Dangerous roads: Security challenges loom large on Karakoram Highway

Eyewash measures undertaken to counter threats of organised assaults

Shabbir Mir August 24, 2015

GILGIT: The region’s jugular vein – the Karakoram Highway – has in the recent past witnessed a spate of organised terror attacks. With the challenges surfacing once again, those who frequent the road quite often have an issue to confront.

In view of fresh threats and intelligence information, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government recently made it compulsory for transport companies to have private guards on board before setting foot on the highway. The road that connects China with the rest of the country through Gilgit-Baltistan, passes majorly through Kohistan district where terrorists clad in military outfits have attacked passenger buses in the past.

Transporters have reciprocated by manning buses with untrained security guards carrying outdated firearms. “There are security guards in buses but most of them aren’t trained to fire even a single bullet,” an insider from the transport companies told The Express Tribune on Monday. He said hardly any have enough cartridges to even resist armed militants for a bit.

Some of the transporters have gone a step ahead. They have bought security guard uniforms for their conductors who serve the dual purpose of fooling the administration and giving a false sense of security to the travellers.

“When the K-P police check buses for security arrangements at check posts in Kohistan, they allow them to go as they see uniformed men inside,” said a bus terminal official in Gilgit. Sources went on to say the bus owners even hire guns from dealers. “In reality these guns aren’t worth tuppence. If trained terrorists cross the path of these buses, only divine help can save the defenceless passengers.”

One of the most gruesome attacks in the recent past was when militants dressed in army uniforms, dragged 16 men out of the buses in Kohistan and shot them dead. The outlawed militant group Jundallah had claimed responsibility for the brutality.

Diamer Deputy Commissioner Usman Ahmad agreed the security situation is terrible. “I recently inspected three Islamabad bound Northern Areas Transport Corporation buses,” he told The Express Tribune. “Uniformed conductors were present who had never fired a round in life.” He said while most couldn’t shoot at designated targets, one of the guards did not have a single cartridge.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2015. 


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