Police rounded up over three dozen people and booked many others in Ghanche district of Baltistan on Sunday after clashes between two groups left dozens injured.
The fighting erupted a day after Eidul Fitr between followers of the Sofia and Imamia groups of the Nurbakhshiya sect, bringing life to a standstill in the valley. The Nurbakhshiyas are a Sufic order.
According to locals, more than 50 people were injured as people pelted each other with stones. A policeman was also critically injured and was admitted to a hospital in Skardu.
A rally organised by the Sofia sect was reportedly on its way to meet cleric Faqir Ibrahim a day after Eid, when it encountered followers of the Imamia group.
“At first it was just an exchange of angry slogans. Then a brawl erupted, which turned into a fight with both sides firing at each other and pelting each other with stones,” said one resident of Skardu. The incident caused a cascade of panic across Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), prompting the authorities to crack down on the trouble makers.
“At least 47 people have been arrested for disrupting law and order in the valley,” Ghanche Deputy Commissioner Mir Waqar told The Express Tribune on Sunday. “An FIR has also been registered against two clerics [from the opposing groups] in connection with the clashes.”
The DC put the number of injured people at 10 and said most of them had been hit by stones. This is in addition to the three policemen who were also wounded, said Waqar, who was recently transferred to the valley. He described the incident as unfortunate but vowed to bring the culprits to justice.
To nip the potential for violence in the bud, the administration took a bold decision and booked the clerics heading the two sects. Physical remand of four others was also obtained from a court.
The absence of Chief Minister Mehdi Shah, who is in China on an official trip, elicited a bad reaction. “Baltistan is on fire and the CM is enjoying his stay in China,” said Fida Nashad, a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. His foreign and national trips are just a burden on the exchequer as they have never yielded any positive results for the region, added the lawmaker in the G-B Assembly and a resident of Skardu.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th,2014.