In an acknowledgment of underperformance uncharacteristic of most politicians, Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Assembly Speaker Wazir Baig said they “wasted” their four years in government.
“It was a golden opportunity. We could have done so much, but we have failed our people,” said the lawmaker introspectively, now that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to which he belongs nears the end of its tenure.
“We are now short of time to do anything substantial as elections in G-B are due by the end of 2014,” he told The Express Tribune on Monday.
Baig, who is a veteran politician from Hunza valley, became the G-BLA speaker after winning a seat in the 2009 elections. Consequently, PPP formed alliances with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and independents in G-B under a policy of ‘reconciliation’.
As a result, it faced little opposition on the floor of the house; two lawmakers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and a nationalist member, Nawaz Khan Naji of Balawaristan National Movement of his own faction, were the only ones the ruling coalition had to confront.
Even so, the PPP-led government in G-B failed to deliver. And for the party’s stalwarts like Baig, this was a big blow. “We will forever repent for not being able to carve out new districts in our tenure,” he lamented.
Known for his honesty, Baig remained at loggerheads with Chief Minister Mehdi Shah due to his principled stance on various issues.
Though Chief Minister Mehdi Shah announced formation of two new districts in Baltistan Division, the announcement could not be implemented as the ‘Governance Order 2009’ does not allow formation of any new districts. Baig’s own valley, Hunza, could not get a status of district despite the assembly passing a resolution to this effect last year.
However, Baig did not take responsibility for all the government’s shortcomings. He added creation of new districts is not possible without making necessary amendments in the governance order.
“When I raised this point earlier, I was criticised instead of doing the needful,” he said, adding another precondition for new districts is availability of funds, which both the federal and regional governments lack. “Under such circumstances, all we can do is wish for it.”
He said G-B acquiring the status of a province under the governance order was a good step for the people, but it could not be fully taken advantage of “because of the political immaturity of regional politicians and lack of support from the centre.”
Talking about PPP’s defeat in the by-elections in Skardu recently, Baig claimed interest-based politics had led to the setback to the party as was also evident from the results of the 2013 general elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2013.