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Without support: Social activist gives up efforts to educate girls in Diamer

By Shabbir Mir

GILGIT: A social activist, who wanted to educate girls and women in Diamer Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, is planning to stop trying as he says he failed to find support from power corridors. Khan Muhammad Qureshi, 27, belongs to a valley where only 1% of the 100,000 women are literate. According to Alif Ailaan’s 2015 Pakistan District Education Rankings report, the valley, which shares its boundary with Kohistan district, is ranked 95 out of 144 districts with a 46 score for gender parity.

Qureshi launched his struggle in 2015, reaching out to the government and non-profits in G-B and other areas to find monetary and technical support. “But what I’ve got in return are mere verbal commitments,” Qureshi told The Express Tribune on Sunday. “I worked a lot and even mobilised the clergy in my valley to further the cause of girls education and women empowerment, but the tragedy is that no one is there to help us.”

Unveiling his original plan, Qureshi said initially he wanted to engage youth from Diamer in activism for a period of three months. “They could have helped us to meet politicians, clerics and other influential people in the valley, begging them to allow their girls to go to school,” he said. Qureshi regretted it was not possible due to the indifferent attitude of government officials sitting at the helm of affairs.

Qureshi exhausted a chunk of his financial resources visiting Islamabad since November to meet officials working in the government and non-profit sector. “I met Minister of State for Federal Education Muhammad Baligur Rahman and other officials in Ministry for Kashmir Affairs and G-B but to no avail,” said the activist.

He submitted a proposal to the Ministry for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, seeking equipment like computers, telephone facilities and security cameras but that also met the same fate. The proposal was forwarded to the G-B Council where a joint secretary, by the name of Anisa Zafar, took 15 days to examine the proposal. “After wasting 15 days, she told me they did not have any funds to support the cause,” Qureshi said.

He said elected members from his valley were only interested in their own benefit, and not in the issues the public faces. “They paid no attention when I took up the cause of girls education.” Qureshi says he will return to Diamer and spend the rest of his life without actually being able to do something for the people of his valley. “I am helpless now. Only God can change the fate of women in Diamer Valley.”

A jirga in G-B earlier barred women from voting in Darel, Diamer in the legislative assembly elections held in 2015. The Jirga’s decision disenfranchised more than 12,550 female voters of the GBLA-17, Diamer 3, constituency.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2016.

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