People in Gilgit-Baltistan suffer amid COVID-19 outbreak

Gilgit, June 4 — : People in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan are facing severe threats in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak as lack of medical facilities and food shortages add to their woes.

The region bordering China’s Xinjiang province has already reported over 800 coronavirus cases but has no medical infrastructure to deal with the crisis.

Sources reveal that Gilgit-Baltistan has only two old model ventilators and it has not received any medical aid and supplies from Pakistan to deal with the situation.

Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza, a human rights activist from PoK tweeted, “Only two ventilators available in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan and China have started the construction of USD 14 billion Diamer-Basha Dam today. This clearly shows that the Pakistani military or civil governments do not care about our people.”

The occupied territory has been facing lockdown for over two months and lack of planning and supplies of essential commodities is making people upset.

The shopkeepers, hoteliers and other small businesses in the region are facing an acute crisis.

Mohammad Bakar Mehedi, a lawyer based in Astore, said: “The spread of coronavirus has led to widespread unemployment in Gilgit-Baltistan. There is no system in place to address the grievances. Inflation has skyrocketed. The government has not been proactive. They have issued deadlines till 5 pm in some cases. Does coronavirus not transmit after 5 pm?”

He added: “They (government) receive funds and donations, but they use those funds for their own purpose and not for the welfare of people. However, they do not realise that it is the people who have mandated them to power and position. I hereby request the authorities to pay attention to this region, which was already deprived of rights. Now with coronavirus, the unemployment has grown massively.”

Gilgit-Baltistan is under Pakistan’s forceful occupation where the government hardly cares about their concerns. Despite having a surge in COVID-19 cases, no sense of urgency has been shown by those sitting in Islamabad.

A record low number of testing in the region with a population of 15 lakh not only reflects Pakistani intent for the region but also raises an alarm for the number of casualties the region could report in coming times.