Will Imran Khan win hearts (and votes) in Gilgit?
Does the IKF want to improve Gilgit's living conditions or is it merely trying to achieve its own political mileage?
As chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan is busy trying to woo the masses for a ‘change’, a small but highly committed team of professionals of the Imran Khan Foundation (IKF) is quietly paving the way for the ‘tsunami’ to head towards Gilgit-Baltistan.
Without giving top priority to the political agenda of the PTI, the team ventures into valleys to get a feel of the real issues that rural communities in Gilgit are confronted with. Based on first-hand information, the professionals have come to the conclusion that poverty is the biggest issue plaguing the region.
So this year, they distributed tonnes of quality wheat seed bags of the Sehar Variety among the marginalised communities - the yields of which are said to be several times higher than the normal varieties.
Under the IKF’s flagship programme, an initiative was started after the 2010 floods.
Satisfied with the outcome of the seeds, a veteran development expert spearheaded the IKF programme, describing the initiative as ‘seeds of hope’ that will bring about the much-needed change in Gilgit and the rest of the country. The yield has ostensibly turned around the financial conditions of many of the marginalised community members, who were otherwise living under abject poverty in the hilly areas.
Only time will tell whether the IKF really wants to improve the living conditions of the resource-strapped communities or it just wants to achieve political mileage under its garb in this far-flung region.
Whatever the intent and purpose, however, the initiative will pose a real challenge for the traditional parties in Gilgit, including the PPP and the PML-N.
The sectarian strife that has seriously jeopardised the political culture of this region will be yet another factor testing the mettle of the PTI and its leadership, which has failed to reach out to the people of this region. With the party still in disarray in the northern region of the country, it is yet to be seen if the social work initiated under the IKF will pay off or not as Imran Khan, who was once a frequent visitor of this area, never turned up in Gilgit after rising to political fame.
Read more by Shabbir here.