At least three people have been killed in Gilgit city and two injured during the past few days, while a passenger bus was robbed and torched in Diamir district last week. No arrests have been made, so far, in these cases. The only action, as reported by a segment of the press, was suspension of some police constables over charges of ‘negligence’, in a firing incident near Ramzan hotel, that had injured two laborers belonging to Pukhtoonkhwa province.
As if following a macabre pattern, mysterious forces jump into action each time there is some major political activity in the region. Currently the political atmosphere is charged in the post – package environment, with majority of the people rejecting the package as incomplete or deceptive. Such a reaction might have surprised those able men of letters who drafted the “autonomy package”, which virtually hands over the region to an unelected governor and a heavy weight council, instead of the elected assembly.
The movement for policital and administrative rights of Hunza is also in full swing and the action committee has announced a comprehensive plan of action, including a long march to Gilgit city and a protest demonstration in front of the chief secretary’s office. If these two steps fail, they plan to announce boycott of the elections and then, if their demands are not met still, they have threatened the government with a civil disobedience movement. Some people have even gone farther, by threatening a movement for restoration of the state of Hunza, if justice is not done.
Unexplained target killings, a robbery and torching of a bus, in this situation may lead to the assumption that some forces don’t want active participation of the citizens in affairs of their society in Gilgit – Baltistan. Random target killings or mysterious firing incidents have sparked fear and retaliation in the past, leading to major sectarian clashes. Such clashes have the power to freeze life in the city, while also completely diverting attention from other issues.
It is hoped that the government is vigilently observing elements who want destabiltiy in the region. Torching a bus belongning to a Balti in Chilas has the potential to fan suspicion and mistrust, on regional as well as sectarian lines, leading to violence. That the communities have acted sensibly is a welcome sign of changed realities. People seem to be more aware of the schemes that act to pit one sect against the other each time some degree of unanimity is visible on regional issues.
The leaders of Sunni and Shia communities deserve appreciation for leading their people wisely and keeping them calm and united. The bureaucracy, as a matter of duty, needs to bring the culpirts to the court of justice to finish mistrust and resentment among the local communities. That’s the only way forward.