Suicide incidents in Gilgit-Baltistan have reached an alarming level


Humera Ali

Ghizer District of Gilgit-Baltistan is facing a major social challenge. A recent trend of suicide attempts has worried people of the area. The area, well-known for its high literacy rate, looks helpless in the wake of the serial suicide attempts, to which the youth of 14 to 25 years of age has proved to be the most vulnerable. According to police officials, 10 cases of suicide have been reported from the district in the month of May only. The rise in suicide rate is getting worse day-by-day.

According to statistics, 300 youth including girls and boys ended their lives since 2000. Before 2000, suicide incidents did occur in Ghizer, but not at alarming level. Later, after the media frequently reported the events, the issue grabbed attention of people. Initially, greater numbers of women were victims but later, men also started to end the lights of their lives. In the month of May, majority of the victims were youth and women, which is the matter of concern at larger level.

The issue is not just limited to Ghizer but entire Gilgit-Baltistan has been affected by this challenging trend. According to mass media reports, from 2005 to 2011, as many as 340 women ended their lives across GB. This figure is of those cases which have been reported but there are so many unnoticed cases which are kept hidden by the families.

Israr-ud-Din, Coordinator Human Rights Commission of Pakistan for Gilgit-Baltistan while expressing his concerns over the issue said that the grass-root causes of suicide incidents varied from case to case. However, after deep studies and group dissections, the diagnosed reasons behind suicide incidents were depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and schizophrenia.

Further, he said that the external factors leading to these psychological illnesses were poverty, unemployment, physical harassment, sexual harassment, war, domestic violence, relationship disputes, drug addiction, early child marriages, academic pressure and honour killings. While clarifying honour killings, he said that in most of the GB regions such as in district Diamer, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) observed that people kill their daughters in the name of honour and register them as suicides.

According to statistics of HRCP Gilgit office, the average month reports of crime in the name of honour received from the entire region were five and in 2015, a total of 50 cases of honour killing were registered.

Israr further said that the situation was an evidence of failure of social institutes and governance. On one hand, governance moving towards decline was leading to unemployment, over population and economic disparity instead of peace, progress and prosperity. While, on the on the other hand, he added, social institutes never bothered to guide youth on circumstances of life within a specific society.

Moreover, he said that there was a loophole in the law, such as a suicide case or honour killing incident could not be investigated until the case is reported by a family member of the victim. He suggested that suicide and honour killings should be declared as crime against society and should be treated accordingly.

While talking about the actions taken by GB Assembly and government, the coordinator HRCP GB said that a resolution was passed by Member GB Assembly Rani Atiqa over the issue, as a result of which the speaker had taken action and set up a committee of selected members of the House. The committee was headed by Minister of Law Iqbal while Minister of Tourism Fida Khan, members of Assembly Rani Atiqa, Nawaz Khan Naji and Raja Jahanzaib were the members, he added.

Further, he said that soon after conversation with stakeholders on the preventions of suicides in Ghizer and GB as a whole, the committee came up with certain policies and recommendations. Two of the most important recommendations, he said, were to setup a group of experts from variety of disciplines such as psychologists, politicians, social activists, health experts and police officials for in-depth research of the causes of suicides. Secondly, if any mishap happens in any area, the police should take quick action otherwise; the officials would be fired from their positions by the order of the chief minister.

Moreover, he said that the policies contained a strategy according to which an active help line would be developed to be operated by a psychologist so that he or she listens to the psycho-social problems of the people and guide them. As implementation of the policy, Israr said, the District Headquarters Hospital, Gahkuch has been provided with a psychologist.

Suicide incidents can be reduced up to larger level but cannot be ended overnight. Measures can be taken individually as well as collectively. At individual level, one should try to identify the symptoms of suicide in the effected person and should help him or her to recover from mental illness. But, the major role can be played by the society. If there will be peace, love and freedom of expression and more importantly, the element of acceptance in the society for one another, such society can never be victim of any sort of societal issue.

A family should have friendly environment where children can share any kind of problems with their elders without hesitation. Similarly, parents should spend ample time with their children and should teach them how to live a successful life? How relationships are made and how they can be maintained? What to do when any sort of conflict arises in any kind of relationship? These important lessons cannot be learned from a computer, mobile phone or from any other technology. It is the sole responsibility of parents to prepare their children to handle any kind of issues at any time in life.

Moreover, youth at the same time should understand that they have been sent to the earth as ambassadors of peace and prosperity. They are on a mission and are supposed to accomplish it. Our national poet Allama Iqbal in his poetry has used the titles of falcons and eagles for youth. He says that when an eagle’s spirit awakens in a youth’s heart, it sees its luminous goals beyond the starry heavens. Life is a one-time offer so we must use it to the fullest.The Nation blogs