The Hunza calamity

The elections for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) in November 2009 were held after the promulgation of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Governance Ordinance. Coupled with the empowerment package, the extensive media coverage and interest of mainstream political parties in the politics of Gilgit-Baltistan created ripples in the stagnant politics of the region. For the same reason people hoped that their elected representatives would use their powers in the greatest good of the region.

Although judging a nascent government is not fair, it is important to highlight the shortcomings of the ruling party, which has even failed to constitute the cabinet so far. Since taking over as chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, Mehdi Shah has been occupied with his business and other activities in Islamabad and other parts of Pakistan. On the heels of the elections, a heavy landslide in Hunza wiped out the village of Attabad, resulting in the death of 19 people and displacement of more than 1,500. The calamity did not end there. It blocked the flow of the Hunza River and created an artificial lake. The chief minister visited the affected area after one week. Although the chief minister is aware of the magnitude of the threat he has not taken any measures to assuage the suffering of 25,000 people currently stranded in the upper valley of Gojal tehsil. Now the lake has expanded and already devoured two villages, thousands of kanals of cultivated land and cattle, displacing thousands of people.

It is imperative for the chief minister to realign the work mechanisms in Gilgit-Baltistan in the light of the empowerment package. It is a huge task, but the chief minister prefers to stay in Islamabad. As a result, the local administration has become dysfunctional and different departments work without any coordination. We cannot blame individual members of the ruling party for the failure to engage with local people. As the head of the Gilgit-Baltistan government the chief minister should lead the team and share the responsibility for any shortcomings and failures. His negligence will result in poor results for his party in the next elections. source

Aziz Ali Dad



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