty has jeopardized all the efforts towards prosperity and peace. We have the right to ask the government to do its job, if is claims the region as its own!!

One comment

  1. Nair shiv

    Dear Sir,
    you have truly said if we open the doors for AKDN will can surive else its not possible.
    in our region also AKDN school has done very well then those of the privat school and their worker are very humble and polite in short they are down towards the earth.
    very well said keep it up sir

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