By: Rizwan Qalander
First of all lets not belittle Baba Jan by limiting his struggle to the issues of IDPs, Wheat Quota or even Hunza alone. Baba Jan is a symbol of resistance to the federation of Pakistan and its civil/military modus operandi that includes all the political parties that claim their legitimacy by aligning themselves to a mainstream party elsewhere in Pakistan. Having said that, it should not be assumed that Baba Jan (or his party) has any type of ‘separatist’ tendencies i.e. he is out with the romantic ideas of creating a separate state of GB. Although the touts of mainstream parties in GB would cry out loud to tag Baba Jan as a traitor, it should be categorically understood that he and his party wants equal Constitutional Rights for the region that are enjoyed by the full citizens of Pakistan in four provinces. His fight is solely based on equal rights for GB. In fact it should be noted that he has been equally vocal on the issues of missing persons and targeting of minorities anywhere in Pakistan.
Secondly, some so-called federalist parties in GB are trying to use the card of ‘economic corridor’ to win support from the masses. Without going into the details of futility of any sort of business transactions between Pakistan and China without equal and equitable share of GB, it is a pipedream. This is again connected to the issue of rights for GB i.e. one line summary of Baba Jan’s manifesto.
Thirdly, it is a pity that people of GB especially Hunza are obsessed with buzzwords like ‘development’, ‘education’, ‘packages’, ‘merit’ etc. In no way it is wrong to desire for empowerment of the underprivileged, educate the illiterate, attract and utilize foreign funds for the said purposes but hasn’t it been the same for last three to four decades? Various development networks in collaboration with the governments of Pakistan have been spoon-feeding us and with apologies, we have become addicted to it. On one hand researchers in the arena of development and politics have seen this issue of peripheralization as a state strategy to keep GB hanging in a limbo due to its historical proximity with Kashmir Issue. As we all know this issue cannot be solved and if people of GB are given equal rights, it will infuriate the people of Kashmir thus exacerbating the problem. But why should we the people of GB, be victimized and scapegoated for a historical issue? On the other hand, development without rights is futile and it has resulted in ‘educated’ masses that cannot think beyond development. To break this cycle of development for development, people like Baba Jan are need of the hour. The economic corridor has been functional for over four decades now and widening of the highways and increasing the volume of goods is not going to be any beneficial for GB until and unless, we are given equal rights.
Fourthly and finally, a popular party is attempting to win the upcoming elections by creating districts in GB. Lets not go into details of uselessness of districts without an equal increase in the volume of funds from the federal treasury, as it is simple mathematics. A united GB as the fifth province of Pakistan with equal rights is the future and it is Baba Jan as well as likes of Baba Jan everywhere else in GB in order to achieve this objective. Don’t forget Baba Jan is not the end; he is a means to this end. His world over popular figure as a political prisoner as well as a prisoner of climate change is enough to kick start the movement for rights of GB from the legislative assembly.
As far as education is concerned, thanks to development networks and civil enterprises we have very well educated, experienced people to advise Baba Jan on policy matters in future.