The Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf’s (PTI) “tsunami” seems to have washed away the party chief’s memories of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), where people await his visit in the hope that it will help restore calm in the region, periodically inflamed by sectarian strife.
“Where is Imran Khan and why can’t his tsunami come and wash away the curse of sectarianism?” said Tufail Ahmed, a resident of Gilgit, the capital of G-B.
The city has been witnessing sectarian disharmony following the Kohistan bus massacre that killed 16 passengers last month.
With nearly a dozen people falling prey to sectarian violence in the aftermath and calls for strikes given by clerics, there has been little room for politicians to be assertive.
“Faced with these circumstances, we had hoped the PTI chief would come and guide the people towards peace and harmony,” said Ghulam Abbas, another Gilgit resident.
Khan used to visit G-B along with his foreign friends when he was younger to enjoy its natural beauty. According to Hidayat Ali, who once drove him to Astore valley in the 1980s, he would be accompanied by three or four friends every time he visited.
But now that the region is marred by violence, Khan is nowhere to be found.
“When he was a struggling politician he used to show concern for the people of G-B, but now after his political tsunami, he seems to have no interest left,” Abbas added.
A few months back, a representative of PTI from Peshawar visited Gilgit and nominated Abdul Latif as the party’s president for the region.
Latif had assured the people that Khan would visit the region soon, but the cricketer-turned-politician never showed up, letting down his supporters.
Karim Tahir, another resident, said Imran Khan had let down the people of G-B as he often talked about Balochistan but did not mention G-B even once in his speeches and talk shows.
“When he talks of power generation opportunities, he forgets to mention G-B, where these opportunities exist.”
Despite repeated efforts, Latif could not be contacted as his cell phone was switched off.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2012.