Violence in Gilgit Baltistan


Nazim Khan
Back 1940, the historical Pakistan Resolution declared religious nationalism as the unifying force for the foundation of an independent state, setting the groundwork for religious intolerance. The sectarian proxy war between different sects to promote their respective strategic dominance has had an immense influence on the escalation and de-escalation of religious conflicts between religious majorities and minorities in Pakistan. People living in the Pakistani-administered territory, Gilgit-Baltistan forming many sects have allegedly faced discrimination by the Pakistani government since its takeover of the region following the first Kashmir war between India and Pakistan in. The first major sectarian ruction in the Gilgit district broke out in 1988, as it refers to state-sponsored mass killings of Shia civilians who revolted against the Zia-ul-Haq’s Sunni Islamist regime. Anti-Shia riots preceded the massacre in May 1988, which resulted in a dispute over moon sighting during Ramadan. In reply to the riots and revolt against Zia’s regime, the Pakistan army led a group of local Sunni tribal from Chilas, accompanied by Osama Bin-Laden led Sunni militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan’s NWFP, now called KPK, into Gilgit city and connecting areas to suppress the revolt. It is estimated that anywhere between 150 and 900 Shia Muslims were killed in the resulting massacre and violence, in which they also burned entire villages down.Religion can be an effective instrument in politics. This has been a phenomenon all over the ages and in different political contexts. Politicians use religion to gain political goals. The defamatory statements from the selective individuals claiming to be the    representatives of a specific sect in order to ignite the fire of hate for other sects are in the throes, neither the people nor the government has the credibility to identify those who fan the flames of sectarianism. Article 20 of the constitution 1973 of Pakistan itself guarantees the freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions. It further tells about the right conferred on religious sects in Pakistan irrespective of the majority and minority to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions. The Pakistan penal code, chapter XV section 295(A) is restricting any individual intending to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious beliefs. The punishment includes imprisonment which may be extended to two years, or a fine, or both. Unfortunately, despite the existence of laws in Pakistan, we have failed to stop the religious pandemonium. People in a particular area where people are not aware of their rights and accustomed to associating religious practices with worldly practices, people will always be a victim of tyranny or oppression and also recognized as a figurine. In addition to religious quagmire, Gilgit Baltistan witnessed a good deal of political chaos as well. Many people did not like the peace there, which led to every despicable act that ruined the peace there. It was in recent times when a political party lost merely an election from where the party tried to echo the voices of the state enemies by chanting slogans in a place where people have nothing to do with politics. We have seen the destruction, setting the public and government assets on fire to equalize anger caused by a loss in an election. The landof Pakistan occupied territory, Gilgit Baltistan is a land of peace, prosperity, and land of hospitality, but the narcissistic approach of political bodies remains dominant, which is the primary cause of political and religious instability across the region.It is about a couple of days before today that unidentified men opened fire on a passenger vehicle in upper Naltar Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday, and they killed six people and seven others left injured. This attack occurred some 35 Kilometers away from Gilgit. It is a matter of a question mark on the law enforcement agencies who consistently failed to maintain the law and order in several areas while their inclusive engagement in political issues is at the height of its prosperity. The conventional condemnation from the higher authorities is as consistent as their old political practices by offering monetary aid. GB Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid has ordered the security agencies to find the attackers and arrest them. In a statement, the chief minister said they would bring the killers to justice and the government would take every step to maintain law and order in the region. Gone are the days when people blindly accepted the formal rebukes of the government and its officials. Now it is prime time for the government of Pakistan to give the People of GB an answer: why unjustness happens to them? Is it possible to compensate for the damage just by making reprimanding statements?