Why resource rich Northern Areas still faces poverty?

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Saturday, August 16—-August 22, 2008
GILGIT: Gifted with abundant natural resources, Gilgit-Baltistan still remains one of the backward areas of the world. For the last over 60 years, the region has been under the direct rule of Pakistan. There are unlimited avenues and resources for development but so far the government has failed to utilize them for the welfare of the local people.
Every year, the government of Pakistan earns between Rs30 billion to Rs40 billion from the Sost Dry Port, Karakoram Highway, tourism and mineral resources of the region. But the way the government has been treating the area in terms of development priorities shows that it is not sincere to change the socio-economic condition of the region. One such example of government’s apathy is that it has never bother to set up any industrial unit in the area. There are also no traces of any technical institution either in the public or private sector and about 15,000 educated youth are running from pillar to post in search of respectable jobs.
According to the government statistics, the population of the area is 500,000 but independent estimates put the figure well over 1.5 million and the number of unemployed youth at over 30,000. Since 1947, no government has seriously tried to end unemployment and poverty in the region due to which the people are living below poverty line even in the 21st century.
The development of the area largely depends on the exploitation and development of the mineral resources of the region for which the government has started giving leases to multinational companies. The local people, however, object to the government’s move to award the leases to outsiders and have been raising alarm bells over the issue.
They are of the view that the resources are actually the property of the locals and they should be taken into confidence before giving the leases to any company or individual. The say the multinationals are only concerned with occupying the resources and have neither made any plan for the welfare of the area people nor promised to pay royalty to the people.
However, the people should also understand that by developing the hidden resources the area would see vast avenues of progress and prosperity and they should not create it an issue hindering the progress of the area. The public representatives should also make it clear to the masses that by any way exploration and utilization of the hidden wealth would be in the larger interest of the area.—Correspondent


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