Even amidst depths of despair, the human spirit can survive.
Following the cold-blooded execution in Kohistan of 16 Shia Muslims travelling home to Gilgit on a bus, panicked residents deserted the roads and markets fearing a backlash in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Reprisal killings of Sunnis at a time emotions ran high would have been easy – and the most likely outcome in Nagar Valley, from where nine of the 16 slain men hailed.
Yet, on the same day, elders of the Shia-dominated Nagar Valley took at least 35 Sunni labourers working in the area into protective custody and quietly shifted them to Gilgit before a possible backlash could cost them their lives.
The Sunni labourers had been working on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) expansion project, undertaken by Chinese engineers. Their presence would have set up an ideal situation to ‘avenge’ the Kohistan killings.
However, the elders decided and acted against such plans, The Express Tribune learnt from various credible sources in the Nagar Diamer Valley.
The next day, the Nagar elders handed over the labourers to the police who escorted them safely to Gilgit.
“We fall short of words in thanking our brothers in Nagar for showing respect to innocent lives,” said a delegation comprising legislators, including Health Minister Gulbar Khan, Parliamentary Secretary Rehmat Khaliq, legislator Maulana Sarwar, Minister for Works Bashir Ahmed and Janbaz Khan of the PML.
Addressing a press conference in Gilgit on Thursday, they said: “We also fall short of words to condemn the barbaric act that deprived the region of 16 precious lives.”
In 2005, about 10 Sunnis were killed in Gilgit in one day to retaliate the murder of a top Shia cleric Agha Ziauddin by armed assailants.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2012.