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Unheard Voices: Engaging Youth of Gilgit-Baltistan

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By Syed Waqas Ali and Taqi Akhunzada

This research seeks to explore the sociopolitical and economic factors affecting the young people of Gilgit-Baltistan in the context of its undefined status and the conflict over Jammu and Kashmir. This paper aims to highlight the largely unheard voices of young people of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is based on a series of focus group discussions with young people in Gilgit-Baltistan drawn from across the community and from responses to a questionnaire survey. In total, 425 young people (aged 18–35) participated in the research. Almost 30 per cent of the participants were women. Most young people felt that the pressing problems of the youth in Gilgit-Baltistan stem from its ambiguous and undefined status, which is caught between Pakistan’s governance structure and the international dispute over the status of the former British princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Currently, Gilgit-Baltistan is neither a province of Pakistan nor the formal part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) which is regarded as the successor administration of the last ruler of Jammu and Kashmir state (Maharaja Hari Singh, 1925–1947) in Pakistan’s official narrative. This constitutional limbo means that Gilgit-Baltistan has an undefined status and suffers from political ambiguity, and this colours and shapes the views of young people on a range of issues that affect their lives.

This research explored attitudes to identity, governance (including the latest political settlement established through the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009), sectarianism, education and economic development and opportunities

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