Gilgit-Baltistan:Ministers To Negotiate Release of Hostages

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GILGIT (Dawn): A team comprising ministers and members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council, headed by Law Minister Wazir Shakil, arrived in Nagir valley to negotiate the release of 32 people who were taken hostage by a mob in protest against those killed in Chilas earlier this week, police officials said on Saturday.

A civil judge and a district health officer are among the hostages.

Police said they were hopeful of a positive outcome of the talks between the team formed by the Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister and the community leaders.

A senior police official said that as soon as the hostages were released a massive crackdown would be launched to clean the region of extremists and miscreants who created a law and order problem.

Some people lodged a complaint at the city police station, saying that at least five shepherds were missing in Haraly pasture near Gilgit and a police team, headed by SHO Sher Khan, left for the area to look into the matter.

Traffic on the Karakoram Highway could not resume on Saturday and Ghizer, Hunza, Astor and Skardu remained cut off from the rest of the country, creating a shortage of food and medicines.

The PIA has suspended its flights because of the curfew imposed since the violence erupted in the region on Tuesday after a grenade attack on the protesting workers of a sectarian party.

Authorities did not relax the curfew on the fifth day on Saturday. Cellphone services remained disrupted and crackdown on miscreants and saboteurs continued.

Police said tension was mounting in Astore district because the district health officer abducted in Hunza belonged to Astore.

MEETING: Gilgit-Baltistan Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah met on Saturday Allama Shaikh Mohammad Hassan Jaffery, the Friday prayer leader of Imamia Jamia mosque in Skardu, and held talks with other ulema.

Allama Jafferi told the governor that the ulema of Skardu had played their role in maintaining law and order in Gilgit-Baltistan and now it was time that the governor played his role and took action against the culprits involved in the Chilas killing.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, the governor said army personnel would be deployed on the Karakoram Highway to make it safe for journey. He said action would be taken against those police officers who had done nothing to stop the Chilas killings. The victims of the Chilas incident would be given compensation, he added. Allama Jaffery announced calling off the ongoing strike and sit-ins in Skardu.

PROTEST: Hundreds of women held a demonstration in Skardu in protest against the non-recovery of 50 passengers who went missing during the Chilas incident. They demanded early recovery of the missing passengers, provision of an alternative route and deployment of troops on the Karakoram Highway.

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