|File photo: clashes erupted in Gilgit after firing at a rally|
GILGIT: In a region plagued by sectarian strife, a rare show of harmony raised hopes for many as warring families who lost 13 relatives to acts of violence in 2012 pardoned each other in Gilgit.
On April 3, 2012, clashes erupted between Shias and Sunnis after masked motorcyclists attacked a rally held by the G-B chapter of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) in Garhi Bagh, Gilgit to protest the detention of one of its leaders.
The man behind the reconciliation was G-B Assembly Speaker Jafarullah Khan who brought together the relatives of the men killed that day.
Over 55 others were injured in the violence that was sparked off by the grenade attack.
When news of the incident reached Chilas Town, a vengeful mob ran amok, burning passenger buses and firing at people of rival sects. At least 10 passengers were killed.
Following the violence, authorities imposed a curfew in Gilgit town and registered cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act against 15 men for attacking buses in Chilas. Three were also booked for throwing a hand grenade at the rally.
Most relatives from the aggrieved groups were present for the reconciliation process, Essa Khan told The Express Tribune on Tuesday, a day after the meeting. He was one of those in attendance. “They forgave each other for God and in the larger interest of regional peace.”
“I’m happy we finally achieved it (the reconciliation),” Jafarullah said on Tuesday.
Jafarullah, who also survived an attempt on his life four years ago, said at least five groups were involved in the matter and a jirga contacted members repeatedly to bring them to the negotiating table.
“It was a difficult task as many groups were involved,” said the deputy speaker. “One group from Barmas threw the hand grenade, while another from Chilas attacked buses and killed passengers,” said Jafarullah. He added a third group was from Baltistan—the members of which had been killed.
Jafarullah said since the settlement was out of court, the judge of the anti-terrorism court also agreed to dismiss the cases pending before him under the ATA.
The deputy speaker said all parties involved have signed a document to settle the matter and a request was submitted to the court to withdraw the case. “We hope this will be a turning point for lasting peace in G-B,” said Jafarullah who headed the jirga.
Gilgit has a long history of sectarian violence dating back to the early 1970s.