Apr 13, 2020

Coronavirus: Gilgit-Baltistan an Epicenter

The unrepresented people of Gilgit-Baltistan have expressed serious concerns regarding the battle against COVID-19. Amid a surge in cases, the territory struggles with poor healthcare infrastructure and is ill-equipped to tackle the pandemic, as it lacks testing laboratories, medical staff, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits and ventilators. Since 1947, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been marginalized from effective governance structures and do not enjoy constitutional rights in any country. As a result, their ability to tackle the pandemic is limited. Local activists have acused Pakistan of not giving the region its share of aid received from the U.S., the World Bank and Asian Development bank (ADB) to fight COVID-19.

Below is an article published by Devdiscourse

Lack of coronavirus testing laboratories, medical staff, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit Baltistan are causes of major concern, say political activists even as the pandemic is set to flare up in the region. Already, 215 positive coronavirus cases have been reported from Gilgit Baltistan whereas 34 infections from the deadly virus are reported in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

The region, which has poor healthcare infrastructure is ill-equipped to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak. Dr. Misfar Hasan, a political activist from Pakistan occupied Kashmir, told ANI, "There are many more issues arising, the doctors are there without protective equipment, there are no ventilators and no other support. A large population has been left at risk as there does not seem to be any strategy."

He added, "The same is the situation in Gilgit Baltistan as there are only a few ventilators and no trained doctors who can manage the seriously ill". The region is under Pakistan's illegal occupation since 1947 and during this difficult time, Islamabad has left them in the lurch.

There are no reliable doctors and good hospitals in POK and Gilgit Baltistan. Sajjad Raja, Chairman of National Equality Party JKGBL said, "Hospitals there are only the referral centers. Patients who go to hospitals are just referred to Rawalpindi for treatment. According to government statistics, the total population is over four million and there are only two ventilators in whole PoK".

He added, "Pakistan plunders trillions of rupees from PoK and Gilgit Baltistan - foreign exchange, electricity, waters, minerals, and forestry resources and in return, the total budget of PoK was only Rs 121.05 billion and Gilgit Baltistan was Rs 62.95 billion". Political leaders from PoK and Gilgit Baltistan have accused Pakistan of not giving the region its share of aid received from the U.S., World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) to fight COVID-19.

Many political leaders from PoK and Gilgit Baltistan have praised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for initiatives taken to tackle the pandemic in the country, including Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Senge Hasnan Sering, director of U.S.-based Institute of Gilgit Baltistan Studies said, "PM Imran Khan's failed policies is turning occupied Gilgit Baltistan into the epicenter of China Virus. Despite GB lacks equipment and supplies to deal with suspected patients, Pakistan's regime is deliberately moving the Iran-returned pilgrims to GB without screening. This is putting extra burden on GB authorities."

He added, "I salute PM Modi for ensuring that people get food ration at doorsteps at very low and affordable prices. Now, wheat per kg will be available at Rs 2 instead of Rs 27. He has introduced an impressive amount of money as life insurance for medical staff and paramedics which is commendable". Senge told ANI, "He has also announced a moratorium on interest payments to give relief to those who have lost jobs or have no income to make payments on mortgages. Pakistan could follow PM Modi in this regard and give relief to citizens".

In Pakistan, the COVID-19 cases have sharply increased to 4,892 and the death toll reached 78, officials said on Saturday. (ANI)


Photo by Qasim Shah