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World|politics|August 31, 2023 / 10:38 AM
Situation in Gilgit-Baltistan worsens after protests against scholars derogatory statements

AKIPRESS.COM - Law and order situation in Gilgit-Baltistan has worsened after protests that started in Chilas (Diamer) expanded to other areas of the region. Additionally, protests were organised in the area of Upper Kohistan, My Press reported.

In Chilas, the Karakoram Highway is still blocked while traffic on Babusar Road was also stopped. Additionally, protesters shut down several routes in Gilgit city. Sit-ins continue to take place around Gilgit city. In the Astore district, there were additional sit-ins and protest demonstrations reported Pamir Times, a community news and views portal of Gilgit Baltistan, Chitral, Kohistan and the surrounding mountain areas.

Sheikh Baqir Al-Hussaini, a prominent Islamic expert living in Skardu, is reported to have sparked protests with his sacrilegious comments. He has been charged with making disparaging statements about religious and historical figures, as reported by Pamir Times. Demonstrators want the academic to be detained and a complaint will be lodged against him. They have vowed to keep the roads blacked till the scholar is arrested.

During the most recent Muharram processions, Gilgit-Baltistan witnessed a unique manifestation of interfaith harmony as people from many schools of thought joined forces to show their support for one another. Fear and dread have spread throughout the region as a result of the recent event and the irrational protest demonstrations, which have a sordid history of sectarian conflict that has claimed hundreds of lives.

A group of elected officials and administrators met with the demonstrators in Chilas earlier today and persuaded them to let the travellers use the Karakoram Highway to get to their destinations. However, the demonstrators later again blocked the road, according to Pamir Times.

Officials, political figures, and religious leaders are still attempting to clear the highways by speaking with the demonstrators. The GB Education Department has denied rumours that Gilgit city's schools will be closed on Monday. Some private educational institutions, according to sources, will be closed on Monday, Pamir Times reported.

Gilgit-Baltistan region is a Shia-majority region, which falls under Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) region. The poor economic conditions and the absence of good educational institutions has led to a mushrooming of madrasas that preach sectarian hatred and extremism. The fragile political system, along with an ineffective judicial system of the region has aggravated the sectarian violence further.

In recent times, however, Karakoram has become indispensable for fulfilling the needs of the people in Gilgit-Baltistan; however, those in Gilgit often complain that the road at the same time enables an increased influx of suspect and alien persons from other parts of Pakistan into their area.While Shias feel hesitation to travel on the highway between Gilgit and Islamabad, in order to avoid the Sunni areas of Diamer District and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sunnis also avoid traveling to the north, fearing the Shia areas of Nagar and Chilas.

The region has been a victim of the divide and rule tactic of the Pakistani establishment. The Army, the ISI and other powerful stakeholders have always looked at the region in terms of its tactical value of keeping India at bay and pitting the communities against each other to serve their own interests. All these issues have had a cumulative effect in promoting sectarian violence in the region.

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