Sunday, March 04, 2012

Hunza in crises

By Habib R. Sulemani

A very civilized journalist, working for a liberal newspaper, asked me the other day why I was not taking my traumatized sister, Hassina, home from the hostel of the Karakoram International University (KIU) Gilgit. I forgot to tell her the reason. That is a normal thing with journalists. We only know asking questions, which is the real skill of a journalist. Within the Pakistani context, a journalist can answer questions ‘technically correct’ only if s/he goes through an experience like Hussain Haqqani and Mushahid Hussain in politics, and Mohammad Hanif in literature.

Yes, she, my sister, has to appear in the examination next month. We’re far away. She can’t go to our relatives in that city either who are facing their own problems currently—our entire family setup is being targeted overtly and covertly! The criminal gang wants to create rift between a father and his sons, among brothers, sisters and even spouses—they’re using this nasty trick as a communist regime does in a despot country.

Besides the local administration and secret agencies, they are using the Ismaili Regional Council Gilgit, Gojal Educational and Cultural Association (GECA), Hunza Students Federation, the Uks NGO and a local media outlet.

Assist. Prof. Manzoor Ali of the KIU physics department is also president of the Ismaili Regional Council Gilgit. People say he is working against the preaching of the Aga Khan, leader of the Ismaili Muslims, and is dividing the peaceful community on racial grounds: Brushaski and Wakhi.

The Gojal Educational and Cultural Association has become a puppet in the hands of secret agencies and there have been strong protests. Its president Farman Ali, also news editor Dawn Islamabad, along with corrupt officials of the Lok Virsa Museum and Heritage Library, and National Book Foundation, has reportedly made it a personal business while terrorizing GECA members with his ‘links’ in the corridors of power.

Hunza Students Federation is said to be a Taliban-like moral brigade that uses force to segregate students of the KIU on racial and sectarian grounds—it’s working for the rogue elements in secret agencies, especially sending disturbing SMSes, emails and phone calls. It’s also patronized by Assist. Prof. Manzoor Ali.

The Uks is said to be Freemason-like network—some colleagues claim that it sold the crockery, bed sheets and other home-used utensils in an auction on the premises of its offices last year, which were given by foreign donors to the Kashmir earthquake victims and internally displaced persons of Swat.

The said local media outlet is famous for its control over the local and KIU administrations—and has given employment to many of its people in both domains! Sources claim that the last two organizations are working as 'playback' singers so that no one doubts their so-called public image and sectarian bent of mind.

This is Pakistan in 2010, which history will never ever forget!

You may not believe but many people know that some of my relatives along with friends have been hired by the secret agencies who are being given ‘honorarium’ besides temporary jobs to help the rogue cult in its sinister plan to malign and scatter us before elimination—some have been brainwashed in this regard like members of terrorist groups! I’m really shocked. The lives and carriers of these trapped relatives could be destroyed if they fail to toe with them!

The cyber age miracle, however, has exposed the criminal minds. Soon they would face the laws for all the crimes they have committed so far. Those people, who remained silent due to their terror and God-like public image so far, would now come forward and present witnesses before courts of law. The criminals should face the law because they’re not the enemy of Pakistan only but the global community as well.

Those guys who read my blog, know that I’m left high and dry in Rawalpindi with my father, two brothers and a sister while my mother with a brother and sister are stranded in the disaster-hit Hunza (On January 4, 2010 landslide blocked the Hunza River in Attabad village and made an artificial dam). So, my poor sister, Hasina, is at a distance of three hours drive from my mother, and an 18-hour drive from us.

Anyhow, my father would reach Gilgit soon.

I talked to my mother on the phone today. She is having some eye problem which she had kept a secret from me until now. She had gone to the Tehsil Headquarter Hospital Gulmit. There she found only a doctor no medicines. It is a dilemma in a time when the government is claiming provision of relief to the over 25,000 landslide affected people of Gojal, upper Hunza. Leaders of different parties and groups are going to the affected area by air along brigades of journalists as a part of their media circus. But victims on the ground are crying for help. My poor mother is an example.

After the Attabad landslide, my native village Gulmit is being submerged in the dragon-like dam gradually. My valley is sinking and a guy is inviting me there! I’m not ready to sit in the sinking boat, man! Don’t worry; we’ll survive with the grace of the Almighty.

“I feel scared whenever I look down the valley from the higher area,” my mother cried on the phone. She has forgotten her personal pain but is feeling the duel pain of our family and valley at heart.

Although our home and land is yet faraway from the growing dam but my mother cries for the helpless people of my poor valley. It is quite natural for us, who were born in a valley, to fear water! The water in our valley is a natural disaster, therefore, it is more frightening for the residents. A relative has died when she heard that her brother’s shops had been engulfed by the rapidly increasing dam.

Many rural people are not aware of the romance of a sea, beach and the cold breeze coming from the faraway seawater. Terrorized people don't know how to enjoy life!

As usual, my father regularly goes to the Jamaatkhana, the worship place of Ismaili Muslims. It is the only place of spiritual fulfillment and social interaction for him in these difficult times when people change their path whenever they see any member of my family. It is the most challenging era in the history of my family.

My father brought this gentleman, from our area, for lunch yesterday. The elderly man talked about our sinking valley in a nostalgic way.

Shah Gul Hayat is a resident of Ayeenabad, the small but prosperous village that submerged in the dam along with its 40 houses. He is sad at the loss of his entire property, but still he has not forgotten to give an innocent smile. He said his wife was crying but he was trying to comfort her.

“I was the main landowner in our village,” he told me while relaxing on the sofa in our small drawing room. “I’ve lost everything except two cows.”

This was my first meeting with Mr. Hayat, 78. He never looked that old at all when I entered the room and looked at his face. Amazingly, his hairs are still dominantly black with no signs of baldness. But when he put his warm Hunza cap on his head, yes in May, and started walking towards the door, I realized that his face was not only deceiving people like me but his body as well! He could hardly walk. Only then he seemed over 80 years of age—like the Hunza Water, longevity is not a myth in today's Hunza!

At one point, he looked at my bald head and scattered untrimmed gray hairs and smiled (I’m in a sort of solitary confinement at our home after the attempts on my life and could not visit the hairdresser for the last two month). It gave me laughter! However, I forgot to tell him that the torturous atmosphere at my office had given me gray hairs while the baldness was a part of my inheritance.

“I’ve four sons, three daughters and 19 grandchildren,” he said. His eldest son is working as a driver in an embassy in Islamabad, with whom he stays currently. Another son has done his masters and is running a computer shop in Aliabad, Hunza. Two of his sons have also completed their MAs and are in search of jobs. His daughters and the on-job sons are married.

“One of my granddaughters is a doctor,” he proudly said.

The man known for his hardworking is now free and spends most of his time around the worship place, chatting about the situation of the devastating dam, which could burst in few days time. He wants to go back and see his sunken world but he could not as the Karakoram Highway (KKH) has totally been destroyed.

While talking about the rebuilding of the KKH in the affected region, I expressed my uncanny views. Despite our close relationship with China, I don’t agree with its "Confucius-based technology" which has failed us in our area. Two of Chinese-built bridges in Gulmit, one in Danyore had been collapsed while the third has sunken in the Hunza River before completion. “Engineers of the Pakistan Army have Western technology and it's more reliable,” I added.

“That is true,” my father agreed. “The road in Ganish area was built by our engineers, see, it is higher than the river and is so far safe.”

“I remember the huge blast of Chinese engineers during my school time in Gulmit,” I said. “The entire population of Shishkat was evacuated before the blast. And see what happened. The entire mountain got cracks and soon after completion of the road, rocks started falling down on the road, destroying it at the very beginning."

My father nodded silently.

"And, see, where they had built the sunken second bridge—in the area of landslide and avalanche,” I criticized.

Mr. Hayat was looking at us—the talkative father and son. So I turned towards our guest and asked him a question about his personal losses. I put a piece of paper and started writing down the details.

“I lost 200-kanal non-cultivated and 60-kanal cultivated land,” Mr. Hayat said. Whenever, I missed some point as he spoke in Brushaski, my father would explain it to me in Wakhi. The elderly man’s destroyed house complex had three bedrooms, five bathrooms, a kitchen, one store. There was a Brushaski and a Wakhi house as well. “It was worth Rs5,000,000 but now I’m living in a rented home in Rawalpindi.”

While talking about the details of his orchards and trees, he said in a gloomy voice that he had 130 apricot trees, 30 apples, 15 walnut, 10 cherry, 35 peach, 5 mulberry, and over 2,500 fruitless trees. He used to sell 300 bags of potatoes (100kg each) every season and produced 25 bags of wheat. “I used to earn Rs300,000 from potatoes and Rs80,000 from fruits every year,” he said.

Yes this year,
I thought, there would be nothing like this.

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