Dimming Women’s Safety: Escalating Waves of Social Crimes in Gilgit-Baltistan

By Rehmat Alam

Gilgit-Baltistan has long been renowned for its natural beauty and the hospitable nature of its people towards tourists and guests. It has maintained one of the lowest crime rates among regions administered by Pakistan and has been considered a safe space for women. However, these attributes are gradually being reversed, with the region now exhibiting signs of becoming a hyper-patriarchal crime zone. Within a span of just one and a half months, a 13-year-old girl was abducted from Gilgit, and a 19-year-old girl from Yasin was murdered in Danyor, Gilgit.

One month ago a class 6th student Falak Noor aged 13 was abducted from Sultanabad Gilgit. Falak Noor’s father, a daily wage worker, went to the police station to report her missing, but the police refused, citing the accused’s ties to a powerful mafia group. The mafia had threatened the parents and attempted to dissuade them from filing a case. The news quickly spread on social media, sparking concern and garnering support from civil society and activists nationwide. The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) diaspora and activists staged protests at major press clubs in Pakistan, highlighting the issue and questioning the government and law enforcement agencies’ negligence. Under pressure, the GB Police Department issued a press release stating that an FIR had been registered against the accused and that police search teams were actively working to locate them. Following the police press release, a video surfaced on social media featuring Falak Noor, claiming to be 17 years old. She stated that she had voluntarily gone with a boy of her choice and got engaged at a court in Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, her age in the official records, such as the FORM B and school records, is 13 years old. According to Pakistani law, she is a minor, and her consent is not valid; she must be returned to her parents.

In the latest developments, the GB High Court has ordered the police to present Falak Noor and all the accused individuals before the court on April 5, 2024. Furthermore, the accused have lodged a petition against this order in the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan. Another video message from the girl was circulated after the court’s order, where she reiterated her previous claims and denied that the video was coerced or scripted. She also accused her father of lying. This case draws parallels with the case of Karachi’s Dua Zehra, where she was similarly compelled to make video statements.

In another case, Anara, a 19-year-old girl from Yasin, went missing from her hostel in Danyor, Gilgit, one month ago and was later found murdered. Her body was discovered on the bank of the Gilgit River near Danyor a week earlier. Despite her parents registering a missing person report on March 5, 2024, they accuse the police of not cooperating with them. The parents of both girls are desperately seeking justice, yet our society is divided, focusing more on assigning blame than seeking justice. This reflects a recurring patriarchal mindset that justifies crimes by blaming women, their families, and their religious affiliations. Our activism has become selective and biased, and the GB Government and law enforcement agencies in Gilgit have failed in their duty, demonstrating a cruel and pathetic performance throughout.

We must unite our voices to seek justice for the victims and their families. The GB government should immediately establish an independent judicial investigation commission to thoroughly investigate both cases and ensure that all culprits, including any involved police officials, are strongly punished for their heinous crimes. Concrete steps must be taken to formulate a robust social safety policy for women, ensuring a safe and healthy environment for them in all aspects of life. As a society, we must reassess our approach and behavior towards victims of social crimes, particularly women. It’s crucial to remember that activism should transcend all social affiliations and be solely for the cause of humanity, equality, and liberty.

The contributor is an M.Phil Scholar at PIDE, Islamabad. 

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