Violence Grips Gilgit
27 July 2005
Lahore: After a relative calm of a few months, Gilgit is once again gripped by violence following attack on a passenger bus in Gonar Farm on the Karakorum Highway on July 17 which killed four and injured six. According to reports over a dozen buses were ambushed in the area during the past seven months in which 15 passengers were killed and many more wounded, but the police has traced the accused of only one attack. Gilgit was still reeling from the shock of the fresh spate of sectarian attacks when a union council chairman and three others were gunned down in a suburban area, triggering clashes between residents and police. But instead of targeting culprits law- enforcing agencies detained hundreds of people under MPO. Meanwhile, the house of a local journalist was bombed in Gilgit on Monday that constrained Kashmir Affairs Minister Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat, who is currently holidaying in Los Angeles, to call the concerned authorities and issue instructions for restoring order in the Northern Areas. Subsequently the Secretary Kashmir Affairs summoned the Chief Secretary and IGP Northern Areas for a briefing on the current situation and to appeal the elected representatives to play their role in promoting peace and harmony in the area. The Secretary assured them that the recommendations received from them would be forwarded to the federal government for appropriate action against those creating unrest in the Area. The fact that 30 persons, including a top religious leader, have been killed in sectarian violence in Gilgit and its suburbs since January 8, the Minister and officials of Kashmir Affairs should have taken adequate steps to contain growing lawlessness in the area long ago. The growing violence in the Northern Areas indicates that the more the government intensifies its fight against extremism, the arena of this ongoing battle expands. The situation seems alarming in the wake of fresh regrouping of Al-Qaeda elements, as pointed out by the Corps Commander Peshawar. At the same time there has not been any particular improvement in the law and order situation of Balochistan that plunged into chaos after clashes between Bugti tribesmen and the Frontier Constabulary a couple of months ago, triggering clashes between the Balochs and law enforcing agencies at various places in the country's long neglected province. A number of meetings between Baloch Nationalists and the Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan proved counter-productive as the federal government refused to accept their demand for withdrawal of troops from Sui and Dera Bugti. Against this backdrop the intelligence and law enforcing agencies will have to be more vigilant about containing the upsurge of violence in the Northern Areas, lest any slackness on their part trigger a chain reaction of sectarian incidents in other parts of the country.