By Ghulam Amin Beg
As the so-called provincial legislative assembly-GBLA elections are coming closer in Gilgit Baltistan, the social media has started debating the qualities and qualifications of the best candidates aspiring for political leadership for the next four years or so.
The parties active in Gilgit Baltistan politics are also looking for candidates from within party cadres as well as outside and new entrants to be awarded tickets to contest the election. There are independent candidates also, queuing up.
While the minority committed voters, will always follow the party leadership and discipline, the silent majority and swing voters, look for certain qualities of the personalities contesting, the party programs and track record of party and individual performance, and obviously local power dynamics and local issues also influence these decisions, at individual, family and village, valley and community levels, whether to vote or not to vote for x or y candidate or party.
However, the important denomination is to make a sound judgment and analysis, of why to vote and who is the best trust barrier of one's vote, if somebody decides to go to poll?
In my humble opinion, somebody who is better qualified then others. Somebody who has more diverse experience and professional training, somebody who has the knowledge and skills to bring about change in the lives of the people and improve the quality of life of the poor. Somebody who epitomizes vision, strong will power, determination, honesty, merit, equality, humility and generosity. Somebody who has the will and ability to challenge the ruthless Pakistani corrupt politics, now taking roots in GB, which only honours status quo, under the table deals, patronage, whitening black money, favoritism and sifarish culture.
Irrespective of the macro level debates like the constitutional status, the fallacy of the Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, the efficacy of GBLA, the role of the bureaucracy and establishment in maintaining status quo and the conspiracy theories and greater games, the economic corridor and strategic interests of Gilgit Baltistan etc, which are the legitimate concerns of the nationalists and parties inclined to the left, the reality is, the common people are pissed off due to the day to day problems and miseries they have, and are more worried about how to overcome these issues! The federal and center-right parties mostly bank on these day to day issues and instill fear in the minds of the common people, along with their time tested 'sectarian cards' and scare them about the 'dangerous designs of nationalists', who raise macro economic and strategic issues and idealism, which has less to do with day to day problems. This way they are able to grab votes and continue the status quo in collusion with the establishment, as is blamed by nationalists and progressive groups.
However, the hard fact is that the common people continue to suffer due to colonial policies of Islamabad and local inaction and corruption of local leadership. Over one third of the population in GB hardly earn 1 US dollar a day, close to half of the population have no access to safe clean drinking water, half of population illiterate and have no access to basic health services, uninterrupted power supply is like a dream, and even cities like Gilgit remain in darkness for 15-20 hours, despite having huge hydro power potential etc. why?
Yes, corruption, mismanagement, bad governance, favoritism, and lack of respect for merit, sectarianism and patronage politics are blamed for all the illnesses we face today.
And those candidates and flags that were linked to this mess in the past, directly or indirectly, are not going to change anything for us for sure! But whether new flags can really change things... we have to put our fingers crossed too!
However, the question is who will show light at the end of the tunnel? How to get out of this mess? Obviously these questions are rightly asked every four year, when elections are due. But elections in GB and Pakistan have proved to be a vicious cycle of electing bigger thieves to catch the smaller thieves and vice versa!!
In my constituency, Hunza-Gojal, what are the people looking for in terms of their elected political leadership? I think the majority, especially youth; political activists and the intelligentsia constantly seek:
· A political leader who is honest, meritocratic and compassionate, who is willing to sit with the poor and vulnerable on the floor, and listen to their problems and worries, and consoles them in hard times, personal as well as communal.
· Political leader who carry the trust of the public exchequer and delivers it to those who most need it in the constituency in the most transparent and accountable manner.
· Political leader who reflect the genuine aspirations of the majority people, not the vested interests and those with influence and money.
· Political Leader who becomes the bold voice of the people in hard times and represent them at GB, national and international levels with grace, dignity and wisdom.
· Political leader who proactively leads and guide other elected members of the GBLA to introduce and adopt innovative legislation in the assembly and creates alliances with other progressive people and groups in GB to create and maintain peace and inter-sectarian and ethnic harmony.
· Political leader who mobilizes youth and women and the poor to stand up against repression and fight for human rights, equality and constitutional citizens of Pakistan.
As, the candidates reach out to us, Lets listen to them all patiently, ask them relevant questions, and lets pass them through hard tests, before we decide to vote for the candidate of our choice. Change will come through collective will of the people to act, and it is reflected in the quality of leadership we chose to represent us and be our voice!
We have to continue soul searching and looking for the best alternative, till the time, we go to vote, or decide not to vote at all, as we may come to the conclusion after listening to the candidates and analyzing their party programs for us!!
Currently, the search continues for the best available, and best alternative!