[Interview] Special interview with Hafiz-ur-Rehman, President PML-N Gilgit Baltistan
Interview conducted by Farhatullah Baig and Tariq Aziz
On March 17, 2014
Sost Today: First of all I would like to thank you on behalf of Sost Today for your valuable time, you have speared for this interview.
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: Bismillah-ir-Rahman ir-Rahim! Thank you very much for giving me a chance to convey my thoughts to people Gilgit-Baltistan through your platform.
Sost Today: So before we begin please give a brief introduction of your background. We would like to know about early life, before coming in politics and about schooling (Education).
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: I obtained my early education from a Govt school in Gilgit, after that I moved to Lahore where I contained my further education. I have done masters in Islamic studies from Lahore.
During my college life I took part in politics, but formally I started politics in 2003 after the assassination of Shadeed Saif ur Rehman on March 19, 2003. The party leadership and people of this constituency gave me the responsibility.
Since 2003 I went through various stages, contested in elections, was elected as advisor in assembly and also remained in opposition as well.
And then different situations happened within the party, after that party leadership appointed me as president of PML-N Gilgit Baltistan.
Sost Today: What did motivate/convince you to become a politician?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: I didn’t choose politics as profession. I came into politics accidently after the martyrdom of Shaheed Saif-ur-Rehman. At that time (in 2003) he was serving as sitting minister of Education, Finance and revenue. Even I was not member of this party. In 2003 PML-N leadership and the local people confer our family to continue. I contested in by-election for the first time in the same year.
Shaheed Saif-ur-Rehan had his own legacy and a whole team. I came back from Lahore after 13 years and was not much known in the area. Due to his services, fame, high performance and being his brother I got identity.
We are doing party politics not an individual politics, it may never end.
Sost Today: Tell us about your Ideology? What kind of ideology do you have/what kind of political system do you prefer?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: To be a realistic, I and my party value politics as worship. We have made in mistakes past, and we confess it. Best way to serve humanity is politics only. Without be a part of system, you can’t improve the system. In my opinion anyone is doing politics of ideas, principles and moral politics in the recent days; that will be the greatest worship.
I do politics to serve humanity and as worship, in Gilgit-Baltistan particularly politics is a Trailing, people come in politics on the basis of nationalism, sect, race and on regional basis. We are establishing a team, who can work for democratic system in Gilgit Baltistan. We want to create an association of political activist, so we can minimize the dissections on basis of sect, race, and regional divisions. We are keen make G-B as a nation in whole.
Sost Today: Saif ur-Rehaman Late (May Allah Rest his soul in peace) your elder brother was a notable leader of Gilgit Baltistan and he has many contribution for the people of GB. Tell us something about Saif’s political thinking about Gilgit Baltistan. And what have you learnt from Shaif ur-Rehman Late?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: He started politics in a very knotty circumstance, there were no-go areas in Gilgit, law and order situation was worst, front were rose in the city and people were begging vote on sectarian basis. In such sort of circumstance he started politics in 1994 with youth and begin struggle against these objective circumstances. He draws end to the fronts and no-go areas and integrated the people of GB.
During his time from 1994-2003 at least NA-2 was exemplary area in GB, it was peaceful area during those days.
He tried to change mindset and thoughts of the people, that is why we are inspired of his politics and people of the region are still remembering him.
He never used politics for his personal interest and to earn wealth. He always served people irrespective of colour, race and religion, he spoke for people. That is guiding principle for us and we are still following it.
Sost Today: Coming to the current scenario of Gilgit Baltistan, Are you satisfied with the present Government of Pakistan People’s Party PPP in Gilgit Baltistan?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: The party workers and CM Mehdi himself is not satisfied. They have disappointed us and all the people of GB.
Expectations were high after 2009. First time local Govt was formed, executive authorities were given to them. Betterment in health, education, communication and decline in unemployment were expected. These entire departments have been distrusted.
This is a democratic process; people elected them and they have proven their inability. Now in the coming elections people will decide that they have accepted their inability or not. Although it have proved many time in these five years.
Pir Karam Ali Shah has to leave his seat in his constituency, where he was winning since last 40 years. The guaranteed seat of PPP was seized there. After that in Skadu and Ghanche we defeat them in the both by-poll elections.
Anyhow the environment of general elections is different. If people again elect PPP, then it will be clear for us that people won’t merit, they want to continue corruption, they want continue divisions in the area. I am cent percent sure our inhabitants will never do this mistake again.
Sost Today: The previous federal Govt (PPP) has granted the autonomous status to Gilgit Baltistan, under the presidential order “Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009”. All the executive powers have now transferred to Chief Minister and we have our own governor. What is your opinion about this Order? What is the future of this bill? What is your Party’s stance about this bill?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: There not any drawback of Empowerment and Self Governance Order. It was a complete devolution of authority. Through that bill we got the control to run our day to day affairs in Gilgit, federal Govt has no concern with our day to day affairs.
The order and the transformation of the executive power is overall fine and I personally do encourage it. But the essential thing is its implementation. After that, the people who were liable to implement it have made the bill infamous due to their inability. Constitutions, rules, laws and other documents value nothing, until they are implemented. That’s all I have to say.
Sost Today: What part can the political parties play in resolving the sectarian conflicts in GB?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: First of all I would like to appeal the whole nation to actively participate in politics. Without making political parties strong, this dirt can’t be clean from the society. Here, the well-off people, people getting their salaries on time and those whose domestic conditions are suitable, they don’t come in politics. It is a tough profession, here one has to spent his own and have to serve others.
In my opinion the sectarian divisions, racial divisions, regional divisions and other traditional divisions can only be minimized with strong political structure. Our people themselves have to make political parties strong by electing right leaders.
There should be maximum participation of public in political parties, when the participation in politics will increase then the political parties will be enhanced and betterment can come through it.
I think; to reduce the ethnocentrism and sectarian conflicts, offer an alternate activity to the people and that alternate activity around the world is politics.
Sost Today: It is expected that the business between Pakistan and China will boost up in coming days, many agreements has been signed last year regarding Railway, Commerce, energy and technology. But since 2010 the business volume lowered due the blockage of KKH after the Attabad disaster. What kind step the Govt should take to re-establish business activities?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: You know the work on tunnels have now paced up. More than four years has passed, the Govt has wasted time. The Punjab Govt started Metro bus service in just nine months, we could not connect few kilometres of road this is a tragedy for us.
Now our federal Govt is paying attention toward this issue. PM Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif visited the site during his visit to Gilgit and gave special advice.
In the year 2015 they will complete the project and will handover to us. When this crisis will be solved, definitely the trade activates will be increased.
Many MoU’s has been signed between China and Pakistan. In the next coming five years China has to invest 50 billion PKR in Pakistan including 30 billion PKR in energy sector only. There will be additional activates through Sost Port; we are improving infrastructure and communication. And trying for some more bilateral agreements, so the people of the region can be benefited. You know Mian Sahab is very much committed to construct motorway from Gawadar to Khunjerav, the second mega project is railway track and the third most important project is to make the Seven Economical Zone here. Inshallah the business activates will be boost up in GB.
Sost Today: Briefly talking about the Attabad Disaster, you are greatly aware of the loses of lives, their homes and land. The govt claims that they have compensated the affectees. On the other hand the affectees are still demanding for damages. What do you say about this matter?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: The incident of Attabad was a natural disaster; due to the inability of the Govt it was doubled. It was a natural disaster, no one can protest it. It is a natural phenomenon. It was not managed well and the affected people were not assisted rightly by the authorities.
As far as our party is concern, we visited all the deceased families, Prime Minister himself visited Hunza that time. He grants 500,000 PKR to each deceased family, a cape of hundred trucks edible items was provided to them and he also gave a rehabilitation plan.
Inshallah we will work for their rehabilitation in the coming Govt.
Sost Today: What is your opinion about the political status of Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: I can’t say anything about this matter blindly. I think Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK and Indian occupied Kashmir are the issues of United Nation.
Our party, PML-N leadership has made a policy to bring closer the regional powers. At present the world is moving toward regional economy, so both countries India and Pakistan wants walk. It is expected some major developments regarding this issue. What could be those developments, I can’t disclose it now. I am hopeful it will be beneficial for Gilgit Baltistan.
Sost Today: People of GB are anxious due to wheat price. The federal Govt has withdrawn the wheat subsidy grant. What would like to say about this matter?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: There is subsidy on transportation of wheat, inclusive of that there is 60% subsidy on wheat. Wheat is cheaper than, the province where wheat is being produced. Wheat price other provinces is Rs. 7000 PKR per bag and in GB it is available in Rs. 1400 PKR, about 70 per cent less than other provinces of the country. It is impossible to reduce the price. If it was possible, I would have leaded this campaign.
Sost Today: The elections of Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly has to be held by the end of this year (2014). are you contesting in the Upcoming election?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: Obviously; we are the mainstream party of the country. Inshallah I will contest in the elections actively and the coming Govt will be of Nawaz Sharif’s soldiers in Gilgit Baltistan
Sost Today: How hopeful are you for your victory in the coming election?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: I am cent percent hopeful and have belief in Allah, Inshallah .
There is no choice for people of GB, there are only two mainstream parties PPP and PML-N. People will now give chance to PML-N the only choice and hope for the people of GB. If we could show our ability and performance in the coming time we will sustain, if not we will be rejected for the next time.
Sost Today: In your opinion what are the most challenging problems of Gilgit Baltistan?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: I my view, corruption, sectarian conflicts and bad-governance are the most challanging problems of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Sost Today: How can these problems solved? Have your party have set any strategies to solve those problems, you mentioned?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: This will be changed in future. PML-N’s Govt in Punjab is a best example for us. We have ruled there for five year, there are no corruption scandals, developments in Punjab are in front of us and our leadership in Punjab has made Lahore like Paris. There is good governance in Punjab.
So we don’t have to formulate any independent policies, we have leadership, guidelines and we are accountable to our leadership. We have to follow the visions of Nawaz Sharif and the formulas of Shehbaz Sharif.
Sost Today: what issues will you address or focus after coming in the Govt?
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: Our first priority is to improving Road infrastructure in Gilgit-Baltistan, second is energy infrastructure. Road and energy benefits all segments of society. We have to build inter-district links and with other parts of the country. We desire for more investment in hydro power sector; want to enhance tourism and mineral industry. There is a long list of priorities, but these are the few I have mentioned. In short our first priority is to boost up socio-economic activates in the region.
Sost Today: We wish our best of luck for the upcoming elections. Rehman Sahab would you like to convey any message to our readers.
Hafiz-ur-Rehman: First of all we have to unite the people of GB, bring them out from the mindset of sect, race and grouping. For that it’s important that people cast their vote on merit, if people elect leaders on merit then they will be able get employments on merit and if they elect on basis of sect and race then merit is impossible.
Come across the vision and the previous performances of the leaders (candidates) and their respective parties then elect them.
The future of GB is dazzling, Gilgit Baltistan is gateway to central Asian countries and its going to be an economic corridor in near future. Power center is going to establish here, the construction of Dimar-Basha dam and Bunji tunnel; I can see the future of GB brighter then Norway. If we provide 12,000 MW electricity to federal Govt, GB can earn 1.5 to 2 billion per annum. We have to work hard and come out of the dreams and irrational thinking; we have to improve our good governance, agriculture, economy and income.
Sost Today: In the end we would like to thank you again for your time.