Weekly Bang-e-Sahar August 23—August 29,2008
By Noor Muhammad
PML-Q legislator Marvi Memon presented a bill in the National Assembly on 12th August, two days before Pakistan celebrated its independence day, seeking provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan. The bill was unanimously rejected by the house. It was rejected because according to the KANA minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, the issue is ‘sensitive’.
He said the government has increased the budget of Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA) which would help bring the people at par with rest of the citizens of Pakistan. He further said Marvi Memon was playing politics over the Northern Areas which was against the interest of the nation.
Presenting the bill, Marvi Memon said on floor of the house that people of Gilgit-Baltistan were being discriminated against by Pakistan. She addressed the PM saying that he wasn’t interested in affairs of the region. While Marvi deserves appreciation for presenting the bill in the legislative assembly one can’t resist questioning her intentions in doing so.
Let’s remind the readers that father of Marvi Memon, the former KANA minister, was responsible for creation of the dependent and useless NALA in the region. The condition of the region wasn’t any better in those times and the PMLQ being in the government in the center and in Gilgit-Baltistan could easily have given the much sought status of the ‘fifth province’ for the region.
But such thoughts did not cross the minds of Marvi, her father or rest of the ‘well wishers’ of Gilgit-Baltistan’. It seems that the political heroism of Memon family is being tested and sharpened in the leaderless Gilgit-Baltistan.
Nisar A. Memon, father of Marvi, was accused of using his position as minister to pave ways for creating business opportunities for his family in the region.
According to news and statements published routinely in the regional press of Gilgit-Baltistan, the minister has bought considerable area of land in the region – especially in Baltistan. In disputed regions the buying and selling of land by parties engaged in the dispute is a controversial issue, condemned vociferously by nationalist forces which also demand inaction of the state subject rules in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The presentation of such a bill in the National Assembly, however, is a unique event. It failed partly because of the stubborn attitude of the establishment and partly because proper lobbying, vital for passing of a bill, was not made by Marvi Memon. It seems that Marvi was just interested in ‘raising the voice’ – PMLQ – which she claimed had empowered the people of the region.
It appeared to be a game of taking credits. The fact of the matter remains that for the past sixty years leaders of the country have created such a mess of the Gilgit-Baltistan that it requires much more than sloganeering and raising voices to resolve at least some of the issues.
It would have been more appropriate for Marvi Memon, if she really was interested in passing the bill, to take members of her party, at least, into confidence before presenting the bill. We know that for a bill to be passed in the assembly majority of the members must support it.
The pathetic fate of the first bill presented for Gilgit-Baltistan’s inclusion in Pakistan as the fifth province has negative repercussions for the sentiments and aspirations of the people of the region. Many of us who are not aware of the lobbying efforts required to pass a bill would not understand the cumbersome nature of the parliamentary processes and take the bill’s rejection at par with rejection of the region’s rightful demands. Similarly, it provides the nationalist parties with an opportunity to exploit the situation and attract more minds and hearts toward their ‘cause’.
Even more pathetic was the response of the KANA minister after the bill had been rejected. He tried to make us believe that economic empowerment is all that people of Gilgit-Baltistan are demanding. He boasted about the increase in budget as compared to the last year’s, while in reality there was recently an upheaval in the region when the development funds received by members of the so-called legislative assembly were halved by Mr Kaira himself.
Economic empowerment is very important but it is not a substitute for political empowerment. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are rightfully demanding representation in the political affairs of the country that owns their land.
This is not possible without ending oppressions, be that political, economic or cultural.