Aisha Jehangir Khan
In the land where people and animals drink water from the same wells, there is a region which does not even have that privilege, as there are not enough safe fresh water wells for people and cattle to share the drops of survival.
Still, the area is marred by another problem. The volatile Gilgit Baltistan (GB) region’s main city Gilgit is yet again engulfed in sectarian bloodshed. Sectarian violence has been spreading in the region since the late 1980s. The calculated killing of 18 innocent people in Harban Nala in Kohistan is the final straw. The horrific way the passengers were identified, taken out and killed reminds me of the Bosnian war of 1991, when Muslim men and boys were similarly segregated and done away with. A similar pattern can be seen in Baluchistan. A question arises at this point: are we allowing Pakistan to passively drown in its own blood?
The people of Gilgit are used to witnessing systematic violence. However, although the hostility usually takes place in Gilgit, the repercussions are spreading widely elsewhere. While section 144, a law from the British colonial era forbidding public gatherings, is imposed in GB and a three day curfew is there to maintain law and order, the life of the most active city in the region will come to a standstill for days possibly weeks to come. People are exasperated and there has already been a fierce outcry over the possible elimination of the wheat subsidy. The Attabad lake spillway poses a possible threat to different parts of GB; we cannot afford for carnage to disturb the peace and tranquillity of this northern heaven. There is neither piety nor triumph in killing another Muslim, the sooner we realise it the better.
In the civilised world, human life is sacred. It doesn’t seem to be the case in Pakistan. The youth of Gilgit Baltistan are educated and broad-minded. It is time they reject the hatred their fathers and elders have carried throughout decades and it is upon their shoulders to finally end this vicious circle of violence.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s prompt condemnation of the horrific killing is a good omen. There couldn’t be a better time to install the promised CCTVs in the five-mile radius of Gilgit, which would greatly improve the movements of civilians and allow law enforcement agencies to better curb violence. Religious and community leaders should come out together and show solidarity in the wake of the tragic killings and the people of the region belonging to both Ahle Tashi as well as Ahle Sunnah should unite. We vitally need our Federal Government to take strict notice of the latest wave of violence. It is time the people of GB vehemently reject aggression in all forms and passionately break the cycle of violence that is harming us all, our children and our future. We are at a loss, nobody else.
The contributor is a human rights activist hailing from Diamer District of Gilgit – Baltistan. She can be reached at email@example.com