Aabid, an avid traveller and passionate adventurist recalls his days in POK and Gilgit & Baltistan (GB) area of Pakistan where he often visited because of his relative’s presence in the region. According to Aabid a lot has changed since independence but Kashmir is still looking forward to many more positive changes akin to other union territories of India. However, efforts of subsequent governments, Indian Army and locals are paying rich dividends in J& K and Ladakh region of India. Situation here is far better when compared to PoK & GB region which are witnessing the heights of barbarism, human rights violations and record scale unemployment. People of UT of j&k have realised the actual meaning of “Azadi” which is education, better living conditions and peace, contrary to what they were made to believe earlier by anti-nationalists. But still a lot more has to be done with consistent and honest efforts of all stakeholders. Let’s have a look at ‘Why & How PoK & GB region of Pakistan is different from Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh’.
Many of us are actually unaware of the term PoK. It is actually the western portion of the Kashmir region which has been the matter of dispute since 1947 between India and Pakistan. PoK shares its borders with Gilgit Baltistan in the north whereas the Pakistan province of Punjab touches its land in the south. It shares its borders with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the west and on the east it is separated from J&K by Line of Control (LoC). Geographically the total area of PoK is stretched upto 2.22 lakh sq kms which is 30% area of the actual Kashmir. India holds 60% and rest 10% has unfortunately gone in the laps of China. India currently holds 55% of the land area of J&K whereas Pakistan holds 30% of it. The northern part of PoK encloses the lower parts of the Himalayan mountains including Jamgarh peak (4734m). Economically we all are aware that for a country to prosper it needs a stable government and peaceful situation. No country in the world has achieved the same by going against the people or vice-versa. Recently a report suggested that the political and economic boom seen in J&K is only a dream in PoK & GB.
The lack of development and democracy are easily seen in PoK regions whereas J&K is flourishing and showcasing scope of further growth through tourism and industrialisation. World’s highest railway bridge on river Chenab is the testimony of region’s growth. The suppression of Human Rights is quite rampant in PoK as flagged by UNHCR in all of their reports. Pages of freedom of speech, right to vote, right to education or right to freedom of religion are completely missing from the book of PoK constitution. No political parties or local social activists are ready to safeguard or talk about the basic rights of people. The object of destitution in the area aggravates the hopeless situation as it is forcing people to get involved in the most unfortunate incidents.
Even the current government of Pakistan is not interested enough to take affirmative steps towards growth, development and harmony. The armed militancy in the region has not only slowed down the development but has also taken it to the primitive stages. The low agricultural productivity and poor industrial infrastructure have not left any hope for people of PoK to look forward to. In contrary to PoK, the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh are well looked after by the Government of India. In order to achieve sustainable development goals, the government has laid a proper roadmap for the subsequent years and has recently signed a MOU with the Arab countries which will grant them an opportunity to invest in the region. On the contrary, Pakistan is seeking financial loans from China, IMF and Arab countries to bail its economy out of recession.
Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh are witnessing a remarkable growth rate post Abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A and conclusive of the evidence that a government functions better if the country is united. Even people of Ladakh are happy with the steps the government has taken in terms of development. Several upcoming projects are promising a monumental growth in the region. New tunnels and roads are under construction and gaining pace which will further facilitate the industrialisation and tourism in the area. Even the remote villages of Ladakh has been treated well with optical fibre connections and telephone networks which work on solar electricity. We are going to see a new Ladakh in upcoming years as many new projects like Colonel Chewang Rinchen Bridge, Dah hydroelectricity, to name a few, are going to transform the picture forever. In terms of education a central university will be established which will accommodate10,000 students of the region. While these regions are scaling the ladder of prosperity and stability, PoK and GB today are grappled with internal conflicts and rising demands of a separate entity. People of this part of Pakistan have now understood their political masters selfish intentions and the day is not far when they would seek India’s help for their liberation from sinking Pakistan.