By Syed Shamsuddin
GB’s Economic Throes:
IN THE DAYS of yore, each household of the GB.s populace in addition to subsistence farming, tend cattle, sheep and goats in each valley as the fundamental means of the support system and as the scarce vegetation then would suffice the barest minimum needs of those communities not that large in size. In the changed scenarios, the prospects alarmingly dwindled away obviously because of population explosion being out-of-step exerting pressure on the available resources of the region. The inadequacy of the means of sustenance here become fundamentally attributable to the dearth of land as well as vegetation with there being absolutely no prospects whatsoever of giving a proportionate boost to these olden practices. Gone are the days when manure instead of the present chemical fertilizers was used in the context of mountain farming for organic food. Generally speaking, livestock breeding underpins mountain farming and hence is reckoned with as the mainstay of agrarian activities everywhere and it is all the more so in the case of mountain agriculture.
But quite sadly this very vital component of the fragile mountain economy is almost missing in the scheme of thing currently with nothing having been minutely planned to the last detail. These are the reasons due to which mountain farming cannot be given a genuine boost for bringing about an autarky. Under these circumstances, the region is facing perennial food insecurity. The land here though stupendously fertile with the lower zones in the area endowed with double-cropping characteristics but nevertheless the area faces dearth of irrigable land which is something rendering its workforce nugatory.The region though boasts innumerable waters, huge glaciers and abundantly flowing rivers and nullahs making a good spectacle but ironically, the water courses here mostly lay far below where lifting the same uphills for tapping for irrigation/agrarian purposes is not every ones cup of tea save by modern mountain farming technology.
Thus the agrarian activity all across Gilgit-Baltistan, is so scant that it has lost the meaning insofar as its meeting even a fraction needs of each household is concerned. In the given scenario, agricultural practices become wholly unproductive with the mountain-farming remaining in a shambles because the region’s strange geography where only one percent of the total area is under agriculture. Still another one percent, as it is said, can hardly be brought under agriculture by strenuous efforts employing modern mountain-farming technology in this very difficult terrain.
Viewed comparatively, all parts of the country save GB, receive monsoon rains and as such there is considerable vegetation whereas in GB, it is completely shorn of vegetation for this reason as the monsoon do not penetrate into this area because if giant mountain barriers.
Resultantly livestock tending or breeding here though considered very vital to and as the backbone of mountain agriculture, cannot be given a genuine boost. Hence the region witnesses a sagging economy.
All these grim prospects certainly calls for contemplating alternative ways and means to bring about socio-economic transformation in the area by ending the region’s underdevelopment. A cursory look at the geo-political landscape of GB, it will unfold that its inhabitants are mired in and are facing the worst economic prospects in terms of agricultural economy. As livestock-breeding every goes in tandem with agriculture and it is all the more so in the case of GB, but nevertheless, there are wholly no prospects whatsoever, in this context for reasons becoming attributable to the region’s acute geography and harsh climatic conditions.
This is because of the simple reason that the entire area (99%) is rugged, arid, dry and rocky. There are therefore, no prospects whatsoever of giving a genuine boost to livestock breeding due to dearth of pasturelands as the monsoon rains are completely blocked by the mountain barriers coming as a stumbling block in bolstering up the region’s economy.
It may become very well ascertainable from what has been stated earlier that GB’s deprivations are majorly centered on and in a way, become ascribable to the variegated governance models all along in the past being the outcome of the ambiguous status in the constitutional context. Thus a people wholly bereft of constitutional dispensation and having been kept outside the purview of the for long 72 years at a stretch for the sake of Kashmir and the national interest are made sacrifices in the past, are making currently and to the same in future for Pakistan exhibitive of an unquestionable patriotism undeniably entitling them to compatible acclaim and meed of tribute. Their boundless perseverance demonstrative of unprecedented love for country has to be evocative of measures aimed at imparting transparency and good governance alongside steps inclusive of maximal quota for the federal jobs at least by raising it to the demanded four percent for veritable socio-economic development of the region.
Mere symbolic gestures won’t help mitigate the discontentment stemming from the abysmal socio-economic backwardness of GB as emanating from the past dispensations in terms of quota allocation and particularly that vide Office Memorandum No.4/10/2006 R-2 dated 14.02.2020 “Subject:- Provincial/Regional Quota for recruitment to the civil posts under the Federal Government which reads: ‘The undersigned is directed to state that the Provincial/Regional quotas prescribed in 2007 for direct recruitment to civil posts under the Federal Government vide Establishment Division’s OM No.4/10/2006-II dated 12.02.2007 have been reviewed and it has been decided by the Federal Government that with immediate effect, the following merit and provincial/regional quotas shall be observed in filling vacancies reserved for direct recruitment to posts under the Federal Government which are filled on All Pakistan basis:- Merit7.5% ,Punjab (including Federal Area of Islamabad) 50%, Sindh 19%. The share of Sindh will be further sub-allocated in the following ratio:- Urban areas of Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur 40% of 19% or 7.6% Rural areas i.c rest of Sindh excluding Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur 60% of 19% or 11.4% Khyber PakhtunKhwa 11.5 and Balochistan 6%. Newly merged Districts of KPK (ex-FATA) 3% (This share shall not be merged into KPK and be observed independently for next 10 years in conjunction with the ten-year Development Plan devised to bring the ex-FATA at par with the KPK socially and economically.
It may also profitably be mentioned that when the Mangla dam was being built, the affected people of Dadyal-Mirpur were issued work permits for Britain by the government of Pakistan. Consequently, there was a mass exodus with the result that they inhabit many cities of UK today with large population of Mirpuris there.
Gilgit-Baltistan’s Special Status
It is worth pondering that the ‘Special Status’ of GB all along necessitated a special consideration during the course of the decision making processes remaining on the anvil at the centre in order to address the cumulative woes and the core issues of the region good governance to be accorded topmost consideration. But to the contrary, the matters relating to prime public interest, as the people say, are not handled the way these were and still are required to be done. Among others, the regional people term it as quite unjustified and hence question the posting of a number of officers of federal service groups to GB perhaps on tenure basis. This is seen as iniquitous in the sense that these officers are to be deputed to the four constitutional provinces of Pakistan while GB has simply been lent provincial façade by way of Order 2009. Even otherwise, there is at least no mechanism currently in place to post an equivalent number from GB to the federation as quid pro quo. Needless to say that the sensitive geo-economic, geo-strategic and geo-strategic position the area and above all, their boundless patriotism warrant recognition of their endless sacrifices while making decisions relating to the area. It is high time that the federal government reviews its decision in keeping with the outcry among the GBians regarding non-enhancement of the federal quota and instead, reducing it minimally to 1%.
The GB chapter of the national mainstream parties have to adopt the correct historical narrative of this area in order to drive home to their respective leadership in the center in clear and categorical terms to forge a united narrative in order to having the region’s core problems addressed. Taking only cosmetic measures as has been the case so far, will but be an exercise in futility.
WHAT COULD BE one’s take then in the fore-going context is indisputably that the ‘quota system’ concerning jobs under the federal government was not simply mulled to ensure representation to all region/provinces merely on the basis of demographic composition but the overriding consideration or its central objective was to ensure a munificent dispensation strictly in keeping with the economic backwardness of each part. It is this underlying assumption that essentially prompted the central government re-invoke it and extend for a period for another 20 years in order help catapult and sustain the economically backward regions in economic parlance to make them well poised to participate in nation building process by providing a level playing field.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly ( GBLA) is referred to having adopted and passed a unanimous resolution about four years ago regarding the bifurcation of the amalgamated quote of GB/FATA in simultaneous with its enhancement to four percent exclusively for GB. The consensual demand for separation of the quota in question was aimed at its increase by four percent by way of separation but instead of getting down to the nitty-gritty, the policy makers further reduced the GB quota upon the bifurcation which clearly goes against the grain and runs counter to the socio-economic realities associated with GB and the unanimous demand having the backing, invariably of all parties – treasury benches and the opposition as referred to in the above. However, it is now up to the GB chapters of the national mainstream parties how they get to one-point agenda in the fore-going context in order to prevail upon their respective leadership in the centre for breakthroughs in the matter at the earliest.
The GBLA’s decision in question points clearly to the convergence of opinion of all the political parties of GB. It is, however, the prime responsibility especially of the regional chapters of the national mainstream parties to take up this very vital issue in forceful manner, with their respective central leadership to help seek breakthroughs in the matter in keeping with the sagging economy of GB which, apart from what has been stated earlier, also remains subject to deterioration because of the global environmental impacts facing this region.
Last but not least is mention of another incidental issue agitated a year or two ago that the Punjab province had formulated a policy whereby the MBBS does belong to GB were disallowed a chance of further specialization which if remains in vogue would deprive the GB of having specialized medics. It is well known that GB does not have any medical college let alone such a university and for that matter any teaching hospital, it would in the circumstances, be a great injustice and hence any policy of the sort needs be done away with not by Punjab alone but by all provinces to facilitate specialization of GB medics in an unhindered manner.
The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor, blogger. He can be reached at Email: email@example.com . Read more at: Window to Gilgit-Baltistan