Gilgit-Baltistan:Sectarianism and Extremism Gravest issues Confronting Pakistan

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Islamabad (News):Sharing the pain and anger of communities affected by sectarian and ethnic violence can forge a new beginning, said Chairperson Bardasht Nilofar Bakhtiar while addressing a conference on ‘Peace in Gilgit- Baltistan.’

 The conference was the fifth civil society peace dialogue organised by Bardasht, which addressed major challenges that contributed to violence and intolerance in the society. Conference sessions were held on complex emergencies, disaster management and pro-women legislation and were addressed by experts from Gilgit-Baltistan.

 Nilofer Bakhtiar stated that the Bardasht forum on peace has provided an opportunity for victims of violence to voice their concerns and share the challenges they have experienced in the past and continue to face.

 She recalled that a record number of participants had turned up to attend the Bardasht peace conference in Quetta held in August. She stated that sectarianism and extremism were the gravest issues confronting Pakistan today and had led to fragmentation in the Northern Areas as well as major urban centres like Quetta and Karachi.

Other participants of the conference stressed the urgent need to restore peace by initiating dialogue. Lack of education and economic opportunities were cited as major causes of social and political discontent. Nationalist leaders from Gilgit-Baltistan expressed distrust of the federal government and lack of faith in the current provincial leadership. Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah condemned the rise of sectarianism in his province and urged all segments of the society to strengthen peace-building efforts.

He pointed out that his province struggled for independence against the Dogra Raj and had chosen to join Pakistan in 1958. He added that Gilgit-Baltistan was a symbol of tolerance and federal unity, and it was crucial that it was represented in the federal legislature.

A large number of youth from Gilgit-Baltistan also took active part in the conference. They said that despite disappointments, the youth look towards the federal capital for the solution. They disclosed that in their areas, suicide ratio among youth is very high.

The women group demanded crisis centre and shelter home in Gilgit-Baltistan to provide relief to women who have lost men of their families in recent clashes. They shared that all women related legislation has not been extended to their province.

The event was also addressed by MNA Rubina Qaimkhani, Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights Mountaineer Nazeer Sabir, Adovcate Mohammed Aslam and Chairman Hilal-e-Ahmer Mohammad Asif Hussain

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