Opening of the Aga Khan Medical Center Gilgit by Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim Aga Khan| Passu Times

Opening of the Aga Khan Medical Center Gilgit by Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim Aga Khan| Passu Times

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Passu Times Urdu Report – May 24, 2016 – Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeez ur Rehman met with Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim Aga Khan.

Opening of the Aga Khan Medical Center Gilgit by Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim Aga Khan| Passu Times

Source in Urdu: Passu TimesPassu Times Facebook

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Laughter in the mountains | by rafiee ghani | Passutimes

As I was passing through passu

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It was in the spring of 1988 when I first set foot in these remote northern parts of Pakistan. GILGIT has been etched in my my mental topographical map a decade earlier when I stumbled on an article in the weekly ‘Mingguan Malaysia’. It was in a small clay-roofed wooden bookstore in a corner facing the market. I remember the door was made up of many pieces of thick and heavy loose wooden planks. Each planks were numbered. All Farid had to when he wanted to close for the day was to lay each planks in the slot on the floor in that order.

The name of the bookstore was Kedai Buku Setia Raya. It was in a sleepy town called Machang. It was 1978 and I was 16. And I was madly in love with my bike, scouting and reading. I read only two kind of books. Enid Blyton’s and atlases. I read atlases like it was a novel by Tolstoy.

Anyway, the article had a few grainy colourful pictures of deep gorges, wheat-fields and steep mountain cliffs. I searched the atlas and my eyes followed my index finger tracing the Indus River from the Arabian Sea upwards. I saw many unfamiliar but exotic sounding names like Rawalpindi, Mansehra and Besham.  The river forked just after Jaglot. The Indus continued to the east towards Skardu, then Leh in India before reaching the Tibetan plateau near Ngari.

The left fork is the Gilgit River.  I traced it upriver and it widened as it got closer to Gilgit. Then it was Shandur, Gupis, Phander and I was lost the mountains of Shandur National Park. I came across the town of Chitral on the bank of Kunar ( Chitral ) River.

I didn’t get the chance to visit Pakistan until the late autumn of 1987. I was doing my first overland journey from Manchester to Machang on a tight-rope. I entered Pakistan from Iran with my wife and a very young daughter. My first Pakistani city that I ever visited was Quetta in Baluchistan Province.

( I read about Quetta for the first time, also in 1978 in a small paperback travelogue by Kalam Hamidi. It was written in simple Malay but I could almost feel the chilly nights of Pakistani winter and the taste of fresh Naans. But this is another story altogether.)

This time, I was resuming my ‘overlandings’. It began in Peshawar and ended in Yinchuan, in the Ningxia Province of China. I was in Gilgit and Hunza for two weeks and it was time move on and to get closer to the Chinese border.

However, I decided to stop in Passu for a few days. It is a small village with a very big glacier and surrounded by conical shaped mountains like a gigantic cathedral. The Passu Glacier will greet on your face you as you start to descend into the valley.

I think everybody knows everybody in Passu. I recall taking pictures of  a few stone farmhouses with the spectacular jagged Passu Cones in the background. I posted one of the pictures on Instagram and few days later a Pakistani student in the New York responded.

She said: ” Hey! That’s my house! What were you doing in Passu?” We became friends ever since.

Anyway as I walking up the winding and steep gravel road up the Borith lake I heard the rumble of diesel engines behind me. Two school buses, or more like oversized vans passed by me. I saw happy faces, laughing and screaming. The two buses were packed with school children who were oblivious to the deadly hairpins bends ahead.

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I could hear the strain of the engines and it billowed thick black smoke. The vans disappeared after a few turns together with the screams, the groaning of the diesel engines and the smoke.

I got to the lake an hour later and saw the two vans. School children were everywhere. They were running all over the lakeshore and up to Borith Lake cafe. I sat and ordered a chapati with dhaal and two glasses of hot delicious milk tea. Then I washed it all down with a bottle of ice-cold poisonous Coke.

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I met the teachers, the cafe owner and the drivers. Some students came by to say Salaams, hello, thank you, biscuits, apricots and bye bye. I was amazed at the fluency of English in these mountains. Most of them were born and grew up in this valley. Many haven’t travelled far from Hunza or Gojal where they called home.

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Their homes do not have an uninterrupted electricity supply. They have the internet at school but it was so slow it was almost useless. But they have a library with a lot of books and lovely dedicated teachers.

The teachers were happy. They played brief games of cricket ( not crickets the insect you fool! Imagine navy sailors playing baseball on a ship deck. That is cricket ). They sang and ate together. When they asked me if I want to go up to the glacier in one of their vans, I jumped.

Yes!

They were taking the school children to see the Passu Glacier up close and personal. Everyone around me spoke good Queen’s English. I felt like I was in an English Boarding School in Norfolk. ( I think there is one in Norfolk ).

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A girl name Saima came to me and asked in a manner you could  only hear in English Drama classes.
“ Are you staying at Passu Guest House, sir? What would be the best time if I want to call you, sir? I wish you to come and visit my family. We only have a small house near Sost but my father can speak English. He has been to America…”

Saima was 11, beautiful as any blue-eyed Hunza girls can be and very courteous.

And they don’t have the internet.

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I was with them for the whole day. I listened to their stories and their jokes. The boys teased as if I am a teenager. Boys teased as always. The girls took turns taking pictures with me. I was like a celebrity. Then the teachers took turns with me. The boys teased harder. The girls blushed. The teachers smiled.

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And we all laughed on our way down from the mountain.

The van dropped me at the front gate of Passu Guest House. The care-taker was waiting for me and asked what would I like for dinner. He gave me a few candles.

‘Bij-lee nahin!.’ No electricity.

After the candle-light dinner with my self, I laid down in bed thinking about Saima, the internet and the laughter in the mountains.

(Published in HUMSAFAR on May 19, 2016 by rafiee ghani)

Residents of Reshun in Chitral protest power breakdown since July 2015 | Passutimes

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Chitral | By Gul Hammad farooqi | Passutimes

Hundreds of people of Reshun, Torkho, Mulko and suburban areas protested against the KP government for not repairing the damaged power house at Reshun in Chitral, resulting in no electricity for the residents since July 2015.

A protest cum public meeting was held at Reshun under the chair of former MPA Abdul Rehman which was also attended by the representatives of different political and religious parties.

They also staged a sit in against the apathy of the provincial government and Pakhtunkhwa Hydro Development Organization (PHYDO) department who badly failed to reconstruct the damaged power house at Reshun.

Addressing the protestors, they said that the power house was constructed in the 80’s as a reward for eradication of hashish and opium from the area. People of the area were cultivating narcotics and this power house was built to stop narcotics supply in the area. This power house was collecting revenue of Rs 5 million in terms of monthly utility bills from its consumers.

They said that due to the damage to this power house, not only people of the area are suffering for the last 10 months, but the provincial government also suffered a loss of Rs 40 million. The angry protesters said that they were promised by different leaders and authorities for the repair of the power house, but they failed to honour their commitments.

The protestors further said that if the government did not start work on the repair and maintenance of the power house, they will come on roads once again and will start collecting donations to repair this power house on their own with financial aids from the general public.

Those who spoke on the occasion were Parvez Lal presidents of All Nazimeen sub Division Mastuj, Akhunzada Rahmatullah, Rehmat Ghazi, Sardar Hussain, Abdul Wali Khan, Mulvi Abdul Rehman, Shahzada Khalid Parvez, Khwaja Nizamuddin and others. Later they dispersed peacefully.

Encompassing CPEC by Afzal A.Shigri | Passutimes

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The writer, a former IGP Sindh, belongs to Gilgit-Baltistan.

By : Afzal A.Shigri
PAKISTAN is on the road to achieving an economic transformation through its partnership with the People’s Republic of China, which has pledged $46 billion towards various projects aimed at catalysing infrastructural development in Pakistan.

China has done this to find an outlet for getting its products to the Middle East and onward to the rest of the world through a land route culminating at the Gwadar Port, which is already being managed by a Chinese company. The government of Pakistan has agreed to raise an army division to protect the economic corridor and the Chinese nationals engaged in these projects.

China already has access to alternate land routes through the Eurasian Land Bridge, also called the New Silk Road, and the Trans-Siberian Railway called the Northern East-West Corridor. Iran, too, is linked through railway to this communication network. However, the proposed route provides an economical road link, which allows time to be saved in the transportation of goods by providing a direct shorter road thereby ensuring significant economic advantage.

This connection is also important for China as it has embarked on an ambitious programme of development in its western region that has so far been outside the ambit of impressive developments and economic progress seen in other parts of the country. A direct short connection for transporting the products of this region to the world market will guarantee the viability of industrialisation in the region that will not only bring prosperity to the area but will also address the critical nagging security issues spilling over into Sinkiang province from neighbouring countries including Pakistan.

For GB, it is absolutely vital that the benefits of CPEC are experienced uniformly.
Trade will also be a stabilising factor for the entire region. The route link in the northern part of Pakistan runs through Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), which is a disputed region with an ambivalent constitutional status. Even an earlier border settlement with China had to be done through a provisional international treaty.

The people of GB fear that the fruit of this massive development economic corridor will be nothing beyond ribbon development on the existing Karakoram Highway (KKH), which will be the arterial transportation road. The only economic zone proposed for the entire area of GB on the route is again on the KKH. Such myopic planning effectively excludes the areas located away from the KKH.

This economic corridor was envisioned as having a vast nationwide spread that would benefit all the people of Pakistan through inclusive planning. Unfortunately, the entire development programme has become focused on the eastern route with massive investments in hurriedly planned power and road projects, effectively depriving the other regions at the expense of the western route despite the protest of the two smaller provinces and the GB region.

For GB, it is absolutely vital that benefits are experienced uniformly. It is alarming that the on-ground position effectively excludes the entire Baltistan division, district of Astore and many areas of Gilgit division situated away from the KKH.

This rather unjust treatment by the federation of this strategically positioned area at the head of the corridor can give rise to misgivings that will generate serious protests compromising the viability of this project. It would be in the interest of this project to examine the possibilities of building road linkages for the entire region and to spread out the projects in every area to allay the concerns of the population. This should also be the blueprint for uniform development of all the provinces.

A close study of the map of this region presents numerous alternative routes that will reduce the distance and will also address the endemic PAKISTAN is on the road to achieving an economic transformation through its partnership with the People’s Republic of China, which has pledged $46 billion towards various projects aimed at catalysing infrastructural development in Pakistan.

China has done this to find an outlet for getting its products to the Middle East and onward to the rest of the world through a land route culminating at the Gwadar Port, which is already being managed by a Chinese company. The government of Pakistan has agreed to raise an army division to protect the economic corridor and the Chinese nationals engaged in these projects.

China already has access to alternate land routes through the Eurasian Land Bridge, also called the New Silk Road, and the Trans-Siberian Railway called the Northern East-West Corridor. Iran, too, is linked through railway to this communication network. However, the proposed route provides an economical road link, which allows time to be saved in the transportation of goods by providing a direct shorter road thereby ensuring significant economic advantage.

This connection is also important for China as it has embarked on an ambitious programme of development in its western region that has so far been outside the ambit of impressive developments and economic progress seen in other parts of the country. A direct short connection for transporting the products of this region to the world market will guarantee the viability of industrialisation in the region that will not only bring prosperity to the area but will also address the critical nagging security issues spilling over into Sinkiang province from neighbouring countries including Pakistan.

For GB, it is absolutely vital that the benefits of CPEC are experienced uniformly.
Trade will also be a stabilising factor for the entire region. The route link in the northern part of Pakistan runs through Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), which is a disputed region with an ambivalent constitutional status. Even an earlier border settlement with China had to be done through a provisional international treaty.

The people of GB fear that the fruit of this massive development economic corridor will be nothing beyond ribbon development on the existing Karakoram Highway (KKH), which will be the arterial transportation road. The only economic zone proposed for the entire area of GB on the route is again on the KKH. Such myopic planning effectively excludes the areas located away from the KKH.

This economic corridor was envisioned as having a vast nationwide spread that would benefit all the people of Pakistan through inclusive planning. Unfortunately, the entire development programme has become focused on the eastern route with massive investments in hurriedly planned power and road projects, effectively depriving the other regions at the expense of the western route despite the protest of the two smaller provinces and the GB region.

For GB, it is absolutely vital that benefits are experienced uniformly. It is alarming that the on-ground position effectively excludes the entire Baltistan division, district of Astore and many areas of Gilgit division situated away from the KKH.

This rather unjust treatment by the federation of this strategically positioned area at the head of the corridor can give rise to misgivings that will generate serious protests compromising the viability of this project. It would be in the interest of this project to examine the possibilities of building road linkages for the entire region and to spread out the projects in every area to allay the concerns of the population. This should also be the blueprint for uniform development of all the provinces.

A close study of the map of this region presents numerous alternative routes that will reduce the distance and will also address the endemic security issues on a major part of the KKH that passes through a turbulent area plagued by perpetual security challenges. A survey by a group of informed residents of the area has produced an alternate route that will not only reduce the distance between Gilgit to Islamabad by 55 kilometres but also provide a passage through a peaceful region.

The proposed route takes off from KKH at Thalichi and through Astore district goes to Rattu. From there, the route progresses over the Shuhter Pass and connects to the road linking Muzaffarabad and winds down to Islamabad. There is another bypass from Jaglot to Skardu and from a point short of Skardu a non-metalled road exists up to the meeting point at Rattu.

These linkages have the advantage of providing a safe way and alternate route in case of blockage of KKH due to landslides, as with a change in weather, the area through which the KKH traverses has in the recent past experienced prolonged disruption of the traffic due to frequent landslides. This ensures uninterrupted flow of the traffic from China to Gwadar with the advantage of more secure passage in case of any disturbance en route.

It would be in the interest of the people of GB and the country to consider these possibilities seriously and integrate these proposals in CPEC projects on a priority basis. The success of CPEC depends on the goodwill of the people of the regions through which this corridor passes and also certainty of the traffic flow without any disruption. These alternate routes can address both issues.

These will also make CPEC all inclusive by integrating the excluded areas of Gilgit-Baltistan in the development process and provide an alternate safe and shorter passage. They will have the added advantage of providing access to Azad Jammu & Kashmir in the economic opportunities presented by the economic corridor.

The policymakers must understand that investment in hurriedly planned coal, oil and gas power projects in Sindh and Punjab will not guarantee the success of CPEC; it will depend on a secure passage through a peaceful route with a satisfied population living around it. If the corridor generates controversies, feelings of deprivation and neglect, we will only be stoking the fire of existing turmoil in the country that will surely cause the collapse of this spectacular opportunity to make Pakistan prosperous in all its regions.

The writer, a former IGP Sindh, belongs to Gilgit-Baltistan.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2016

Gilgit-Baltistan’s hydropower potential to resolve energy crisis | Passutimes

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KARACHI: The country’s apex trade body on Saturday said the hydropower potential of Gilgit-Baltistan, estimated at 50,000 megawatts, can resolve chronic energy crisis and save billions of dollar currently spent on oil import for power generation.

President Abdul Rauf Alam of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), in a statement, said thermal energy is costly, while hydropower offers the cheapest source of energy for the long-term and permanent solution to the energy crisis.

Alam was talking to Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman. FPCCI Vice President Johar Ali Raki and others were also present on the occasion.

The FPCCI chief said hydro energy is environment-friendly, low-cost and economically viable and it can save billions of dollars required to import fuel for power generation that results in costly agricultural and industrial production.

The potential of run-of-the-river projects in Gilgit Baltistan is phenomenal. Total 7,400 megawatts can be generated at a power plant in Bunji with two additional projects of 2,000 megawatts each upstream from this location, he added.

Alam said the government, as well as the private sector, must exploit the enormous power production potential in GB, which can help us overcome the energy crisis as well as export electricity.

Moreover, the 72,000 square miles area with around 1.3 million people has the potential for rapid development based on tourism, hospitality, mining, food processing, dry fruits, gems and jewellery and farming, he said.

The business leader said the number of tourists can be doubled with a little effort. Establishing tax free zones can attract investment and new policies should be evolved to facilitate local and foreign investments.

Alam said the FPCCI wants to set up a regional office in Gilgit-Baltistan for which it is looking forward for cooperation by the government.

The Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will have a positive impact on every person in the country, while it will transform Gilgit-Baltistan into an investment haven.

The minister asked the private sector to take interest in investment in the region. He said it will be provided with all the possible facilities. 

“We are planning to establish an investment board, boost tourism, generate additional power, and improve law and order situation to trigger economic activities which will reduce poverty and raise standard of living of people,” he said.

Published in International THE NEWS on 8 may 2016

“PML-N on the verge of another crushing defeat in Hunza” | by Kamran Uddin | Passutimes

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“PML-N on the verge of another crushing defeat in Hunza” | by Kamran Uddin | Passutimes

The rumours of a possible “Muhk-Mukaa” become true yesterday for the by-elections in GBLA-6. It is apparent that sitting Governor Mir Ghazanfer has used the “Punjabi card” to convince Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to get one of his sons PML-N’s party ticket from Hunza. In the bigger picture these developments should cause alarm bells for CM Hafiz Hafeez-ul-Rehman whose role will diminish considerably by the rise of Mir Ghazanfer’s family both at GB and national level.

Political pundits are arguing that Chief Minister Hafeez-ul-Rehmanhas made a political blunder since this was the perfect time for PML-N to strength party’s position in Hunza. However, going against the democratic wishes of party workers and the people of Hunza in giving party ticket shows that political immaturity of CM in this regard.

Whereas before yesterday’s announcement of party ticket it was anticipated by many that PML-N leadership will make a wise decision and would give party ticket to a genuine Hunzai which not to a corrupt rat, who also happens to be son of sitting Governor. Moreover, past record of PML-N shows that it has suffered crushing defeats in the past and cannot afford to lose this seat from Hunza. For all PML-N supporters who thought this was the best chance to make an everlasting impact in Hunza. Rest assured that this was the last nail in the coffin for both Mir’s family and PML-N unless are a miracle happens. Col Ubaidullah Baig (r) was the best candidate who would have helped PML in building party’s image by honestly dedicating resources for the welfare of people of Hunza.

Alas! Its too late for PML-N’s politics in Hunza to make use of an educated, experience, uncontroversial, confident and skilful in building bridges with other sister communities in the region especially in Gilgit and Hunza. He bears the right balance of political and religious leaderships skills to serve and deliver the needs of people of Hunza.

Latest polls suggest that Col (R) Ubaidullah Baig is leading the list who is now contesting independently. He is closely followed by baba Jaan who’s politics of jail is not as vitalizing as last year when he first burst on the political arena in Hunza. Hence, the race is on and time and only time will decide what will happen.

A Resident of Moorkhun Village in upper Hunza Gojal,name Hafiz shah took the initiative to make a turbine to lighten his home | Passutimes

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A Resident of Moorkhun Village in upper Hunza Gojal,name Hafiz shah took the initiative to make a turbine to lighten his home

A Resident of Moorkhun Village in upper Hunza Gojal,name Hafiz shah took the initiative to make a turbine to lighten his home.This region was severely affected in 2014, 2015 and the recent flash flood has destroyed the power house and water channels. He told that the locals are deprived of electricity but we have the opportunity to generate small scale hydro power in our garden and along the stream side, so why should not avail the opportunity rather than waiting for some to help.

Furthermore he said that our fore father used to store wheat, which can sustain and feed for several months and years but the development and access to commodity has put us in risk. Even know it’s hard to find a family to have stock for one week this needs to be change and revive otherwise it will put us in trouble.
People should learn to adopt with the changing and dynamics of environment.

From the past several years the climate of the region has been changed. People are experiencing new dynamics in weather patterns. Heavy rainfall, Glof, Flash flood and increased in intensity and duration of precipitation are a clear indication of climate change.

Source:Zakir Rumi/Rahim Baig
http://www.passutimes.net

Pakistani bus driver’s son Sadiq Khan becomes London Mayor | Passutimes

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LONDON: History was made on Friday as son of Pakistani bus driver and Labour parliamentarian Sadiq Khan defied all odds and won the race for London mayor, beating the government-supported multi-billionaire Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith.

Sadiq Khan defeated Zac by 44 to 35 percent in the first preference votes and easily managed to win in the second preferance.

Speaking after the official announcement of his victory, Khan said he wanted a “more equal London.”

“I am so proud that Londoners have today chosen hope over fear and unity over division,” he added.

Source: Online
http://www.passutimes.net

“Col (retd) Obaid topped the list, but the governor took advantage of his personal ties with Nawaz Sharif and obtained a ticket for his son,

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Gilgit:The head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Thursday awarded the son of Gilgit-Baltistan Governor Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan a party ticket for the by-elections in GBLA-6 constituency, ignoring the advice of local party leaders.

The decision was made on account of the close ties between the governor and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The only time the ties between the two families seemed under stress was when Pervez Musharraf overthrew the Nawaz-led government and installed Mir Ghazanfar the CM of the region for five years.

According to insiders, members of a committee formed by the regional PML-N leadership recently surveyed the constituency and submitted their recommendations to the party’s head –Nawaz Sharif – before the finalisation of the decision of awarding the party ticket.

“Salim Khan wasn’t anywhere on top of the list in view of in-depth surveys conducted in Hunza,” said an insider privy to the details of the survey.

“Col (retd) Obaid topped the list, but the governor took advantage of his personal ties with Nawaz Sharif and obtained a ticket for his son,” the insider told The on Thursday.

The PML-N regional head, Hafeezur Rehman, who is also the chief minister, recently formed a committee to hold talks with stakeholders in Hunza in an attempt to judge the popularity of potential candidates. The by-election for GBLA-6 will be held in Hunza on May 28.

According to another insider, candidates aspiring to contest the election on a PML-N ticket had earlier agreed to accept the survey results and pledged to quit the race in favour of the candidate who got maximum support. “But that pledge isn’t valid now.”

A veteran PML-N leader from Hunza Amin Sher became the first person to revolt. Sher, a potential party nominee who stood third according to survey results.

Similarly, the response from other aspirants is yet to materialise but it is believed they are also planning to resist Nawaz Sharif’s decision that ultimately strengthened the cause for hereditary politics.

The spouse of Mir Ghazanfar is also a lawmaker elected on a special seat for women.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Deputy Speaker Jafarullah Khan said Nawaz Sharif, as the head of the party, had powers to award the party ticket to whomsoever he wanted. Salim Khan is facing a bank loan default case in court and  is likely to face stiff resistance from another contestant, Baba Jan.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2016.

The electricity crisis in Gilgit | by Ume Ayman | Passutimes

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The electricity crisis in Gilgit | by Ume Ayman | Passutimes

Fatima was rushed to the hospital last week as she suffered a heart attack. She was brought to the General Headquarters (GHQ) Hospital in Gilgit city — the biggest such facility in Gilgit-Baltistan. During her ECG at the ICU, the electricity went out a number of times. However, it was restored soon. She was fortunate that the power outage did not occur at a time when she was being treated in the operation theatre, for others haven’t been as fortunate as Fatima.

Sanaullah is one of the many photocopiers at Garhi Bagh, Gilgit. His shop can hardly fit four people at a time. It is the major source of Sanaullah’s income. He has to feed a family of seven, including four school-going children. In winter, his income saw a dip. His shop had electricity for barely three hours during the day and the outages were not as per schedule. Sanaullah is just one example of livelihoods negatively impacted by the electricity crisis in Gilgit-Baltistan.

In the summer of 2015, Gilgit city had to suffer through one of the worst power outages in over a decade. There was no electricity for over two weeks. During this time, the general public was kept ignorant about the underlying reasons for this. Many believed it was due to the lack of technical expertise of engineers and technicians working at the hydropower plant. The major reasons for the shortage of electricity in Gilgit include the population explosion of the city; corruption and mismanagement; shortage of water in the rivers during winter; and the lack of technical staff. Since the 1960s, when residents of Gilgit city saw glowing light bulbs for the first time, the population has seen an explosion. In just over four decades, the city’s population has increased tenfold. As a result, the demand for electricity has escalated, whereas supply has remained meek at best.

The biggest manifestation of corruption in Gilgit’s power sector has come from the consumers. It is commonplace for households to use power lines connected directly from the utility poles. The electricity meters installed in households are not able to read the units of electricity consumed via these cables. Another malpractice by consumers is the use of various methods to tamper with electricity meters. This allows households to consume greater units of electricity without paying for it.

The biggest source of electricity generation in Gilgit-Baltistan is hydel power. Home to the giant soaring rivers and gigantic glaciers, the whole region is abundant in water for most part of the year. However, water is scarce in the rivers during winter. As a result, electricity generation comes to a halt and power outages persists for 15 to 18 hours a day. The main solutions for countering this crisis are to prepare a comprehensive policy on population control, introducing advanced electricity meters, constructing small water reservoirs and undertaking effective town planning. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that a comprehensive policy on population size and growth, fertility and family planning is introduced in the region. The structural issue of population explosion has to be controlled. Otherwise, any effort aimed to ameliorate the energy crisis will fail to hit the mark. The introduction of smart tamper-proof meters can curb fraud and misrepresentation by consumers. It will ensure that the Water and Power Department does not suffer huge losses incurred due to evasion in paying bills. Stricter punishment should be imposed on consumers who are involved in the evasion of electricity bills.

The shortage of water in Gilgit during winter can be dealt with by the construction of small dams and water reservoirs. The Satpara Dam in Skardu is the only dam in Gilgit-Baltistan. Although the Diamer-Bhasha Dam project is still in the pipeline, it will be a while before the project starts functioning. It is evident that large dams have become the most controversial of technologies (Patrick McCully, Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams, 2001). Effective town planning can help mitigate the electricity crisis. In addition, it can also ensure that electricity cables are not used in violation of regulations.

In the absence of political will and trained experts, it is unlikely that governance will see any improvement. Building energy infrastructure and adding more generation capacity will not suffice. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have to realise that merely complaining in the midst of a crisis will not resolve anything. The electricity crisis in Gilgit city cannot be understood unless the above-mentioned structural constraints surrounding the issue are not resolved. The electricity crisis of Gilgit is affecting the lives of ordinary citizens — and the crisis is real.

The writer has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Szabist, Islamabad

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2016.