More than 30 people are being held captive in Nagar Valley for the past four days following an outbreak of sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) that has already claimed at least 20 lives and injured 50 others. Meanwhile, G-B police, district administration, Rangers and G-B Scouts submitted a report regarding the unrest in the region to the federal government for necessary action.
Authorities have not yet recovered the abducted people, who reportedly belong to the Sunni community. Imposition of section 144 has prevented verification of whether or not further kidnappings have occurred.
The kidnapped people include a district health officer from Astore, Dr Rasheed, a civil judge Ayatullah and a banker. They were reportedly travelling in Nagar Valley with the G-B Finance Minister Mohammad Ali Akhtar when armed men intercepted their vehicle and shifted them to an undisclosed location at gunpoint. The finance minister later confirmed the incident. Other hostages are said to be workers of a flour mill.
“Our negotiations are underway and we are hopeful for their recovery,” an official told The Express Tribune on Saturday.
Sources said that, due to barred communication and a general clampdown on movement, at least 12 foreigners remain stranded in parts of G-B and are awaiting evacuation.
Sectarian violence broke out in Gilgit on Tuesday after assailants lobbed a hand grenade on a rally called by Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ), leaving six people dead and 50 others injured. In retaliation, at least 10 members of the Shia community were killed in Chilas as an enraged mob set alight four buses en route to Skardu and Gilgit via the Karakoram Highway.
Sources claimed that Interior Minister Rehman Malik asked the authorities to launch a crackdown in Nagar, Gilgit and Chilas against miscreants, while the army tightened security in the region as more troops flew in during the past two days.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2012.