There have been four days of violence in Gilgit. Law enforcers have failed to keep order in the tiny city where a sense of community holds strong. As a result, two people have died. There have been exchanges of fire in the central square and other areas; tensions run high and the Rangers have now been called out. For some time the flames burning beneath some of the world’s highest peaks have gone unnoticed because of the turmoil caused by floods in so many parts of the country. The hill torrents that have raced down the slopes and wrecked villages across the Gilgit-Baltistan territory have not been enough to douse the violence that has sparked up in the capital. The area is prone to sectarian unrest. The latest killings appear to be a continuation of targeted attacks that began early this month. The problem itself dates back to the 1970s when sectarian ugliness reared its head for the first time in this picturesque haven. It expanded during the 1980s when more organised killings of Sunnis and Shias took place. Many believe outside elements were involved in stirring up feelings of hatred that had never existed before. In recent years the high profile murder of a clerical leader in 2005 has led to an increase in unease and communal hostility.
In an area that has established a reputation for immaculate law and order, it is unfortunate that such a state of affairs should prevail. It is still more unfortunate that the authorities in the territory have failed to curb the violence or eradicate the root causes behind it. The Ismailis of the region have also been periodically targeted. It is time the situation was brought under control. This is what the people expect from a government they elected just months ago. This in fact is essential to them in more ways than one. Gilgit-Baltistan remains one of the few mountain areas that has continued to draw in tourists. Many families live off the trade. For this reason, and also for the sake of peace, everything possible must be done to prevent more death.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2010.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ