Karakuram Highway is the lifeline for people of Gilgit – Baltistan. Everyday thousands of local people, businessmen and tourists travel on this route using public, private and personal vehicles. Essential food items, life saving drugs, merchandise, construction materials and goods related to other aspects of life are transported through the Karakuram Highway, on daily basis.
Safety on the KKH has remained a major issue since its construction. Landslides, rain, snow and, above these, sleepy drivers are some of the recurrent natural processes that play havoc with lives of the commuters. Social elements that have caused serious damage to the lives and property of commuters are sectarian vengeance, robberies/dacoitries, and protests, among others.
Most of us shall remember the time when many innocent human beings were butchered, in Diamir district, during the Shia-Sunni riots that errpupted after a sectarian attack on Jalal Abad village, in Gilgit. The demographic attributes of communities living across the length of KKH make it dangerously vulnerable to such target attacks. It is encouraging, though, to note that there has been a considerable decline in the frequency of robberies on this routes because of greater sensitization efforts by the government, different NGOs and political leaders.
Very recently a bus of NATCO came under attack in Abbot Abad. Reportedly dozens of youth pelted stones on the bus and manhandled commuters, the conductor and driver of this bus. Apparently most of the commuters were Jawans of Pakistan Army.
This incident points very strongly towards our region’s vulnerability to events that are not directly relevant in our region’s political context. Viable solutions are required if lives and property of the commuters is to be protected from social, as well as natural causes. While enforcing law and mass sensitization of those living on both sides of the KKH can improve the social issues there is a need to carefully deliberate and plan on the different ways that can decrease the natural causes.
A KKH specific police force – on the lines of Motorway Police, is one of the many options. This force should be unique in the sense that it shall be equipped and trained to provide first aid, to rescue passengers in case of accidents and to safeguard the lives and properties of the commuters.