By Muhammad Pannah
Situated in the north of Gilgit, Hunza is located in a key geostrategic position. It shared borders with Afghanistan to the west and China to the north. It was the junction point of the ancient silk route caravans that was for several hundred years used to supply goods in the subcontinent and European countries. Hunza’s geostrategic significance has witnessed a boom since the decision of Pakistan and China to initiate the much acclaimed “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.” The CPEC route runs through more than 200 kilometres long land of the Hunza district. This is the reason why Hunza is being dubbed as the gateway of CPEC.
The GBLA 6 (Hunza constituency) seat is laying vacant since the elected political representative from the district opted to be the governor of Gilgit-Baltistan. For that reason, Gilgit-Baltistan election commission announced by –election date in the GBLA 6 constituency. But because of legal complications with some candidates the by-election has for the third time been postponed by election commission for an indefinite period.
The election will take place anyway. Candidates from the mainstream parties like PPP, PML-N and PTI are contesting the by-election to win the most significant constituency seat with help of federal government. Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz are the decades old political rulers in Gilgit-Baltistan. We haven’t seen any practical action from them except shallow slogans and vague promises. The people voted them in expecting them to struggle for the region’s political and constitutional rights; however, we still remain deprived of our basic rights. This should not be a surprise, given the political leadership of Gilgit-Baltistan is powerless in the existence of the GB council that has consolidated every power in itself. The GB Council’s majority members come from the federal government. For that reason, all pro-federal parties in Gilgit-Baltistan have desperately failed to get political autonomy from the central government.
Mir Ghazfar Ali Khan was appointed as the governor of Gilgit-Baltistan and his wife, Atiqa, secured the GBLA women reserved seat for herself, while Ghazanfar’s son Mr. Shah Saleem Khan is now contesting GBLA-6 on the PLM-N ticket. They are influencing their voters through tyrannic approaches in different social gathering to vote for Mr. Shah Saleem Khan. If he wins the by-election, then three seats will go to the Hunza palace. In other words, power in Hunza is being consolidated in one house and it nothing lesser than the revival of the Hunza state that was abolished by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
The second strong runner for GBLA-6 is the Awami Workers Party (AWP). AWP is a popular and evolving party in the constituency. It came second in the previous election. The strong and popular political campaign started by AWP has triggered fear in the Mir’s palace. This is the reason why the by-election has been postponed for the third time in Hunza. After its leader Baba Jan was indicted in certain cases, the AWP has democratically nominated another leftist candidate to contest the by-election.
Four independent candidates have also submitted their nomination papers and they are presently running their campaigns; most of them belonging from strong political background and disgruntled with their former parties. Mr. Ubaid Ullah Baig is a strong candidate too, given his services for the country as a soldier and his volunteer work for the community of Hunza. It is also worth mentioning here that his ancestors had played significant roles in running the affairs of the former Hunza state.
When it finally comes to the polling day, the people of Hunza shall base their decision on the history, democratic practices, manifestos and pragmatism of the potential political representatives of Hunza and their parties. Voting for undemocratic, corrupt and politically greedy individuals or parties will only destabilize the political, social and economic fabrics of the society besides creating a political inequilibrium. Only balance of power would keep the region civilized; otherwise, more complications and misuse of power would trigger even bigger problems. The people of Hunza certainly wouldn’t like the consequences.
The writer is a development specialist. He has a passion to write about local and regional politics and international relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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