The continuing arrests of civilians by security forces in Hunza are adding to local people’s anger.
A couple of weeks back, riots broke out in Hunza after police opened fire on protestors demanding compensation for the losses inflicted by the landslide that formed of Attabad lake and submerged several villages. At least two people -Sherullah and his son - died in the shooting.
According to sources, Rs6.5 million is the estimated loss due to the burning down of Aliabad Police station, Rs 7 million for damage to the Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) house and Rs0.6 million for the DC office, Rs1.3 million for a rest house and another Rs1.3 million for a police check post.
Commenting on police raids on the locals’ houses to arrest those suspected of ransacking the police station and torching government buildings, a resident said, “We are the aggrieved party. Two of our relatives were shot dead by the police, and now we are being harassed and persecuted.”
“If we had genuine leadership to represent us, we wouldn’t have been so distressed today,” said a resident. He said that despite dozens of plundering incidents, the culprits were still at large.
Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) Speaker Wazir Baig, himself a resident of Hunza, visited the valley on Monday to pay compensation to the family of the two men killed by the police. Sherullah’s widow was given Rs300, 000, as Baig vowed to bring the perpetrators behind bars through a judicial inquiry.
The compensation cheques were handed over in a simple ceremony at Aliabad in Hunza, which was also attended by Finance Minister Muhammad Ali Akhtar.
Unfortunately for Baig, this was not enough to appease the local population, or even members of his own party.
On Sunday, Fida Karim, president of Pakistan People’s Party-Hunza, resigned from his post. “I am resigning to protest the arrest of innocent people and unwarranted raids on homes,” Karim told reporters. He said that it is useless to be a member of a party that fails to protect its own innocent people.
According to PPP insiders, the arrests have created major differences between Chief Minister Mehdi Shah and Speaker Wazir Baig.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2011.