March 26th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz & Hassan Raza
Six people including a woman were killed while seven others were injured when assailants opened fire on a passenger jeep traveling from Gilgit to Naltar on March 25. The incident occurred at around 3 local time and a total of 24 people were sitting in the passenger jeep at the time.
The incident took place within the limits of the Nomal police station. Police officials from the concerned station informed voicepk.net that upon their arrival at the scene three people approached them and took responsibility for the attack. The suspects have been taken into custody. The police has registered an FIR.
The police have termed the attack a matter of personal enmity but the event does have a sectarian undertone. All the civilians killed belonged to the Sunni community, while the jeep was fired at, inside a Shia majority area.
The Naltar valley is divided into two major parts – Naltar Bala, which is a Sunni majority area and Naltar Pain which is a Shia majority area and the two community also have a history of land disputes which have resulted in killings in the past as well. Some 18 months ago two Shia youth passing through the Naltar Bala area were ambushed and massacred by assailants in a similar incident.
Police claim that the three people who carried out the attack were relatives of the 2 youth who were killed and acted out in revenge.
The situation on the ground remains tense as the Gilgit Baltistan government has declared a “red alert” in the entire territory. Relatives of the deceased are holding a grand sit-in outside the residence of the GB chief minister while smaller sit-ins have popped up across GB including the Sunni regions of Gilgit, Naltar, and Diamer. The local administration has held talks with the protestors. Sunni extremist groups including the Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat have joined the sit-ins and are trying to use the incident to create unrest in the area. Anti-Shia slogans were raised in many of these sit-ins.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) representative told voicepk.net that there have been previous incidents of Shia-Sunni violence in the region because of which the local administration is staying extremely vigilant. Key religious and political figures of the area including ex-CM GB from the PML-N and activist Baba Jan have called on the public in GB to remain calm and not give in to communal hatred.