When the news of the Kohistan carnage came out there was shock and sadness across Gilgit – Baltistan, but there was also a sense of fear among the people. “What will happen now?”, was a question frequently being asked. Many people were of the view that another wave of violence will erupt in the form of tit-for-tat killings. The fear was not completely unfounded because the killing spree unleashed after the martyrdom of prominent Shia scholar, Agha Ziauddin Rizvi, was fresh in the minds of the people. On that fateful 8th day of January 2005, around 17 people of different sects had been killed in the streets of Gilgit.
With that history in mind, there was a fear of backlash in the small mountain city of Gilgit, when 16 dead bodies were offloaded an Army chopper. A large number of people had gathered and slogans were raised and tears shed. Heart wrenching scenes of grief and misery brought tears to the eyes of everyone.
The next day over thirty thousand people gathered in Gilgit city to pay homage to the murdered passengers and protest the heinous crime against humanity. There was anger during the funeral prayers and slogans were raised against the establishment, the federal government, terrorists and the Gilgit – Baltistan government. The anger, however, did not turn into outright violence. The political and religious leaders of the Shia community deserve appreciation for maintaining their cool and tolerating the irreparable loss, while protesting peacefully in line with the laws.
The people of Nagar Valley, a sub-division of the Hunza – Nagar district, did more than peaceful protests. They, in reality, set an inspirational example for the rest of Gilgit – Baltistan to follow; an example of compassion, humanity and tolerance, in accordance with our region’s religious, cultural and social ethos.
According to details published in many papers, several dozens of Kohistani laborers were busy working on the Karakuram Highway expansion project in different parts of Nagar Valley, a hundred percent Shia dominated region, when the news of Kohistan carnage came out. There were fears that these innocent people belonging to the Sunni sect might be in danger because of what had happened to Shia passengers in the Sunni dominated Kohistan region.
The reaction of the leaders of Nagar Valley was completely and pleasantly different, however. Despite of learning that 9 out of the 16 people brutally murdered in Kohistan belonged to different parts of their valley, the Nagarkutz took responsibility for safety of the Kohistani and Chilasi laborers. The laborers were gathered and taken into safe custody, several local newspapers reported, and later handed over to the police officials for being safely returned to their homes.
This timely act of kindness, compassion, understanding and wisdom has inspired hundreds of thousands of people across Gilgit – Baltistan and other parts of the world. Had the elders of Nagar not taken such a decision, the issue may have been further complicated due to some reaction in the charged environment. The people of Nagar Valley deserve congratulations and appreciation for taking this brave step and giving a strong hope for the future of our region.
If the terrorists wanted to fan sectarian violence in the region, they have apparently failed. The people of Nagar Valley, Gilgit and Diamer, by exhibiting a true understanding of the faith of Islam and teachings of humanity, have defeated the terrorists, with compassion and wisdom.
If the message and gesture of the people of Nagar valley is understood and acted upon, there is no reason for our region to suffer from vicious cycles of violence.