By Fazal Amin Beg
While serving the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) as a development researcher and consultant in 2009, besides other tasks I was also assigned an interesting and important study to explore social and political leadership and governance features at the grassroots level that to what extent a social worker or a person of the civil society could be effective in positively or productively contributing towards political sector in his or her concerned constituency. For this purpose, in-depth interviews of three respondents on their life history was taken from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral Region. The life histories allowed us to know that how the personalities of the respected political representatives evolved from the childhood to the present day and to what extent they could be effective in contributing towards social development by using his or her political makeup.
Three public representatives of their time at union council level were thus within the study loop: one each from Gilgit, Baltistan and Chitral region who shared their impressive and detailed biographies that clearly provide deep insights on the subject matter in addition with their perspectives on socio-political governance and development. Based on in-depth interview, I therefore share biography of Haji Hassan of Baltistan in addition with his perceptions and practical experiences on social and political governance and development in this publication.
I’m pretty sure that the readers will take keen interest to read through the different tides of the respondents and see it cross with their individual, collective and regional contexts as one can learn great inspirations and lessons out of the life long experiences of the key informants around different themes of overall societal and cultural development.
This study is based on the perceptions and experiences of Haji Hassan, a community cum political leader (elected representative), from Skardu district of Gilgit-Baltistan in order to explore the following facets: (1) motivation, plans, practices, achievements and challenges before and after being elected; and (2) perceptions of the constituency about the member, whether the elected member feels accountable to the voters or the V/WOs or whether he /she were caught up in the exploitative network of the system.
Haji Hassan,54, is from the Sermik village within Union Council (UC) Gol of Kharmang district (former Skardu district) of Baltistan Region. By profession, he is basically a farmer/contractor. He has nine children from two wives. He studied up to his matriculation level of education in 1970 from Skardu and joined Pakistan army for four years and quitted it later.
Hassan began his voluntary services from his childhood when he was in his school by helping/facilitating students in pencils and notebooks. After quitting the army, Hassan went to Kuwait in 1976 in pursuance of better employment. There his Kuwaiti employer gave him five visas so that he should invite five labors from his homeland. Hassan distributed the two visas to persons from Gilgit and Hunza, and three in Baltistan, and they did reach Kuwait. Multiplicity and chains of labor visas started for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. During his 23 years period in Kuwait, Hassan voluntarily helped different segments of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in Kuwait and within Gilgit-Baltistan.
Being a community leader, Hassan played a pivotal role and contributed in many fields as a social worker. His curial contributions in some development projects/fields are being recapped as follow: (1) establishment of Zubeda-Khaliq Memorial Free Hospital, Sermik, Skardu; (2) establishment of community school in the area; (3) formation of a reconciliation committee; (4)providing fuel to teachers in tuition center during winter; (5) LSO of the respective UC; (6) construction of water channel of the village; (7) creating linkage with the Ma’rifi Foundation (MF), which will assist the community in establishing a girls school; (8) providing ambulance service to the upper valley by bringing the patients down to the hospitals; and (9) taking initiative from his village, on experimental basis, in cultivating potato as the second seasonal cultivation crop after wheat.
Hassan’s high achievements he relates are reconciliation of a strong conflict between two villages (where some people were wounded also), establishment of the first ever communal hospital named as Zubed-Khaliq Memorial Hospital in Sermik; and establishment of the LSO in the area. Hassan is optimistic that in future the social work will increase as the LSO was established that would benefit the people.
Due to the social work, Hassan describes, one loses more in personal and familial capacity; although, on other hand, a social worker strengthens his/her interactional relationships with different categories of people and organizations at different levels.
Hassan specifies the following qualities for a leadership: (1) s/he should devote time for the public; (2) s/he should have no negative personal interests; (3) s/he should consider to satisfy one’s conscience and get God’s blessings; and (4) s/he should be tolerant if even a person abuses or accuses her/him.
Deciphering the challenges in the communal projects or assignments, Hassan says that motivating a person is the most difficult job for a social worker and for which s/he needs to take care not to be angry on the people. Hassan dealt the challenges with soft behavior by making the people understand about the benefits of the projects to the individuals, families and community and reaping the crops (benefits) even in the day-of-judgment.
A social worker faces (and would face) challenges like accusations of fund embezzlement or agent of any special organizations; but s/he would need to bear them until the people do not become well-educated. In this connection, Hassan approves effective accountability mechanism.
In 2000, the village community chose Hassan as chairman of the village council and he served therein for five years. In 2004, the community elected Hassan as a councilor of the UC Gol; and afterwards, the elected councilors selected him as Chairman of the UC. During his political period, he observed issues of and faced challenges of good governance in the public sector organizations as the UC members had no say in the bureaucracy and a nominal access to the financial resources for development (only Rs. 50,000/- per member per annum), percentages of different organizations in the nominal budget for the UC members and the like.
Hassan makes a distinction between social and political work. One can choose a social work according to one’s will (voluntarily without any remuneration) in different fields: for example, education or forestry or agriculture etcetera. But in political field, a person is bound to his supporters/voters to provide them schemes/projects; employ his or her relatives, provide contract to someone so that to get votes in the future. He prefers social work on political activities for the people by saying that the former has a spirit of human services, as one becomes selfless in the voluntarism and doesn’t expect for any personal benefits.
Hassan elaborates that he did not get any financial benefit rather lose because wherever he goes for meeting, he spends from his own pocket besides sparing his time. The funds he gets, he gives to his village community.
As an elected representative/political leader, Hassan succeeded in performing his due roles. Some of his achievements are as follow. (1) Settlement of a desolate land through a lift irrigation. (2) Managed to construct a link-road for the Das Foto, the Sadaat muhalla. (3) Brought a project of lift irrigation for Khoshal Thang through the Khoshal program. (4) Managed to construct a project of water channel for the entire Sermik. (4) Provided for the Zubeda-Khaliq Memorial Hospital Laboratory, Rs. 150,000/- (by convincing the three female political reps of the UC to spare their funds (Rs. 50,000/- per member) so that the equipment should be brought from abroad. (5) Pump was installed for the lift irrigation in the Thang area—spread over 800 kanal; (ii) a big channel was constructed; and a water reservoir was built and handed over. (7) a cradle bridge was given to the community so that if 800 or 1,000 kanals of land were settled, the people would then gain a big benefit from them. (8) A link road of 1½ km was constructed at the cost of Rs. 300,000/-. (9) Constructed a water channel; (10) a link road among three villages of Ali Mir, Hassanpa, Yuljuk were constructed. 35 houses the owners demolished themselves without any compensation; and the land for the approach-road was freed; (10) Constructed a water channel for Dongs. (11) Made maintenance of water channels and others. Besides, Hassan played his political role in the following real realm: (1) unified, for the first time (2004 to 2009) all the members of the UCs of Baltistan, formed and led an organization with the name of UC Executive Body; and (2) Convened and unified for the first time the chairmen of the UCs of entire Gilgit-Baltistan in Gilgit (center), discussed the union councilors genuine development issues and influenced the bureaucracy.
Hassan advises the youth: “If the youth want to come to politics, they should first get involved and apprentice as a social worker. If they haven’t the spirit of serving the humans rather they intend to get cheap fame from the politics, or earning money,they should feel mercy upon this country and region. “Already, our areas are in poor and backward condition. I appeal the youth of the entire Gilgit-Baltistan to perform like a social workers in any organization whether in politics, or in employment, or in contracts, or in any department,” he concludes.
This paper is about Haji Hasssan of Sermik, Gol Union Council (UC) in Skardu district of Baltistan in the Karakoram region. He is a community leader in the social sector and chairman of his UC in the political sector. The story revolves around Hassan’s perceptions and experience rooted in his society and discloses his motivation, plans, practices, achievements and challenges before and after being elected as a political representative.
The study is mainly divided into three parts. In the background as the first part, the paper provides Haji Hassan’s personal and familial information; in the second part, it discusses his contributions in the social sector; and the third part deals with his political pursuance and contributions in the society.
BACKGROUND: PERSONAL AND FAMILIAL INFORMATION
Haji Hassan (hereafter would be referred to as Hassan) was born in 1955 in Sermik village wihin Gol Union Council in Skardu district of Baltistan. He got his early education from his native village; and did his matriculation in 1970 from Skardu. He went to Karachi to continue his higher education; but in the meanwhile, there came up the Indo-Pak war in 1971 and Hassan got effected who became emotional and joined the Pak Army to fight the Indian army and gave up his college education. “I joined the army and spent four years in the military (1971-75).” But Hassan was not sent to the war zone as he had wished rather was under training. He was firstly sent to Skardu, which was the first unit of army in the then Northern Areas (now Gilgit-Baltistan again) with the name of 57-Punjab.
Hassan has 9 children out of his two wives. His first wife had passed way leaving behind four children. Hassan then got married again and from the second wife, he has five children. One of his sons, after doing his BA, is employed in an NGO called Red Crescent; and the second son could not continue his education after doing his matriculation and is also employed, however. His other children are getting education: some in colleges and some in schools.
Hassan had two brothers the elder brother had passed away; and the younger one is working still in Kuwait and has four children. Hassan has also uncles. His first uncle, named Haji Hyder, is the headman of the village; and his younger uncle, named Najaf, was in the Public Works Department (PWD) and recently retired from employment. Haji Sanah Ullah, a retired secretary of tourism, Gilgit-Baltistan, is Hassan’s maternal uncle.
CONTRIBUTIONS IN THE SOCIAL SECTOR
Helping Students during School Life
When Hassan was studying in his school, students of the villages above Sermik would come down to his village for getting education therein, and were facing different problems. From his childhood, he had a strong feeling for the helpless students who commuted from the far flung villages. “I would therefore try to accommodate them in my house; and provide them food”, he relates. If the students needed any book or pencil, he would help them. “The hardships faced by people and helping them were in my mind from the beginning”, Hassan adds.
Although, Hassan began his social activities in his school life but he is of the opinion that when he was 20 years old, he started serving in the social field. He thought that his area was very backward; and the people were poor. There was no industry in the region; while the people possessed little landholdings and more problems.
Continuing Social Activities in Kuwait
After quitting the army, Hassan went to Kuwait in 1976 in pursuance of his employment, “as at that time, salaries were very low in Pakistan and it was difficult for a person to subsist. I therefore thought to go abroad so that to earn more.” In Kuwait, he worked for one year and his Kuwaiti employer gave him five visas so that he should invite five labors from his region/country . He conceived the idea to distribute the visas on the regions in Gilgit-Balstian so that the people who would get to Kuwait later, they should call each other and work there. In this connection, Hassan gave the first visa to a person from Gilgit; the second visa to a person from Hunza named Murad. Rest of the three visas he gave to persons from different areas in Baltistan. “Those people came to Kuwait, and by the blessings of God, today because of those invited expatriates of our region, there are 3,500 peoples from Gilgit-Baltistan who do earn their living in Kuwait, Hassan describes delightedly.
Hassan spent almost 23 years in Kuwait (from 1976-1999); and continued his social activities in different ways. For instance, if someone had no employment, he would stay with Hassan, and latter arranged for their boarding and lodging. Or if in case, because of any legal issue, a person had to return from Kuwait, Hassan would assist him by providing the travel tickets and other expenses. “The people go to Kuwait for earning, but the money which I earned I spent on those people (from Gilgit-Baltistan), says Hassan. In case of a person’s death, he extended his support in arranging and meeting the expenses related with the corpse and managed to bring them to Pakistan, besides other expenses .
Supporting Patients by using his Vehicle as Ambulance
Rather than opting for any enterprise initiatives after returning from Kuwait, Hassan shared/used his earned amount of money from abroad on the development-related issues of his area, he describes. Whatsoever issues he observed, Hassan started becoming involved in them. In the area, there was the transportation problem and patients such as pregnant or expected-mothers or other patients were in a great trouble to be brought to nearby dispensaries or the headquarters hospital in Skardu. Hassan would therefore use his vehicle as an ambulance for the services of these patients.
Formation of the Reconciliation Committee
After a visit of the Aga Khan Reconciliation and Arbitration Board, in Gilgit (ten years before), Hassan formed a reconciliation committee and chose one member each from every village within his UC by giving representation to the religious clergy and notables also. “We are totally five in number in the committee. Hasan being the chairman is the head and there is no secretary rather two of the committee members record the statements of the disputants”, describes Hassan. The committee gives opportunity to the disputants to sit together and discuss with each other like brothers. “If you cannot come to any positive end, then we will reconcile between you”, the committee says to disputants. In this manner, many cases get resolved by themselves; and most of them are reconciled.
The cases among people varies by nature that includes disputes on land; related to the conjugal partners; on the trees/plants; on the roads/ways; and so on for which people approached, so far, Hassan and his committee members and they settled and performed their part in resolving those cases.
The community members nominated their members for the reconciliation committee for a period of five years keeping in view the following qualities that they should be: aged, considerate and whom the people could trust looking at their social contributions in dealing with the cases with justices/equity. For the difficult cases at broader level in future, “I will have to gather the notables at district level and involve them in the matters. But this stage has not reached by now”, adds Hassan.
The plaintiffs, who have complaints (cases), are required to write applications to the committee. The defenders (accused are called) and written taken from the disputants by saying that “If you wish to sit in our reconciliation, for that purpose whatsoever the committee decides (gives judgment) would be acceptable to you. If you do trust in us, you should write and give it to us,” Hassan says. The disputants have been doing so and giving their consent in written. One the basis of their written consent, the reconcilers do hear the disputants, deliberate seriously and resolve the issue(s).
Whatever decision therefore we have given, so far, no one has rejected it rather with happiness the disputants have accepted the decisions. For the womenfolk, no specific mechanism has been devised by now. Few cases pertaining to women do come up to the commitee. There is no such case of violence on women. However, if some women-related cases emerge that are settled through women themselves.
The geographical area of the reconciliation committee is confined to Sermik, Sheela and Kadikoh and not the entire Gol UC. People have made such type of committees in other parts of Baltistan whereby the issues are settled/resolved.
It is noteworthy that the police station is situated in Mehdiabad, 4 km from Sermik. There are almost eight to ten personnel along with an SHO (Station House Office). Besides Sermik, the people of other villages (Duru, Sheela and Kadi) are also not encouraged to go to the police station, rather are solved their problems with reconciliation.
Getting an Orphan Girl Married
Among all his social work, Hassan is very much satisfied when he performed like a father to an orphan girl and got her married by spending money from his personal pocket, and the villagers were also very impressed. The girl was from the Sheela village, above Sermik, belonged to the Purki tribe .
Construction of a house for a Poor Family
Hassan built a house for a poor nuclear family who lived in a type of hut like a chicken-farm. The man was living in that house along with his wife and two children. Looking at their worse condition, Hassan was upset and decided to construct a house for them because living them in such a condition was against the teaching and norms of Islam and humanity. “I therefore constructed a house of five rooms and handed that over to the family.” For such tasks, Hassan gets a spiritual satisfaction. “I realize that if one determines to carry out social activities, s/he can do enormous things. For this purpose, s/he doesn’t need any government or organization. If a man determines fully that I have to do this thing that gets completed by the blessings of God”, Hassan argues.
Providing Free Accommodation and Supervising the Students
Between 30-35 students of the three villages above Sermik called as Kadi Koh, Sheela and Duro are getting education in Sermik; and Hassan always gives them free residence/accommodation so that they should stay comfortably and get education. Hassan also cares for students so that they should not get detracted because their parents are not there. He therefore after two or three days, check their homework, too.
Facilitating Pregnant/Expected Mothers in Delivery
The villages above Sermik, situated on high altitude, receive heavy snowfalls in winter and the road gets blocked. Twice or thrice in such harsh climatic conditions, when there was snowfalls and blockage of the road, Hassan motivated two birth-attendants and carried them to the villages to deal with the pregnant mothers’ delivery. He stayed in the villages until there was no delivery. “After the delivered-mothers got relief from their pains, I got a spiritual satisfaction in saving the women’s life”, expresses Hassan. The women birth-attendants appreciated Hassan for taking interest in such sensitive problem; and the birth-attendants got encouragement to do such jobs ahead. Before this incidence, there was no custom that the birth-attendants walk on the snow and reach to the patients in helping or facilitating women in delivery.
Financial Assistance to Some Poor Families
When Hassan was in Kuwait, in his village there were four families whose father had passed away. At that time, there was great poverty in Baltistan. It was difficult for people to help them. Hassan therefore used to send continuously money to those families so that they could subsist. “To some I sent 3,000/- and to others 2,000; and they were not from my family rather from my village belonging to the Balti tribe”, Hassan describes. Besides, Hassan also assisted financially three students of his village while in Kuwait.
Achievement since 1999
All works are important that are done for the services of human beings. In 2008, there came up a strong conflict, a land dispute, between the two villages, Sermik and Kadikoh, and many people of the two villages were wounded. “Keeping in view my social contributions, both village peoples trusted me that whatever I will do, that will be acceptable to them. It was their greatness in trusting me; and I resolved the dispute, there came up peace, Hassan relates.
Hassan has his critical role in the establishment of the Zubeda-Khaliq Hospital is the biggest achievement for Hassan and community, because, as previously patients of Gilgit-Baltistan used to go to Islamabad; and neurosurgeons like Khaliq-uz Zaman would charges Rs. 80,000/- for one operation. Now, that surgeon himself besides other specialists come here and does free medical examination, surgeries and medication.
The second achievement Hassan thinks is the establishment of the LSO owing high expectations from it to be helpful in the socio-economic development of the people.
Construction of the Water Channel
Sermik has abundance of water and the land. “The VO Naghdirpa was not that much organized and active, and Hassan advised the people to construct the irrigation channel. For this purpose, some people had no money to fund the self-help project, and Hassan paid it from his own pocket by distributing Rs.25,000/- among them so that the people should also give their due shares in this project and should not step back. The people were organized and constructed the channel of almost 1 ½ or 2 km length (700 to 800 kanals). Almost, 60-65 households are the direct beneficiaries of the water channel project. The people have brought the land under irrigation, grown up trees, harvest the grasses.
It it to be noted that there was no link of the AKRSP with this organization before. After two or four years, the AKRSP came in the village; and this channel was shown to them as a model that the people constructed it through self-help. The appreciated the work and said: “AKRSP will cooperate with you.” Last year, this VO had an aforestation of almost 35,000 plants in Thang (Sermik) as they had done so before, too.
Contribution in the LSO’s Formation
Hassan has his significant role in the formation of the LSO of his area who spent four to five months of his crucial time and efforts in it. He went to each village and advised both men and women: “Remember you formed the VWOs; and if we bring them in a shape of institution, we can better function.” After preparing almost all people, Hassan submitted their application that the community wants to form an LSO. The AKRSP staff then supported the community in forming the Sermen LSO in Sermik Gol, which is now functional.
The villages and sub-villages under the LSO include Tasu, Yarkhor, Gamba Yarkhor, Yugu, Goma Yugu, Mankhor, Sitiyando, Sermik (Ali Mir, Hassanpa, Doms, Yuljo, Gronskil, Cowcar), and Duro (Brokhchat, Kadikoh, Sheela). The total population under this LSO is almost 11,000 individuals.
Meeting of the LSO’s Board of Directors takes place regularly, as Hassan himself is the chairman of the Board he involves people in the related states of affairs. But still it could not create any linkages. The directors struggle to make it better day by day in the future .
Disappointment/failure in Social Work
The barren/desolate land of Hassan’s area needed to be leveled and terraced and he has been endeavoring for it for a long time. For this purpose, he could not get any funding and is therefore disappointed. “I am worried that when the subsidy will be lifted by the government, the people of our region would then face a big crisis. We have water and land with us. If our people irrigate their lands having more terraces, this will make a subsistence to their earnings.” Each household has 2 to 4 kanals of land and if the land is developed and brought in use then instead of buying things from the market, the people would subsist on their lands.
The State of Social works in Future (five to ten years ahead)
Hassan envision that in future the social work will increase, as the LSO was established that would benefit the people. “It will be easy for me to continue my works through the forum of LSO,” and now the VWOs have also become more active than before, he adds.
Impacts of Social Work on Personal and Family Life
Due to the social work, one loses more in personal and familial capacity, describes Hassan. He further argues: “I’ll tell you about a fact of today. While you people invited me for this interview here in Gilgit, there was the road’s tender of my village. If I were there, I would have certainly obtained that contract of work; and being a contractor, I could had saved Rs. Rs. 400,000 or 500,000 for me. But I preferred this interview on that (contract), because this is social work. You can better guess that how it effects my personal life and economy.”
Another example Hassan quotes as follows. “In 2007, there was a wedding of a poor girl and at any cost I had to participate in that wedding. On that day, there was also the wedlock of my daughter and I could not participate in it, as I preferred the poor girl’s marriage upon my daughter.” Personally, there is no benefit out of these social activities, except that one’s conscience is satisfied. In addition, people give a lot of respect that “I am a social worker and I share their sorrows and happiness”, add Hassan.
Qualities of a Good Social Worker
According to Hassan, a good social worker should have the following qualities: (1) should devote time for the public; (2) no negative personal interests; (3) should consider to satisfy one’s conscience and get God’s blessings; (4) should be tolerant if even a person abuses or accuses her/him.
Challenge faced during the Implementation of Development Projects
Motivating a person is the most difficult job for a social worker and for which one has to take care that he (social worker) should not be angry on the people, rather inculcate the issues to them. When the hospital project was being carried out, three persons of a village were opposing it who did not perceiving the benefits; and therefore didn’t take part in the communal laboring. By accident, there was delivery an opponent’s daughter-in-law who encountered a big challenge. Hassan took a Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) to deal with the issue. The man (opponent) realized and got motivated that her daughter-in-law needed to be taken to the hospital, and he himself later then started convincing other people for this purpose. “Allah, the Almighty, helps us for the good works”, Hassan illustrates. If three persons do not come for social work (in the community), they would spoil further three. Convincing a person is therefore the most difficult part to tell them that they have to labor for the entire day by taking the shovels, carrying the bricks/stones, mixing the cement and clay and so on.
Hassan dealt the challenges with soft behavior by making the people understand about the benefits of the projects to the individuals, family and in the day of judgment. Hassan talks about six girls who had to be sent to Islamabad for getting nursing training for this hospital. The family members were reluctant, having cultural reservations, that how could they send their girls alone to Islamabad? It was therefore a difficult to motivate and make them understand about their daughters’ safety, hostel accommodation and so on. But we finally made them understand and they did participate. Now, other girls, observing the six girls, are encouraged and are able to decide to go to any part of Pakistan.
Future Challenges for Social Workers
Day by day the challenges would come up for social workers. For instance, s/he could be accused of fund embezzlement or agent of so and so organization. Such kinds of blame the social workers would face, but they would need to bear them until the people do not become well-educated. The people, however, also need to understand that s/he is a social worker who is sparing his time and other resources, leaving aside his family and family affairs for their community’s sake.
For a social worker/activist, Ssocial accountability is imperative. Hassan relates that last time when he constructed a small house and handed that over to the respective family, he was accused of embezzling the money. The people thought Hassan had obtained Rs. 300,000 or 250,000; but there was, of course, the accountability factor in Hassan’s mind. Hassan describes: “I took five persons of the village, drove to Skardu with the pretext of having an excursion and reached in the office of the Deputy Commissioner (DC). Hassan then asked the DC: “Sir, how much money you had given to me for the construction of that house?” He replied: “Rs. 35,000/;. So and so contributed five thousand rupees each; and 15,000 you contributed for from your pocket.” The people got satisfied and trusted Hassan.
Previously, there was no system of audit and accountability in the organizations. Now, these tasks are carried out in the VWOs, Hassan argues. The LSO has also a system of accountability through its board of directors and the general body members.
Effects of Social Work on the Domestic Engagements
Relations are like a web within a household and society and it shows that how one give sacrifice in the house and society. Keeping a balance between them becomes a big challenge, especially when one is engaged with social activities. He or she cannot give time to his/her house; and the house suffers to a considerable extent.
Hassan says that he has not been able to spare time for his children and to teach them. If any of his family member is sick, he cannot take them to the hospital because sometimes he is in Sheela, sometimes in Duru or sometimes in Skardu, thus his family suffers because of his social work. “But my children and my wife have realized that I am a social worker; and they need to deal with the domestic affairs themselves,” Hassan relates.
Influence on the decision of the Local Government
In 2008, a program with the name of DERA was brought in the area in which 1.5 million rupees per constituency had to be given (at NA Council level). The deputy commissioner of Skardu was going to divide the fund at UC level which would result either Rs. 200,000 or Rs. 250,000/- per UC. Hassan therefore proposed the deputy commissioner not to opt for it in that manner, rather grant the fund to a backward village within the district as on that much amount of money in the constituency, the people could effectively accomplish a tangible project instead of Rs. 200,000 or 250,000. The DCOs accepted the proposal and divided the fund per constituency. In short, “Rs. 1.5 million of my constituency, I thus gave to the Gultari UC to construct a water channel. Such small opportunities do come before us to influence the decision of the local government”, Hassan argues.
Another DERA program had come, too, in the area. It was decided to give to the NA Council. Hassan requested the DC that NA Council is a big organization. “If you give it to the reps of the grassroots, they can then address their small development issues. The DC did accept it in the District Advisory Board (DAB) by saying that being a social worker, Hassan rightly suggested. That was thus given to the reps at the grassroots level .
Motivation for Social Work
Hassan has been sensitive towards the needy people from his childhood in his school life. He was interested to help, in one way or the other, the children in the school. His father was the trampa, headman, of his village. “Questions would come in my mind that why my clothes were relatively better than others, as my fellows’ clothes were torn out. Why God, the Almighty, has created such a difference between me and others? We ought to be equal, being human”, he says. He felt it strongly and that is why he argues, he could not take part in sports, he comments.
With the course of life, the motivation for the social work increased. Hassan further thought: “When God has created the human beings, s/he has not been created under any particular religion. S/he was created to serve the human beings. I think that serving the creatures of the creator is a meditation. This is in my mind and I work; and have no personal or no political interest. When I serve someone, I get a spiritual satisfaction. Each night, I thank God, the Almighty for providing me the opportunity in performing the social work,” he elaborates.
CONTRIBUTIONS IN POLITICAL SECTOR
Motivations for coming in Political Field
When Hassan returned from Kuwait in 1999, after one year (2000), a new system with the name of Village Council (VC) was introduced. For this VC, instead of election, there was a selection. The village community nominated Hassan for this VC keeping in view his social work. He therefore served the VC as chairman for five years. In 2004, the people emphasized Hassan to take part in the local body election on the basis of his services in the VC. The community had expectation from him to working sincerely in this field also. “The people nominated me for the councillorship despite the fact that I had not requested anyone for this purpose; and there was no any election campaign; but I was elected as member of the UC. There were three other candidates against me from Sermik and they were defeated“, Hassan states. Being a social worker, Hassan was supported and he won the election with a high margin . Afterwards, the elected members of UC chose Hassan as Chairman of the UC.
Distinction between Social and Political Work
There is a big difference between social and political work. Hassan is of the opinion that in social work, one can choose an area according to one’s will to work in a specific line: for example, education or forestry or agriculture etcetera. But in political field, a person is bound before his supporters. “You have to give schemes/projects to them. Or they may force you to give them such projects in their area. “In social activities, you can work independently; but in political sector you can not do like that”, adds Hassan.
The social activities are carried out voluntarily and one cannot expect for any remuneration or vote or any benefit. While in the political field, a person would desire to employ his or her relatives, provide contract to someone so that to get votes in the future. But being a social worker, one won’t see such types of things. If a political representative is a social worker, s/he can bring the funds and power in use for the social activities. Exemplifying himself Hassan says: “if I carry a resolution to the Chief Secretary that this village doesn’t have a primary school so kindly provide a primary school. It then becomes both a social and political work which joins both these fields.” One can also utilize that power for negative politics, or for someone’s employment, or for someone’s contract by telling the secretary: “I have so and so persons, so please provide him the contract.” Therefore, if you want to join the political field, the political activist/representative should be a social worker.
A political worker cannot become a social worker because he is focused on politics. But a social worker can become a good political worker/representative if a person with social work experience can overlap both fields together and could become more effective in political and social sectors. But a person with only political background can never become an effective social worker because he will always look for power politics.
Political Affiliation and Challenges
Hassan claims that he has no affiliated with any political party rather he does work as a social worker even in the political field. But a group of people disagrees with Hassan for his apolitical stance. They say, Hassan is politically affiliated with Haji Fida Muhammad Nashad of PML-Q. Most of the members in the union council, however, consider him as a social worker, he claims. Hassan justifies that he was attached with Fida Muhammad Nashad of Baltistan for the development projects and not for the political reasons. He says: “Nashad has been a member of my constituency in the NA Legislative Assembly; and being a social (and political) worker, I had to get benefits from him for my area and community.”
“The public understand these days that what I want to do or how I want to do? I would need to go to different villages and tell the people that I have no political aim and have no concern with any political party, rather am a social worker and will serve them as a social worker”, Hassan describes. Going to the community, Hassan plans to tell the people: The fund I’ll get from the district council, I would bring that in use for the community. For this purpose, being the public, I need to cooperate with me,” says Hassan. He would therefore need to assure the people and ensure that the community takes into accounts his social work, he says. Last time while Hassan served the UC, the community as a reference needs to check the records that how he did distribut the funds; and he would tell it to them house by house.
Future Plan to contest Election
Hassan is planning to take part in the upcoming election. “If I decided, I would contest, as my village community wish and recommend me to contest the district council election. The people view that Hassan served nicely at the UC level and did equity in distribution of the funds.
There is also another motivating factor for Hassan to contest the upcoming election. At UC level, a member gets only Rs. 50,000/ per annum and one cannot construct even a culvert on this much amount of fund as the prices of different items has reached to its height, these days. The peoples’ demand is very high and the funding limit very low. The village community that elected Hassan, for them Hassan has to give them the projects/funding. Other villages also expect Hassan, being a chairman, to provide them the funding, which becomes impossible as there are 12 members (in the council) to whom the chairman UC has to give Rs. 50,000/- per annum per member.
Comparatively, in the district council, a councilor gets at least Rs. 800,000 to one million per annum; and one can carry out some small level projects in the area, says Hassan. “I therefore think that instead of UC, I should contest for the district councillorship”, he adds.
Hassan envisions that there could come up pressures from some political forces, in one way or other, to join or assist their parties; but he is determined to face them. “I would need to divert the peoples’ mind towards the social activities. If I joined any party, I would be bound. I therefore will contest as an independent candidate because I am a social worker,” reveals Hassan. “If the people want to vote for me, it is their will and kindness; if they didn’t, doesn’t matter, but I won’t like to be part of any political party”, he reiterates.
Benefits of Political Work
Hassan elaborates that there is no financial benefit rather loss for him because wherever he goes for meeting, he spends from his own pocket besides sparing his time. The funds he get, he gives that to his village community composed on five tribes/clans. Turn by turn, he therefore gathers the five clans and knows their planning for development. They say, for instance, “We need road,” Hassan gives the fund to them for this purpose. The community under, the project leader, take part in the project. Hassan says: “They eat the fund or spend on the project, I have no concern with that.” Conversely, he then describes again: “I check and supervise at the end that whether or not they have completed the work according to the quality. Personally, there is no benefit for me or for my family or for any of my friends,” Hassan repeats.
Mechanism for project: The community/clans members, make a mechanism, project committee of five members, that choose a project leader that so and so will be the project manager; so and so will be the member of the project. This committee completes the project. The money, which is saved from the project, is utilized for the community’s need. The laboring the community does is free of cost (voluntary).
Role of VWO in the project projects: The five clans, narrated above, are also the five VWOs, and five sub-villages within Sermik as the VWOs are on the basis of clans . The president is the project leader, other four are the members. The people work through these forms of VWOs. The money they save, they put it in the VWOs so that to address their collective need such as pots or utensils for the wedding, or the tents or to spend on the maintenance of the water channel..As there are five VOs or sub-villages or clans in the village, Hassan gave the funds to them accordingly. The people are satisfied that Hassan distributed the funds with equity.
Preference for People: A Social Worker, Political Activist or an Elected Representative
Hassan prefers social work on political activities for the people by saying that the former has a spirit of human services; and one is selfless in social field and doesn’t expect that there would be so an so benefits for him/her ahead.
Achievements in Political Field
Hassan formally served in the political field for the last one decade. During his tenures, he performed his role adequately and achieved in many respects. Some of his achievements for the last five years, in collaboration with the stakeholders, as he highlights, could be mentioned as follow. (1) Led settling a desolate land through a lift irrigation. (2) Managed to construct a link-road for the Das Foto, the Sadaat muhalla. (3) Brought a project of lift irrigation for Khoshal Thang through the Khoshal program. (4) Managed to construct a project of water channel for the entire Sermik. (4) Provided for the Zubeda-Khaliq Memorial Hospital Laboratory, Rs. 150,000/- (by convincing the three female political reps of the UC to spare their funds (Rs. 50,000/- per member) so that the equipment should be brought from abroad. (6) Unified, for the first (2004 to 2009) all the members of the UCs of Baltistan; made and led an organization with the name of UC Executive Body . (7) Convened and unified for the first time the chairmen of the UCs of entire Gilgit-Baltistan in Gilgit and presented the problems of the UCs before them and the government .
The Idea for convening and uniting the UC Chairmen
In the Gilgit-Baltistan, there are 201 UCs . Neither a deputy commissioner nor the Chief Secretary could approach all the UC chairmen and it is difficult. Hassan thought that why shouldn’t there be an executive body in which there should be only three or four persons who would put forward the issues of all the UCs.
Benefits of Political Activities
After formation of and unification of the UC forum, the government’s top officials started hearing the UC chairmen, otherwise no UC issues were heard at the level of secretaries.
Good Qualities of an Elected Representative
The important qualities of an elected representative, Hassan specifies, are as follow. S/he should go to the people of her/his constituency, ask them what their needs are? If s/he funds the area according to his will and wish, s/he may not be termed as the elected representative. Second, s/he should know about her/his area and the area’s need: for example, people of his area lack in education, weak in agriculture, lacks employment etcetera. These are issues s/he needs to study and come to represent his constituency.
Accountability of an Elected Representative
Hassan thinks that there may not be accountability of a representative at the UC level as a councilor a nominal fund. On the other, when a member of GBLA comes to power, the fund doesn’t come directly in his hand rather s/he can only identify the projects and presents them in the Annual Development Fund (ADP). The project is then directly tendered from the PWD. However, there could be a kind of accountability. To illustrate, in terms of population, Danyor is big population area, and the representative, belonging to Oshkand Das, has 15 million rupees of the fund and s/he gives it to the Oshakand Das area affiliation; while to Danyor s/he gives only Rs. 50,000/-. This could be a point before us; but the money doesn’t come directly in the hands the assembly members.
Approaches of identifying the Projects
In Gilgit-Baltistan, the representatives, who have come in power so far, have themselves made or identified the projects. Ideally, it should come from the peoples of the villages keeping in view their needs: “I haven’t seen any rep until now who could do so. As far as I am concerned, I had five years’ period and five clans/VOs in my village. I gathered and asked for their needs and recommendations then worked accordingly,” says Hassan.
Challenges and Threats to the UC Members and the Community
Although, UC or other elected members face enormous challenges during its tenure, but one of them is noteworthy in line with the projects approval and the aftermath effects such as contracting the projects and paying the percentages to the public sector organizations. instead of contracting the development projects to the contractors, it would be appropriate and very efficient if they are being carried out through the social institutions such the VWOs or LSOs. A real case could be presented hereunder as an example.
When we take the case of Azad Kashmir before us in relation with the earthquake’s destruction, Hassan argues, one can observe that damages to the properties in the region were mostly the government buildings. The reason behind was the contracted work through the public sector contractors. If building/construction projects are carried out through the VOs, or any community forum, the community would be very careful, and they would not opt for a weakly constructed building for their children, rather they would be cautious in utilizing materials with qualities. If the official ratio, or example, for mixing the building materials are 1:3, the community would use 1:2 of the materials because their children have to get education therein. If the money, for instance, is saved out of such project, the community would keep that for their developmental activities and use that for the channel maintenance, roads and so on. But a public sector contractor is within the government’s system. There is a percentage with the PWD officials like the Ex. En. (Executive Engineers) , Road Engineer (RE) or overseers, or the account section, and all of these people could compromise on the qualities of project delivery.
Percentages/Commissions in Development Funds: There is no written evidence but a councilor has to give a certain percentage to the PWD. For example, the 3% to the Ex. En, which may not be a bribe, Hassan argues. A contractor has to hire an engineer of his own but that engineer is not available with him. The tasks of that engineer are therefore taken from the related public sector organization. In terms of remuneration, they (the officials) charge 2% or 3% of the budget. Ex. En has 3%, RE has 2%, overseer has 2%, and the accounts’ people have2%. When the reps of these public sector organizations visit the project site, 5% of the project fund is allocated for their travel, food and accommodation expenses until the project gets completed. The contractor then has to save money for him, too. In such circumstances, the contractor would not perform his task properly.
Instead of giving the project to the contractor, the projects therefore should be given to the VWOs or to the LSOs. The work would certainly be carried out fairly with quality, because there is an involvement of the community. And if some money gets saved from the project, that will be spent further for the area’s development. This system would be more appropriate, effective and efficient than tendering the projects to the contractors, Hassan advocates.
Accountability of Union Councilor
There has not remained accountability of the UC councilor until now and should be made in the coming days. One way of doing it could be so that the UC member should present his/her report in the general body of LSOs. Another way could be so, Hassan adds. For example, if I have gotten Rs. 50,000, I should go to the people and ask them that where should I invest the amount of money? Where is the people’s need? Do they think that I should invest it on education, or on agriculture or road-infrastructure? Keeping in view the public demand, if the councilors invest the fund, this is an accountability also. A councilor should give the funds directly in the hands of the community. A union councilor is supposed to appoint a project leader; and the latter has to perform the tasks with his group. If the project leader is president of the VO and there are four members in the committee, the development fund should be handed over to them. The Secretary LGRD can directly take accounts from them or vice versa. However, an effective, long lasting, interdependent and transparent accountability mechanism is necessary to be devised.
Legislative implications in Funding the LSOs
There is a legislative implication that funding cannot be made to the LSO or VO directly. The procedure is that a project leader is selected. The project leader is responsible before the Secretary, the engineer and project manager. Therefore, an amendment in the laws is required.
Opposed to the public sector organization, in the social sector, there is a system of accountability. For instance, if any organization gives Rs. 500,000/- to any VWOs, all people of the sub-village and community know it that there was Rs 500,000. They therefore have to give the details that where was that invested? What kinds of materials were bought? The accounts are presented before the entire public in which there could not be any hanky-panky. Possibly, a slight difference could be there. Unfortunately, in the public sector organizations, such transparency doesn’t exist. “For instance, at the district or UC level, a project of Rs. 50,000/- I put under a bathroom project, and I appoint/nominate a project leader. That project leader would use small quantity of cement in that and will use more soil. He will give (as bribe) Rs. 1,000/- to the engineer, and the engineer will be silent and wont say anything on the project. Then I’ll give Rs. 5000/- to the Secretary, he’ll be silent. I will give Rs. 2,000 to other key persons related with the project, they will be silent. The project is thus complete in the paper but not on the ground, and that is all. While in the social institutions, such practices would hardly be found. The community would try their best to complete the project within its time frame in transparent way and the tangible results could be seen.
Future Plans as the UC Chairman
In different gathering, Hassan emphasizes people that the talented youngsters should come towards the cottage industry. They should get training, get initiation in enterprises in groups, if it becomes difficult at individual level. But mostly the people respond that “We have not the seed money or have no training to start with and therefore cannot come to this field.” Hassan has encouraged enormous people towards the agriculture and many youths came towards this sector. But because of division of population and scanty of lands/plots, it has also become insufficient. Hassan’s plan therefore is focused on two areas: (1) to help people establish the cottage industry in the region; and (2) those not interested with enterprise, bring them towards agricultural field, provided Hassan could get any funding for the land dressings/leveling and give them agricultural trainings.
Lack of Power and Authority
It is to be noted that no matter if a person is a chairman of the UC, the bureaucrats would not hear him, even a clerk of education department is not ready to hear his voice, leave aside other officers. This is the power reality of a representative at the grassroots level, says Hasssan. A bureaucrat would say: “What will the chairman or councilor at UC or district level do to me? The councilors cannot harm them and at last they would make a complaint against them. In contrast, people in the bureaucracy can fear from a member of the legislative assembly who could transfer them.
Hassan quotes an example in this regard by saying that: “Many times, we did go to government education department taking the complaints against the teachers that they didn’t attend or teach in the schools.” But these officials just cheated them by responding: “Well, we’ll take action against them, but nothing happened in the aftermath.” Hassan further supplements: “We go twice or thrice, then becoming fed up. We leave it that we haven’t any voice before them.” Such genuine issues are there at least in our context, at the level of the entire Gilgit-Baltistan.
Hassan says that they (the councilors) expect much more from the GBLA member who have been elected recently. “We do have enormous expectations that they would work properly. They should work effectively and with good faith.” At the same time, loses his expectations when he is retrospective. “But when we see the experience of the past, we are disappointed and fear that lest we won’t benefit from new members of GBLA, as we had the assembly in the past as well.” The previous members did not do any legislation, which was their basic task, rather all of them pursued the contactors and spent/wasted their time in the PWD.
Spending 23 years of his life abroad, Hassan is inspired by the governance system of other countries who refers towards them at the end and says: “The governance system in the foreign countries is very transparent. An ordinary citizen has easy access to their president of the state; and the president responds the question of his citizen thinking it as his obligation to satisfy the him. When we compare that with our country or political and public sector organizations, we feel embarrassed. We need to struggle if we can have such transparency in the government”, Hassan thus concludes his detailed views on social and political governance.
Conclusion and Message to the Youth
Hassan conveys his profound message candidly by saying: “If the youth want to come to politics, they should first get involved and apprentice as a social worker who are supposed to serve that the humans. If they haven’t the spirit of serving the people rather they intend to get cheap fame from the politics, or earning money, then For God’s sake! You should feel mercy upon this country and your region. Already, our areas are in poor and backward condition. I appeal to the youth of the entire Gilgit-Baltistan to perform as social workers in any organization whether in politics, or in employment, or in contracts, or in any department.”
Thanks to the informant for sharing his invaluable life experiences and perspectives on governance and development. my gratefulness goes to AKRSP (especially Dr. Nazir Ahmad, Manager, Policy Dialogue and Partnership) for contracting this interesting assignmen to me in consultancy. I’m equally grateful to my kind friend Abdul Rahman Posh for his facilitation in joining me during the data collection.