GILGIT: A Karakoram International University (KIU) campus will be set up in Diamer Valley, said an official statement on Wednesday.
Diamer is the valley where Pakistan’s biggest water reservoir Diamer-Bhasha Dam – is being constructed.
The statement, issued from KIU, came days after youth and politicians in Diamer District accused G-B Governor Ghazanfar Ali of blocking the establishment of a campus in the district, G-B’s most backward area in terms of education, health and infrastructure. The governor was accused of saying that Diamer district needed madrassas and not universities.
The governor, however, denied the allegations and said he was in favour of more educational institutions in the valley. The issue was resolved after elected legislators from Diamer met the governor in Gilgit the next day.
“The federal government has given approval for a campus in Diamer district,” read the statement, while adding that another campus will be set up in Hunza at the same time.
The statement credited the governor and Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman for the approval granted by President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain. “This is the best news of the year,” said a political activist from Diamer. About 100 kilometres from Gilgit, with a population of over 200,000, Diamer is one of the 10 districts in Gilgit-Baltistan, sharing boundaries with Kohistan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Just like its neighbour, Diamer’s society is deeply patriarchal and heavily influenced by orthodox clergy.
While it comprises 77 per cent of the total forest-cover in Gilgit-Baltistan, the valley lags far behind on many other fronts. According to the Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings 2015, Diamer ranked 95th out of 148 districts in terms of education and 127th in terms of infrastructure and facilities.
The literacy rate among women is almost zero, while hardly 15 per cent of the men are educated. These dismal statistics speak volumes about how the valley has been ignored by successive governments over the decades.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2016.