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Why Baltistan is the safest place in Pakistan

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PUBLISHED
November 06, 2022


LAHORE:

Drastic progress has been made across the world in the past two centuries, in terms of education, technology and economy. Despite their struggle with issues that negatively impact society, developed economies have been at the forefront of this advancement. For instance, in 2022, the crime rate per 1,000 people in the UK was 79.2. According to Russell Contreras, the justice and race reporter at Axios, 387.8 violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery) per 100,000 inhabitants in the US were reported, in the same year.

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Even with generally high literacy rates and enormous financial, technical and human resources, the world’s leading nations have been unable to significantly reduce crime rate. So although it seems implausible that there exists a region with almost zero crime rate, an anomaly does exist, and that too in a developing country such as ours.

Located in northern Pakistan, Baltistan boasts of beautiful valleys and mountains including the famous K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Comprising Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang and Ghanche, Baltistan’s total area is 31,000 km2 and the population is 303,214. During 2009-2021, negligible crime rate was reported here. In Ghanche, that has a population of 160,000, no crime was reported during 2007-2017. “The crime rate here is quite negligible,” confirms chief of police Jan Muhammad in Nisar Ali’s report in the April 14, 2021 edition of Arab News. Ghanche has not seen an armed robbery or serious crime such as murder in the past decade and the last reported murder took place some 15 years ago.

Baltistan isn’t coincidentally a safe region. It’s because of some particular factors that this region gets to enjoy its safe-place reputation. A number of psychological theories may be used to explain why the crime rate is low in Baltistan.

History and geography

Since centuries, Baltistan comprises small, independent valley states connected by blood relations of its rulers or rajas, trade, common beliefs, and cultural and linguistic bonds. During the 14th century, Muslim scholars from Kashmir crossed Baltistan’s mountainous terrain to spread Islam. By the end of the 17th century, the Noorbakhshi Sufi order and the Shia Islamic faith became dominant. The Twelver Shia Muslims comprise over 90% of the Skardu’s population, while the Noorbakhshis make the majority in Khaplu. Religious ideology and cultural traditions are strong among the tight knit communities of Baltistan comprising mainly of Twelver Shia Islamic and Sufi Noorbakhshi backgrounds, with a minor presence of Sunni Muslims.

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Landlocked between two mighty mountain ranges such as the Himalayas and Karakorum, the region is only open to the outer world for three months in summer. In the 1960s, with the construction of a jeep road and subsequently better road infrastructure, the region saw a major exposure to the outside world and an influx of domestic and international tourists.

Rich Balti culture

The Baltis enjoy a rich culture of sword, broqchhos, yakkha and ghazal dances. When a raja gets married, the sneopa, a marriage-procession dance is performed by pachones or twelve wazirs who accompany the bride.

Indigenous to the Karakoram region, polo is the traditional and a popular sport in Baltistan since the 15th century. The Maqpon rulers introduced it to other valleys during conquests beyond Gilgit and Chitral. A polo competition is regularly held in Baltistan, which reinforces the comunities’ social bond.

Balti architecture has Tibetan and Mughal influences, while its monastic architecture reflects the Buddhist imprint, so Buddhist-style wall paintings adorn forts and Sufi khanqahs. Buddhism is known for tolerance and Sufi and Shia Islamic ideologies are known to be pluralistic and inclusive in their non-violent attitude towards other sects and religions.

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A common cultural heritage can nurture and strengthen friendships, enable communities to celebrate their heritage, and provides a safe way to discuss and solve social problems (BetterTogether, 2001). This is how the Baltis have built their social capital, unique ethnic identity, group cohesion and social bonds.

 

Social bond theory

Travis Hirschi’s social bond theory is a major paradigm in criminology. According to this theory, individuals form social bonds in formal or informal groups, based on attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief. This way they control their behaviour when temptation to become involved in criminal activities arises. Strong identification of natives in social groups helps people to hold a strong belief in their social moral system. This ensures a civilised society where the community as a whole adheres to and safeguards social standards.

The Baltis’ unique ethnic identity and geographical isolation is conducive for them to form strong bonds with family members, relatives and friends. According to Abbas (2021), if someone finds cash, a bag, or a lost wallet in Ghanche, an advertisement is put up or an announcement is made in the mosque to ensure that the lost property is returned to the owner promptly. Often, people leave their homes and shops unlocked because there is no concept of robbery or theft.

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Social identity theory

The inclination to not indulge in criminal activities can also be explained by the Social Identity Theory, according to which, collective or social identity is a source of norms of conformity or deviance. A strong belief in the social moral system enables the people of Baltistan to strictly adhere to the norms of conformity so there is a low tendency to engage in deviant behaviour. The harsh terrain and climate reinforce their religious ideology, and the smaller size of their population, and the valley-based community system reinforces their commitment to ethnic and cultural norms.

Basic values and moral foundation theories

Shalom H. Schwartz’s theory of basic values may also be used to explain the low crime rate in Baltistan. Schwartz emphasises the value of conformity to avoid all such behaviours that could harm others and violate norms). A social structure and environment of basic values motivates individuals to behave in a manner approved by their social group and reflects in their behaviours, such as the tendency among the Baltis to refrain from criminal activities. The Shia and Sufi clerics in Baltistan have particularly played a key role in character building of their communities.

Despite some pockets of socio-economic poverty, generally, the Baltis are not greedy by nature and are content with what they have. The value of benevolence-concern for social welfare points at not only their tendency to avoid causing any harm to their community or region, but also to take care of the mountaineers and tourists who visit their region.

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Similarly, the moral foundation theory explains the role of moral foundations common across communities and nations. The five moral foundations are: harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity.

People of Baltistan have a strong identification with their region and its unique culture. They consider all inhabitants of their region as their ingroup. Crime always has a victim and, therefore, engaging in crime would tantamount to negatively affecting the ingroup and it would question the ingroup loyalty of the person committing the crime. In the case of Baltistan, we can posit that because of the relatively smaller-sized population, people mostly identify with the same ingroup (i.e., Balti or Shia Muslims) and are stronger on the ingroup/loyalty foundation. This loyalty towards other members of the society acts as a deterrent for crime.

 

Negative external impact

Baltistan’s low crime rate makes it a brilliant case study to address increasing crime rate not only in the country as well as in other parts of the world. But the fact that the peaceful region is being negatively impacted by external forces must also be taken into consideration. Tourists visiting Baltistan to appreciate its beauty, also bring with them values and behaviours foreign to the Balti population and consequently the low crime rate in Baltistan may be difficult to sustain owing to frequent exposure to non-Balti cultures and visitors. A longitudinal analysis of the impact of tourism on crime rate pattern in Baltistan can be empirically investigated by future researchers.

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In order to safeguard the tremendous tourist potential of this beautiful region from the negative external impact, policy makers and law enforcers should pay attention to mitigate the adverse external influences on the region even if it requires novel intervention. Let Baltistan enjoy its reputation of being the safest place to be, a heaven on earth.

 

Seher Zareen and Muhammad Adbullah are PhD students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Jawad Syed is a professor of organisational behavior and leadership at the same university. All information and facts provided are the sole responsibility of the writers.

 

 

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Pakistan

Imran’s right of defence struck out in defamation case

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ISLAMABAD:

Additional District Judge Lahore Chaudhry Muhammad Asif struck out the right of defence of former prime minister since concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff were not submitted on Thursday.

“This court has been left with no option except to strike out the right of defence of the defendant (Imran Khan) in this case due to non-submission of requisite replies by the defendant regarding concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff. So, the right of defence of the defendant is hereby struck out in this case accordingly,” the order stated.

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The court asked the plaintiff to submit a list of witnesses on November 29.

It has been learned that the court has so far conducted 78 hearings of the case.

The order stated that the counsel for the defendant submitted an application for adjournment on the ground that the defendant was going to file a revised petition against the order of the court regarding the dismissal of concerned objections of the defendant.

Also read: ‘No objections’ to Imran’s helicopter landing at Parade Ground: GHQ

“From the perusal of record, it reveals that various reasonable opportunities have been provided to defendant to submit the requisite replies to concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff but the defendant has not done the needful,” it stated.

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“Vide previous order dated 17.11.2022, one more opportunity was granted to the defendant in this regard with the clarification that in case of submission of requisite replies from the defendant’s side regarding concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff on the next date, the right of defence of the defendant shall be struck out. No lawful justification exits for the grant of further adjournment,” it added.

The court rejected the adjournment plea of Imran’s counsel.

According to details, the defamation suit states that Imran started uttering false and malicious statements against the plaintiff (Shehbaz) that the latter offered Rs10 billion to the former through a common friend in exchange of withdrawing the case of Panama Papers pending before the Supreme Court (SC).

Also read: President Alvi in Lahore to consult Imran over COAS appointment

​​​It pleads that the baseless and defamatory statements by the defendant widely circulated by media lowered the integrity of the plaintiff and caused him extreme mental torture, agony and anxiety. The court has been requested to issue a decree for recovery of Rs 10 billion as compensation for the publication of defamatory content in favour of the plaintiff.

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In his written statement, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief states that one of his friends told him that someone known to him and also the Sharif family approached him with an offer to pay billions of rupees if he could convince him to stop pursuing the Panama Papers case.

Imran says that he disclosed the incident for the consumption of the public at large and in the interest of the public good does not constitute any defamation.





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Pakistan to send armed helicopter unit to UN peacekeeping mission

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UNITED NATIONS:

Pakistan and Bangladesh will each be sending an armed helicopter unit to the UN peacekeeping operations in Mali, which faces serious problems as several countries have withdrawn or announced plans to pull out their personnel, a UN spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Farhan Haq said that India will supply a utility helicopter unit to the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, and all three are expected to be deployed by March next year.

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“These provide much-needed support to our forces and are critical for early warning and rapid response to protect civilians,” the spokesman told reporters at the regular noon briefing at the UN headquarters in New York.

“The UN continues to discuss with member states the deployment of new assets and plans to fill longer-standing gaps in addition to those resulting from recent announcements” of withdrawals, he said.

Set up in 2013, MINUSMA has 17,622 personnel helping the Malian government combat terrorists operating in the country.

MINUSMA is one of the deadliest operations having claimed the lives of 292 peacekeepers.

France completed its withdrawal earlier this year and it was followed by Egypt in August.

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Germany said that it was withdrawing its personnel, who numbered 595 in the latest UN roster, from MINUSMA by May next year.

Also read: Who is country’s new army chief Asim Munir?

Britain is also pulling out its 249 personnel.

Ivory Coast also said that it would discontinue the participation of its personnel, who numbered 898, in MINUSMA when the current deployment ends because of a separate dispute with the Mali government over the arrest of its soldiers who went there on a mission unconnected to the UN.

Despite the dangerous nature of the Minusma, Pakistani military doctors serving in Mopti, a town in the fifth administrative region of Mali. have continued to serve, earning praise for their work. They operate a state-of-the-art hospital staffed with 75 medical personnel, including 10 women and 65 men, according to the UN.

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The hospital operates 24 hours a day, every day, and they are always on alert. All specialities are covered, from pharmacy to gynaecology. However, its main purpose is to perform life-saving and urgent surgery when peacekeepers are injured, it was pointed out.





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Imran urges ‘all Pakistanis to participate’ in PTI long march

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Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday urged all Pakistanis to participate in his party’s much-hyped long march on Saturday (Nov26) in what appears to be his final showdown with the incumbent government to force it to announce early election date.

“Dear Pakistanis, I want all of you to participate in our haqeeqi long march in Pindi at 1pm on Saturday,” he said in a short video statement.

Imran, who was removed from power through a vote of no confidence in April, said that only a nation which has justice in it will get real freedom. “When there is justice, there are rights. When there are rights, a nation is free. Only an independent nation is prosperous,” he went on to say.

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Read more: Interior ministry warns PTI of threats, urges postponing Pindi march

The former premier said that the nation will not stay silent until it gets real freedom. “I am coming for you despite my [health] condition and all of you need to come to Pindi for me,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, senior PTI leader Asad Umar presided over a meeting regarding the party’s preparation for the long march in Rawalpindi. Senior PTI leadership including Umar Ayub, Shibli Faraz, Ali Nawaz and others participated in the meeting.

The meeting discussed the overall preparations for the long march in Rawalpindi. The security plan, long march route and other significant matters came under discussion during the meeting.

The meeting was briefed that a caravan had left from Karachi for Rawalpindi whereas two others were ready to begin their journey to the garrison city from Quetta and Gilgit-Baltistan.

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A briefing was also given in the meeting regarding the accommodation of the participants.

Issues regarding the provision of all basic needs including food and accommodation to the participants of the march were also discussed in the meeting.

“The nation is fully united and eager to achieve real freedom,” Umar said, adding that the party would welcome caravans from all over Pakistan in Rawalpindi.

“The captain [Imran Khan] will lead the ocean of people in Rawalpindi on November 26,” he further said.





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