By Mustafa Kamal
The peaceful land of Gilgit – Baltistan (GB) presents a grotesque picture. Every entry and exit point is sealed by Paramilitary forces, including Gilgit Scout, Rangers, Army, and GB Police. Yet, peace, law and order is not visible anywhere in and around the 15-20km long city.
Huge amount of money is being outsourced to stabilize normality in the city. Private vehicles are hired for military patrolling in the city, leaving the development work at stake. Yet every other day a police official gets killed, ordinary citizens are assassinated and many are injured.
Back few days, at Kohistan, were killed eighteen innocent Shia Muslims. Month back was assassinated a Sunni DSP. The game is on and nobody knows really how to restore peace in Gilgit, the lawless capital of Gilgit – Baltistan region.
Historically, the region was the most peaceful land in the country. Inter sectarian violence was unheard of and unseen. Marriages between the two majority sects were common. Sunnis and Shias of the old GB had much in common to celebrate as compared to their differences. The most loyal guards of central Gilgit’s Shia rulers were hired from Chilas and Tangeer, the Sunni dominated areas.
Many argue that the highly brainwashed era of the most notorious man of Pakistan brought sectarian violence to GB. First time in the history, Sunni-Shia clashes started in 1988, when Jalalabad (a Shia Dominated village) was set ablaze by groups allegedly sponsored by a section of the state. Since that bad day, GB is burning in the name of sects.
Religious bigotry has overshadowed the tranquility. Securing the honor of one man or few holy men has left many people in complete destruction. Chaos is what the people are facing in their daily lives.
No wonder, GB is a strategically important area. Strategic Depth of the state has turned to be a Strategic Death for the inhabitants of GB.
The naïve regional government is a silent observer of the deteriorating law and order situation in the region. No culprit behind the sectarian violence has been captured. The behavior of the government has given more courage to people to kill anybody anywhere in the city. Even personal vendettas are being settled under the guise of sectarianism.
Religious people are powerful. They have obviously more space to propagate their narrow thoughts. The multiplier effect of their hate speeches is breeding hatred deep in the minds and souls of the people. The result is- declare the follower of other sect an infidel and get him to the range of bullets.
No people following one sect can completely wipe out the people of other sect. An aspect of belief that is not being understood by many is that it is imbued in the souls, not only in bodies, and no human being has the power to kill souls. Soul is permanent. Killing of bodies is never going to kill faith and beliefs of the opponent sect. The sooner people realize this fact, the sooner they will learn to live harmoniously. This is the lesson that the people of GB need to learn.
May, we, on the behalf of all those butchered in the dark paths of the state, ask the GB government, that how many people involved in sectarian killings and hatred have been captured in GB? May, we, the citizens, the unnoticed creatures on earth, humbly ask the CM of GB that how much money is being spent to restore peace in GB, in hiring big Parados for the semi-military and military personnel, for their patrolling and what is the outcome of this futile exercise? May we ask the honorable house that why the graph of people being killed is going up every year and what policy the government has adopted so far, or is thinking to adopt?
For the youth of GB there is a lesson to be learnt from these barbaric killings; they must focus their energies to create and nurture a diversified and pluralistic society in the region by getting their minds, hearts and eyes open.
For the religious clergies, it is high time to think that their hate speeches have left our region in ruins and they should use the sacred places of worship for promoting peace and brotherhood in the region, instead of preaching hatred in the name of faith.
The contributor is associated with Islamabad based Akhtar Hameed Khan Resource Centre.