All glory to nature for gifting magical beauty to the land of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). GB provides a complex cultural and geographical mosaic for travelers from around the globe, accentuated by topographical complexity, seasonal changes, and ethnic heterogeneity.
GB has a meager population of 1.4 million but, oddly, people with special pronunciation understand 10 different languages there. Urdu is, however, even within a radius of 10 kilometers, the lingua franca among various ethnic groups. Located on one of the highest mountain ranges in the country, this area is full of pastures, meadows and rocky peaks capped with snow.
Just this week, on a hiking mission, I toured the Gapa Valley in the Nagar district of GB and this was one of the most exhilarating encounters of my hiking life. It was as if nature was looking at me to remind me of the miseries visited on it by human beings elsewhere in GB by interference. Fortunately, so far, the Gapa Valley has not been overrun by humans with their lust for wealth and profit.
I have one recommendation for those who want to visit Gapa: please do not ruin the peacefulness of this land; it is not a testing ground for the filth we humans have created in other Pakistani tourist spots. GB is now transforming into a trash disposal ground that we humans create because of solely irresponsible social behavior. “Voyeuristic feelings cause many to visit this region more than a sense of adventure, stemming from the fabricated stories of easy mixing of opposite sexes,” says a local anthropologist in Hunza.
I entered a Japanese-funded school in Karimabad. Since eighteen years have passed and I had a chance to revisit Karimabad this summer and I was saddened to see the devastation heaped on this summer resort. Ancient Baltit renamed Karimabad, has now lost its luster and has become an unplanned summer transit camp for tourists.
In the middle of loud traffic and dust emitting dilapidated road infrastructure, the royal Baltit town has now become a dirty and crowded location where you experience claustrophobia.
The regular laboring and hard-working Hunzukutzs (people of Hunza) aspire to make a decent living just below the royal palace by economic landscape souvenirs to visitors, whilst the huge hoteliers are busy fleecing well-off tourists. Hunza is facing a serious crisis with a sense of misplaced confidence in the growth of a fraying social structure. Like every other unplanned and underdeveloped tourist destination in the country, Hunza is on the brink of being transformed into a vast concrete jungle driven by corruption and deception.
Hunza’s beautiful, friendly, and educated people are going to lose their land and social space to foreign financial greed and the invasion of their native capital by the hospitality industry’s tycoons, land grabbers, and tax evaders.
Compared to other cities in Gilgit-Baltistan, the total government expenditure on housing, schooling, health, and other basic social services is one of the lowest in the Hunza region. Even though it has a tremendous capacity to generate more than 20,000 megawatts of electricity from water supplies alone, the entire district is plunged into darkness for 16 hours a day with a serious power crisis.
Aliabad and Karimabad, the main towns in the Hunza district, are facing a serious water and power crisis, with around low investment from the state government.
A project was signed by the state some four years ago in Lower Hunza to create a 6-kilometer long blacktop road to link the Shinkai villages to the Karakorum Highway, but it has not yet been completed. A 500 KW micro-hydro power generation project was commissioned by the GB government in 2016 in the Mayoon village of Lower Hunza, but over the last three years, it has been a work-in-progress project.
These are now just a handful of examples. Because it does not provide any feasible chance to live a decent life, Hunza is no longer a preferred location for an ambitious young Huzukutz. The mass migration of young people from Hunza indicates that, in the long term, the promises made by development agencies to promote sustainable cognitive development and to invest in improving the standard of life have become untenable.
The tale of Hunza is indeed a sorrow of its human miseries, it also has a message for all of those who, in ecologically vulnerable regions such as Gilgit-Baltistan, claims to promote the protection of natural resources. There is plenty to be maintained beyond Hunza and it is the best time to understand this. To help local communities, tourism is not a harmful force; it is one of the most profitable economic ventures, but it needs to be handled and regulated with considerable responsibility.
The government should invest to minimize the ecological and sustainability cost of tourists and it must implement locally viable regulation to further protect people without compromising their indigenousness. Though Hunza is ravaged by unchecked tourism, other Gilgit-Baltistan valleys must be stopped from the following suit now. The natural capital in the valleys of Ghizar and Nagar is next in a row for being overwhelmed by visitors without control.
Due to their sentimental and backward-looking attitude to life, I was never truly fascinated by the poets of the Romantic period but let me admit that my last trip to the Hunza valley forced me to rethink my convictions. Many who have read Wordsworth’s poetry devoted to nature cannot resist romanticizing the world’s beauty beyond urban life. The perennial power of his genius to catch the subtleties of nature is what makes this great poet of romanticism important to our times. Despite the shortcomings of expression, and more so in the case of the English language, the genius of this great poet lies in his capacity to catch the best of creativity.
Ingenuity, though, is not a talented characteristic; it is bred and nurtured with clear creative interaction with nature’s environment.
If creativity is greater than words, therefore it takes language mastery to exploit it to convey emotions that cannot be captured in our mundane utterances. This needs nothing less than the genius of Wordsworth’s great poets. There are also several unsung literary geniuses who, though they were not born into the great civilizations of their day, lived and died unnoticed. There has been a tremendous talent for organic literary phrases in all languages and dialects of marginal cultures, far from the civil sensibilities of Europe.
To study the poetics of Imtiaz Ali Shaiki, will take a series of articles, but the gist of the meaning arising from his poetry of existence is simple: pleasure lies in being close to nature.
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