Weekly Bang-e-sahar karachi Saturday, August 30, ——September 5, 2008
GHIZER is the most neglected and backward area of Gilgit-Baltistan where people have been suffering miseries at the hands of public and private sector organizations since the establishment of Pakistan. Taking advantage of the simplicity and innocence of the people authorities concerned have experimented all fair and unfair means here due to which the region is now mired in problems.
Youth of the area after graduation run from pillar to post seeking employments but the government organizations have no room for them. Most of the residents depend on agriculture for their livelihood but there seems no tangible policy to promote this sector and improve the living standard of the people. Corrupt officials have strengthened their position in all departments from NAPWD to education and health in such a way that those who dare to raise voice against them are termed `anti-state elements’. These government officials and their cohorts always spread propaganda against the masses to achieve their own interests.
The district of Ghizer is considered as a stronghold of nationalist forces and on the occasion of Independence Day on August 14 and Pakistan Day on March 23 each year security is put on high alert here. Political observers say the number of those raising voice for their rights is rising in the district. People of Ghizer have expressed their dislike against Pakistani rulers which has helped in igniting a desire for self-rule in whole Gilgit-Baltistan. Whenever the people of the area rise for their rights all means are utilized by the rulers to push them to the wall. It is also ironic that some so-called local political leaders instead of leading the local people have been advocating on the side of the government. As a result, 23 cases have been registered against the youth of the area since 2004 which are pending with the Gahkuch sessions court.
In the recent weeks, minerals were discovered in the nullah of Yasen-Ganday. The government swung into action and without taking the area people into confidence leased out the minerals to a Chinese company. When the public realized that the government was not ready to meet their demands, they revolted and compelled the company to leave the site. As a consequence, the government registered cases against the locals. At present 22 residents of the area arrested in connection with the cases are being tortured at a number police stations in the district. According to Mohammad Madad Shah, the chairman of a committee formed to protect the rights and resources of the people, the incessant blasting in Yasen-Ganday in search of minerals was leading to environmental pollution in the area besides causing depression among the residents.
The workers of the company engaged in the area carried out about four thousand blasts which reportedly led to bursting of a nearby glacier. People fear that the blasts if not stopped could also lead to the spread of various diseases among the people. He alleged that a glacier situated at the altitude of about 13,000 feet, which is the source of water of the Ganday nullah, had been damaged by the blasts. He said within a period of only one month natural resources worth about Rs100 million were extracted from beneath the glacier by the company and sold in the market. He said they had submitted an application to the local police to register a case against the company on the charge of polluting the environment and looting the resources of the area without entering into a lease agreement with the local people. However, the police have as usual remained a silent spectator and are not pursuing the case.
We believe that the foreign company has violated international laws by trying to occupy the natural resources of the region without entering into an agreement with the locals and by damaging the natural environment of the region. Gilgit-Baltistan is considered as a paradise for tourists who come here to see the natural beauty including its lush green fields, high peaks and abundant glaciers. These glaciers are also a source of water which works as a lifeline for agriculture of whole Pakistan. It is disappointing that instead of taking action against the foreign company the government has put innocent people of the area behind bars and torturing them. International organizations should take notice of the activities of the firm leading to damage of the glacier. It is also a fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed region and till determination of the status of the region the rulers cannot launch any type of mega project in the area. The new government should also take notice of the issue and order its officials not to try to sell out the resources of the region and respect their rights on the mineral and other resources.