As the political temperature rises and the challenge to bank votes maximizes, there is still no sign that political leaders are conscious of the ground realities of the common man. They are unwilling to adjourn their political wars to come up with solutions to battle the current issues. It’s time that the international Human Rights flag-bearers show Pakistan’s true face globally before their government swallows the IMF donations on terrorism and luxuries … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
The best thing about Pakistan is its happy-go-lucky attitude in life. No matter its economic conditions, its internal politics, the dramatic bickering and blame games between political parties, natural disasters, and terrorism, Pakistan is always high on life.
As the political temperature rises and the challenge to bank votes maximizes, there is still no sign that political leaders are conscious of the ground realities of the common man. They are unwilling to adjourn their political wars to come up with solutions to battle the current issues. In a time when the ruling class should be united to find solutions, they are either busy bringing about land reforms, discriminating between people while supplying food, updating blasphemy laws to create a further divide, or delaying the release of social funds. The elites are performing a theatrical forcing the state into more chaos and uncertainty.
After the recent news of the unfair land reforms in Gilgit-Baltistan, the illegally occupied remaining half of Jammu-Kashmir, ironically known as the ‘Azad’ Jammu-Kashmir has surfaced in the news. The Pak government has been reluctant to release funds committed to the development and non-development needs of the region. Coupled with the issue of food shortage, energy crisis, and looting by the Pak-Army, the mineral-rich Azad Jammu-Kashmir is living chained by the neck in slavery.
For two years the pensions of the ex-servicemen, employees and their raise have been withheld. The subsidy on wheat flour, an essential item, has not been brought to practice. The people are also waiting on the government to deliver to them the meager percentage of sales proceeds from the mineral resources that are used by the state to be further sold to China. The 4G auction proceeds that add up to a whopping PKR 5 billion are also pending from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. In a recent meeting between JammuKashmir’s Prime Minister and the Pak Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, it was revealed that the latter was still non-committal about the release of funds.
The PML-N-led coalition government decided to cut the 2022-23 budget of the territory by PKR 15 billion. Though at that time it was agreed that the central government will at least pay off the increased salaries and pensions, it is yet to happen. Now considering the inflation, life in Pakistan-occupied JammuKashmir has become a living hell.
This fickle nature of the Pakistani government is not a surprise. You can always trust the Pak government to trick and cheat its own nationals. It’s not that Pakistan does not have the necessary funds or could not have chosen to implement ‘Austerity Measures’ earlier that PM Shahbaz Sharif introduced in the final week of February, it’s just that the Army and the ruling class want the whole cake to themselves, all the time. In the wake of the final stages of the IMF deal, the PM has asked his ministers and advisors to sacrifice luxury cars, flying first-class, 5-star hotel stays abroad, privileges, etc and to pay utility bills from their own pockets. Government officials will only be allotted one piece of land and a house at a time. And only one dish will be served at government events. But in the last year despite the destructive floods, the coalition government spent nearly PKR 70 million on foreign travel and PKR 57 million on the purchase of eight vehicles. The government has money to spend on leisure while Jammu-Kashmir residents are denied salaries for their hard work.
To add to their woes the PM is sanctioning plans to allot PoJK land to non-state subjects, a move that the government is not authorized to carry out. Already the local population has been diluted with Punjabis shifting to the region to reign on the natural resources, bully locals, and change their demography.
Pakistan has made PoJK a breeding ground for terrorist activities, so violence and daily scuffles are a common feature. The human rights situation in Gilgit-Baltistan and PoJK is alarming. Unemployment, lack of infrastructure, discrimination towards locals, lack of freedom of expression, loot of natural resources; the list is endless.
It is the hallmark of all previous and current rulers to keep the baton of power and leadership among themselves in a close-knit community and discriminate against the rest. Pakistan cries wolf for the progressive Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir but blatantly lies about the atrocities it unleashes on GB and PoJK. It’s time that the international Human Rights flag-bearers show Pakistan’s true face globally before their government swallows the IMF donations on terrorism and luxuries.