Karachi (ET):The bloodbath in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has started yet again, as a severe wave of sectarianism has revisited the landlocked, but strategically key, part of the country.
It began on February 28 when masked miscreants forced passengers travelling in four buses out at gunpoint and shot dead 16 of them in Hurban area of Kohistan. Since then, the law and order situation in G-B has worsened. On the morning of April 10, violence erupted again in the tense city of Gilgit when masked men riding on a motorcycle hurled a hand grenade on Sunni activists who were trying to force shopkeepers to close their shops in support of a strike called by them. Soon after the grenade attack, the city fell to the control of religious activists of the two sides who killed and injured as many people as they could from the rival sects in four hours – in the presence of law-enforcement agencies. Soon the violence spread to other areas, including Chilas.
Gilgit, a picturesque city and once a hub of local and foreign tourists, now presents the picture of a garrison town with deployment of a large number of soldiers and sepoys from the Pakistan Army, Rangers, police and Gilgit-Scouts. Men from the security forces have been crarrying out intensive patrol in the city since the riots broke out. But the subsequent terror incidents show that the city was never under the control of the security forces. The fact of the matter is that lately the city has been left at the mercy of sectarian activists and the administration is no more than a silent spectator as it is allegedly giving undue importance to sectarian heads. The city could be de-weaponised and cleaned up within a week if there is a strong will and commitment on the part of the authorities; Gilgit is not a big city like Karachi which cannot be controlled in spite of the deployment of a large number of personnel from paramilitary forces.
The majority of G-B’s population is peace-loving and wants to live in a harmonious atmosphere. The deployment of security forces has failed to give the desired result. A major chunk of the GB budget is eaten up by the security forces but they have failed to justify the expenses.