Gilgit calm, unrest in Skardu
9 January 2005
Islamabad: Gilgit was tense but calm on Sunday as troops patrolled streets of the city which was hit by widespread violence following a terrorist attack on Saturday on a top prayer leader. However, reports of unrest were received from Baltistan and hundreds of angry people burned tyres and blocked roads in Skardu, the capital of the area. Security was stepped up in Hunza where a group of youths attacked the offices of an assistant commissioner in Aliabad. The offices, it may be mentioned, were ransacked and set on fire during last June's curriculum-related violence. The area has been cut off from Gilgit and the Sost-border posts, sources told Dawn on Sunday. Meanwhile, Agha Ziauddin Rizvi, the prayer leader of the central Imamia Mosque, and one of his guards, who were injured in the Gilgit attack, were shifted to Islamabad in a military helicopter on Sunday. They have been admitted to the Combined Military Hospital in Rawalpindi. Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat confirmed that Agha Rizvi had been admitted to the CMH and his condition was stable. At least 15 people, including two government officials and a terrorist, were killed and 15 others injured in violence which erupted after the terrorist attack, hospital and official sources told Dawn. A curfew was imposed in the city and troops were called in to control the situation. The unidentified gunmen sprayed the vehicle of Agha Ziauddin with bullets, injuring him, his guards and two companions. Agha Rizvi was travelling in his car to a nearby mosque. The injured leader was taken to the District Headquarters hospital Gilgit. Two of his three guards later died. Those killed in Saturday's violence were identified as Dr Sher Wali, Director of District Health Offices; Forest Officer Taighun Nabi; Liaquat Ali, of Jutial; Mohammad Ayaz, of Chakarkot; and Rizwan, of Naupura. Three other employees of the forest department who were burned alive when an enraged mob torched the forest office, could not be identified, Doctor Shabbir in the district headquarters hospital told Dawn by telephone. A young boy working in a hotel, who was killed in the violence, was identified as Mohammad Din and another employee of the health directorate was identified as Wazarat Khan, of Shikyot. The two guards of Agha Rizvi who died of their injuries were Hussain Akbar of Nagarals and Mohammad Abbas of Chalat. The body of a passer-by who had been hit by a bullet during the attack and that of a suspect terrorist could not be identified. The suspect terrorist was killed when Agha Ziauddin's guards returned fire, Northern Areas Home Secretary Jamil Ahmed said. 'He is not from Gilgit. We are trying to establish his identity,' he told Dawn. His body was taken into custody by law enforcement agencies, a source told Dawn. Two of the assailants managed to escape, he added. Witnesses said mobs attacked and damaged PWD offices, health directorate and two dozen shops and vehicles. It was the worst incident of violence in Gilgit since June, when six persons were killed in clashes between security forces and demonstrator during the school curriculum protests. A source said that Mr Rizvi in his last Friday sermon had criticised the government for not resolving the curriculum issue. He had warned the government of resuming the protest campaign if the curriculum issue was not resolved. Local nationalist leaders condemned the attack on Agha Rizvi and termed it a work of agencies. Wajahat Hassan Khan, Chairman All Parties National Alliance, Dr Ghulam Abbas, Chairman of Baloristan Thinkers Forums and Amanullah, Chairman Boloristan Research Forum held the local administration responsible for the incident. Meanwhile, top officials of the local administration who have been absent from the area for about a month, were flown to Gilgit on Sunday. Sources said that the military authorities had expressed displeasure over their absence from the area.