G-B massacre: When will Pakistan really win independence?

Published: August 17, 2012
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Each and every citizen of this country counts and this is Pakistan under attack. DESIGN: ERUM SHAIKH

Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is a natural splendour which Pakistan boasts as a tourist attraction for foreigners and expats. This mountainous terrain is adorned with snow capped  peaks, lush valleys and rivers that could revitalise your very soul. This place was heaven on earth; this place exists no more.

G-B, which once stood as the most appealing attraction for tourists now stands amongst one of the most neglected regions of the world. Eaten away by sectarianism, extremism and militancy, our lush valleys of the North are embedded with fear and vulnerability. The presence of militant factions and clashes between rival sects have become the causal route for disruption and disarray. Militant intrusion has led to civil war and carnage amongst the once peaceful people of G-B and continues to plague the people even today.

The government has been an anesthetised spectator in the recurring events of bloodshed in G-B. Within the span of a few months, three such incidents of terrorism have taken place in Gilgit with the most recent of them having taken place yesterday, August 16, 2012. A bus travelling from Rawalpindi to Gilgit, was stopped by a dozen gunmen. The terrorists, disguised in army uniforms stopped three vehicles, checked the papers, searched them and picked up people in three batches of five, six and nine. These people, handpicked, were all Shias and were all shot dead in cold blood.

Although August 16, 2012 was a tumultuous day for Pakistan, with the attack on Kamra Air base having taken place paralysing the entire country for the day, this fear and paralysis is felt by the inhabitants of G-B on a daily basis.

The government sprung into action when the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack on the airbase in Kamra, but when the same militant group took responsibility for the attack on G-B citizens why had the government not responded? Why have they not made a statement yet apologising for the lax attitude it has that cost 20 people their lives?  Why was there not an iota of regret shown by the protectors of this nation? Why have the people of G-B been left to fend for themselves?

UN leader, Ban Ki-moon, was the first figure of authority to have expressed his concern for the people of Gilgit. Is it not a shame that we the citizens, our government and military have remained silent about the concurrent attacks taking place on our people?

I wonder which of the two incidents were used as smoke screens or distractions from the other. Had the situation been under control in G-B to begin with, had the government reacted firmly to the first incident of its kind, innocent lives would have been spared from being used as mere props for a larger objective, 20 lives of Shiite Muslims would have been saved and 20 families would be at peace today.

Kamra was attacked and two of our brave soldiers lost their lives along with millions of rupees in losses. But 20 men lost their lives on the same day too, in an incident that could have and should have been prevented.

What the government and army need to realise is the importance of solving the increasingly deplorable situation in G-B and its effect on the rest of Pakistan. Every part of Pakistan is linked together and the militants realise this better than we do ourselves – every attack that takes place on any part of Pakistan is form of revenge and dissuasion tactic used by the extremists. Deploying soldiers ready to wage war may just have been the easy way out, a way that hasn’t been seen working very well. This is the third incident that has taken place in seven months bringing the count to 47 people to have lost their lives. 47 distraught families left in shambles and 47 families used as weapons and examples by militants. How could the defenders of this nation allow these acts to take place?

Each and every citizen of this country counts. The Hindu families who left were Pakistan; the Christian women harassed for blasphemy are Pakistan; the Shiite men shot in Gilgit are Pakistan; the Ahmadis killed in Lahore were Pakistan and the soldiers who lost their lives in Kamra were Pakistan. This is Pakistan under attack.

Independence Day was celebrated on the August 14, and only two days later were we given a stark reminder of our imprisonment. Does the presence of militancy and extremism not negate freedom? When will our liberation army awaken and when will we be free again?

Read more by Erum here or follow her on Twitter  @shaikherum

erum.shaikh

Erum Shaikh

The writer is a News Editor at The Express Tribune and has an Undergraduate Degree in Law from the University of London. She tweets @shaikherum (twitter.com/shaikherum)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.