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18 February 2020

Kohistan Carnage — the first mishap between now and later [Editorial]

Kohistan Carnage — the first mishap between now and later [Editorial]

It is hardly possible to talk about politics in Pakistan without mentioning religion.  It is altogether impossible to talk about religion without mentioning the role of Army in religious affairs. The funny thing is: there are very few practicing religious military men in Pakistan. Even the children of military officers go to mosques mostly for Friday prayer only— it is an intriguing paradox.

Almost, all military centers, units and training schools have built state-of-the art military mosques in which worshipers pray to God.  The mosques, however, are not as inclusive as the military itself. You will never find any Shia imam in these mosques. Very few people from other sects of Islam go to the military mosque. One of the Sepoys, an unprejudiced worshiper told us that once he was bullied by his co-worshiper when he did not lift his Index finger during the Shahadat, part of the Sunni congregational prayer.

The mosque is not used purely for worshiping purpose. During the Zia Era and until 9/11 military mosques were frequently visited by the currently banned Islamic organizations to preach Jihad and the Pakistan Army was never reluctant to patronize such groups. We do not know the post Bin Laden scenario but we are sure the ethereal waves still communicate somewhere. This can be seen in the case of Brig. Ali who, according to reports was planning to air strike GHQ. He was later declared to be an extremist.

The practices in the mosques are frequent as compared to the conflicts in the streets. So when it comes to protecting the citizens in trouble times by the military men, especially in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan, the most frequently practiced mindset prevails and protection of minority groups by state organs thus becomes doubtful.

The western allied Pakistan Army has to reform its military mosque system. It should bane all the external preachers into its facilities and ought to maintain the sanctity of the mosque as sacred place to worship Allah. As you will see a famous poetry— Na Koi Banda Raha, Na Koi Banda Nawaz— emblazoned on hills and mountains near Army facilities in Pakistan, the army practically has to implement the message of inclusiveness in the military mosques. General Kiyani should send a COAS message to every unit and army center, propagating religious inclusiveness within the Pakistan Army.

There was a time when India used to be a direct threat to Pakistan’s security and the nation remained united against the commonly perceived threat. The security paradigm, now, has shifted more to internal insurgency and home-grown violence and a religiously fractured mindset cannot deal with this issue without inviting a danger. One of the Military combatants in Swat, in a private conversation told us that his hands were shaking when he had to open fire on an armed Mulvi Sahib in Swat operation.What made a hard-core soldier think twice of the the so called Movi sahib?

The news of reconciliation between Pakistan and its former strategic arms— the Jihadi groups in Afghanistan and KP— has made the people of Gilgit-Baltistan nerves about their very existence. Here it is generally perceived that the post Afghanistan jobless mujahedeen can turn their guns towards Gilgit-Baltistan.

The rising political activism and the rapidly falling living standards in the region can go out of control and in such situations, Mujahidin can be used, strategically, to drag the attention of the people off the road.

There are Taliban sympathizers in parts of Gilgit-Baltistan including the military mosques and for the Mujahidin to infiltrate their Jihadi activities here is as easy as a pie.

The annexation of KP borders with the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan is a cherry on the cake for them.

During 1988, Jalal Abad, a sizable village of Gilgit-Baltistan inhabited by a specific religious sect was set on fire.  Independent analysts and local nationalist parties believe that the muggers had full support of Zia’s military garrison in Gilgit.

During Taliban regime in Afghanistan a religious tabloid newspaper, Zarb-e-Momin edited by Mujahiden was propagating Jihad in the then Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan), for they believed that the region was inhabited by infidels. “Ironically, this religious tabloid used to be on the reading rostrum in military officers mess” a former military officer told.

It is feared the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will see more killings in the post Afghanistan era.  The West has now stopped calling the Mujahideen “the bad guys” and it is already thinking to reconcile affairs with Taliban in Afghanistan— they will get back to their business in their own country, sooner or later. The groups along with the borders of Gilgit-Baltistan would then definitely like to do some sport and God knows what sort of sport they would be playing then. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are in fear at this thought.

Pakistan and its Army would definitely follow the Americans to negotiate with the Mujahideen and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have to pay close attention to detail in the process.

This would be a high time for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to ask Pakistan and the international community as to how their security will be ensured when Pakistan and Mujahideen strike the peace truce and the groups are unleashed.                                                                                                                   

In the wake of the Kohistan carnage, people of Gilgit-Baltistan have made it clear that they want to live together peacefully. Ismailis of Ghizar and Hunza, Shias of Skardu and Sunnies of Diamer have protested strongly to condemn the act of genocide in Kohistan.

The play cards which the protesters were upholding this time were different than before.  Slogans used to be “Sunni Kafir” or “Shia Kafir”. But now the slogans in Gilgit-Baltistan read “Shia-Sunni Bhai Bhai”( Sunnies and Shias are brothers),  Ye Jo Dashat Gardi hay, Is key peichhey wardi hay( There is a uniform involved behind every terrorism). It is interesting to read but equally alarming for Pakistani establishment.

Pakistani government, it’s military and the international community have to resolve the matters of the 2 million disenfranchised people of Gilgit-Baltistan before the situation here gets out of control.  Pakistan has many problems to resolve in the coming years—some are of immediate concern— the security of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan has to be the top priority after the issue of Baluchistan.

People of this region are very educated.They are no more appeased by ad hoc packages couriered by KANA division in Islamabad through local Pirs and high school passed illiterate political leaders. They want genuine political settlement of the area; for they believe all roads to peace pass through genuine political discourse and a constitutional cover up.

According to Tehran Times the people who were killed on Karakurum highway were Shia pilgrims returning from Tehran. If that is true then people in Gilgit-Baltistan might rightly wonder that somebody was following the pilgrims from the border of Taftan(Baluchistan-Iran) to the border of Gilgit-Baltistan. There must be intelligence feeding to the attackers sitting at Harban Nala. Who was that person, Pakistan has to explain to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

It is not enough to say that "there is an international conspiracy against Pakistan". Pakistan does not need international enemies, for it has abundance of them within its own borders.

The killings of 19 innocent people in the dark night of the isolated Kohistan mountain is perhaps the first mishap between ‘now’ and the post Afghanistan ‘later’. 

Dardistan Times Editorial
Photo Credits: 
Nasrullah Baig © 2012, Islamabad