A story of harmony: Civilian vigilantes narrowly save 200 lives

Published: April 12, 2012

Passengers caught in the sudden violence were sheltered by Chilas residents. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

GILGIT: Even as lives were lost and blood spilt during last week’s sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B),  the community of Chilas managed to save at least 200 Shia passengers – including women and children – and swiftly shift them to areas where they would be out of harm’s way.

The passengers were travelling from Rawalpindi to Gilgit and Skardu, and had just reached the town of Chilas when sectarian violence broke out in Gilgit after unidentified men attacked a Sunni rally with hand grenades, killing six people and injuring 50 others.

The violence led to the imposition of a curfew in the city.

The saving of human lives in Chilas, however, was overshadowed by the killing of 10 Shias in reaction to the hand grenade attack at the Sunni rally in Gilgit. The vehicle of the top Sunni cleric in Gilgit-Baltistan, Qazi Nisar, also came under fire, leaving his driver injured.

“When the news of the grenade attack and firing on the cleric’s vehicle reached Chilas, an infuriated mob was present in the valley where a convoy of buses had just reached from Rawalpindi. They attacked Shia passengers in the buses with sticks, guns, and stones and killed many of them,” a senior police official in Chilas told i.

According to another senior police official, Jamsheed Ahmed, who himself was injured along with four other policemen while escorting the buses, more than 3,000 men attacked the convoy.

While the killing spree continued outside, the almost 200 helpless Shia passengers were stuck inside the buses, waiting for what they thought was the inevitable to happen.

When hope was almost lost, clerics and other residents from the area picked up the Shia passengers, and transferred them to their own houses for the night where they provided them with food, shelter and security.

Two people – Leevar Khan and Shah Nasir – reportedly played a key role in saving the passengers lives.

The next day, hundreds of residents themselves arranged for transportation for the threatened passengers and accompanied them up to Jaglot, where they further negotiated with a violent mob until the passengers were safely handed over to the administration.

The account was verified from various independent sources in Chilas and Gilgit later.

Released hostages

Meanwhile, 34 Sunni hostages released on Tuesday from Nagar valley were moved out of the restive city of Gilgit. “Under security cover, they were shifted to their native areas,” police said, adding that most of the captives were from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and were labourers.

After their release, they were brought to the chief minister’s office in Gilgit, officials said, confirming that the number of hostages released was 34 and they were all in good health.

The hostages had been kidnapped in retaliation to the killing of the 10 members of the Shia community.

Meanwhile, residents continued to suffer a shortage of food and other basic necessities due to the strict curfew.

Similarly, cellular services remained blocked and traffic on the Karakoram highway stayed suspended. There was no word when these services will be restored.

Security officials also continued raids in the Kashrote and Nagral areas and recovered illegal arms, a police official told The Express Tribune, without giving details of the operation which has been ongoing since the curfew was imposed.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Irshad
    Apr 12, 2012 - 10:36AM

    People from both sides were freed after negotiations ……

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  • Tahir
    Apr 12, 2012 - 10:41AM

    n the midst of chaos the essential goodness of the human soul shines though

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  • Batool
    Apr 12, 2012 - 7:05PM

    Shia Muslims’ Killings have been going on in that years for many weeks. They are targeted and then murdered. Saying that
    The saving of human lives in Chilas, however, was overshadowed by the killing of 10 Shias in reaction to the hand grenade attack at the Sunni rally in Gilgit.
    Stop twisting the facts brother. Did you know a BIG number of shia Muslims have been targeted and murdered before this incident?? Recommend

  • imran
    Apr 12, 2012 - 9:12PM

    Over 300 Shias have been killed in what is popularly being called an ISI-assisted Shia genocide.

    There are protests in front of parliament in Islamabad at this very minute.

    How about reporting on that?

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  • Human
    Apr 12, 2012 - 10:20PM

    Let the true reports of what exact number of shia passengers killed on the KKH then call it a good gesture from Chilas. According to some estimates as many as 35 people have lost life when mob attacked busses and later their dead bodies were thrown into river Indus. Let me ask you dear, was it the first time people of chilas attacked on people on KKH. So kind of those who saved some other minority sect, otherwise, the plan was to do a clean sweep of the shias travelling from Islamabad the same day.

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  • Alamdar
    Apr 13, 2012 - 12:36AM

    @Imran, if 300 shias killed, why there heirs are silent about that. Are you the only there relative alive to say this?
    @batool, pls try to have courage to say a bad thing a bad thing. dont twist facts to mislead other poeple.
    @Human, if they dont save them, today the killing of passenger was 320 there. was any body there to save those except for they themsleves.Recommend

  • Muhammad Nasir
    Apr 13, 2012 - 10:55AM

    When we look into history the facts shows that the people belonging to Shia community were killed brutally in Gilgit. In 1988 a large number of extremists from Chillas and adjoining areas attacked Gilgit and killed more than hundred people in the name of Jihad. Then on 8th January 2005 once again a famous religious leader was killed. And now in 2012, two major acts of terrorism occurred in Kohistan and Chilas. There is no justification for killing of innocent people. The news of attacking a protest rally in Gilgit before Chilas tragedy is fabricated and baseless. The mob is trying to forcibly close the markets and meanwhile security forces open fired on mob. The story was twisted immediately to hide the fact. Journalist should take proper care while reporting.

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  • jock
    Apr 14, 2012 - 3:45AM

    OK. So nothing good happened from the other side. They are all inherently evil. Happy? And lets not be swept away by any gesture of kindness lest it lessen our childhood-nurtured hatred.

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  • Kashif
    Apr 14, 2012 - 10:01AM

    Whatever happened was sad. Several people lost their lives for nothing. No matter what sect they belonged to they were human beings just like all of us. Please stop this craziness and live like humans not animals. This is so sad that not even a single ahle sunnat posted anything about this in their facebook walls or twitters which they should have considering that those who were killed were human like them. Please STOP this racism and try to love each other. We can’t decide whether shias are on the right path or sunnis leave that on to Allah and just follow your faith and respect other’s faith.

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  • Apr 15, 2012 - 8:56AM

    Ah yes, the ideology of Pakistan bears fruit everyday.

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