CHILAS (ET): Sectarian temperatures ran high in Gilgit-Baltistan on Saturday as thousands of angry protestors blocked Karakoram Highway in Chilas after Interior Minister Rehman Malik suspended a senior police official deputed in the valley on the demands of the Shia clergy.
“The decision is one-side as the government is under pressure from a certain group,” said the protestors who had reached Chilas – the main town of Diamer – from adjacent valleys by a car rally early Saturday.
“Enough is enough, we will not let it happen,” said the speakers while addressing a crowd that had blocked the highway and disrupted traffic. The speakers included Abdul Wakil Shah, Faizullah, and Maulana Abdul Majeed.
Eye-witnesses and officials confirmed to The Express Tribune that more than 8,000 protestors had staged a sit-in. The protestors included teachers and workers of political and religious parties.
After keeping the highway blocked for almost six hours, the protestors dispersed peacefully at about 4:30pm, giving the government a two day deadline for the reinstatement of the official.
Suspension of the police official, Sultan Faisal, was one of the demands put forth by the Shia community after the massacre that left 16 passengers dead in Kohistan, a region adjacent to the Diamer valley of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Malik who visited Gilgit on Saturday told reporters that the police official had been sacked on the demands of the people.
A powerful delegation from different valleys of district Diamer also reached Gilgit to meet the interior minister, but it was unclear if they could meet Malik as he returned to the federal capital after a two hour stay.
The 20 member delegation led by Malik Miskeen, former speaker Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly, comprised of political representatives and religious leaders of the valley. According to sources, the delegation also planned to meet Shia clerics in Gilgit to work out a plan for peaceful co-existence of both the sects in the region.