Loyalties: Musharraf and Gilgit-Baltistan
The general did more than PPP and PML-N for the region. Is it any wonder that they have a soft spot for him?
One wonders why the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) are still sympathetic towards former president Pervez Musharraf. Given that many people in the country consider him to have left an unpleasant legacy, especially one which has left Pakistan embroiled in an unending war.
Many friends and acquaintances say he is an absconder from the courts and that he sold Pakistan out to the Americans for personal gain. The same people say that Musharraf was a dictator and during his regime the rule of jungle prevailed. So, if for the sake of argument, all that is true, then how would one explain his popularity in G-B?
Consider what the people of the region have to deal with. For instance, a few days ago, policemen came down with an iron fist on several protesters in Upper Hunza who were demanding promised help from the government after landslides severely affected the region. However, instead of paying attention to their grievances and dealing with the situation in a calm and non-violent manner, the police responded harshly and baton-charged the protesters, injuring several people and arresting dozens.
In another incident last month, police and other law-enforcement agencies opened fire on protesters in Chilas, killing two and injuring seven others. The protesters were demanding that the government compensate them for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam on their land. Are these the actions a ‘democratic’ government has to offer to the patient people of G-B?
During his election campaign, a local PML-N leader said Gilgit-Baltistan experienced unprecedented levels of development under Musharraf’s rule.
What compelled an opposition member to make such a statement?
Perhaps, the fact that he could no longer fool the people of G-B and knew that the people wanted him to admit that the two major parties – the PML-N and the PPP – hadn’t done much for the people of G-B during their stints in power.
To cut a long story short, the general gave the only university to the region – Karakoram International University. He also inaugurated an 18-megawatt hydro-power project in Naltar Valley near Gilgit, and a dry port in the border town of Sost.
Looking back, it seems the law of the jungle wasn’t too bad after all for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.