Riots erupt in Gilgit, Chilas; 14 killed
GILGIT: A bout of violence claimed 14 lives and left over 50 people injured in Gilgit and nearby Chilas before a curfew was imposed in the region’s capital on Tuesday. “Five people were killed and at least 40 injured in different parts of Gilgit city,” District Magistrate Arqam Tariq said. He said the army had taken over the control of the city and law–enforcement personnel had been ordered to shoot anyone violating the curfew.
According to a police official in Chilas, “nine people were killed near the town by a mob in retaliation against the killings reported from Gilgit”. The violence started unexpectedly. The Ahl-i-Sunnat group, a reincarnation of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, was observing a strike to press the government for the release of its leader. A group of workers of the party reached the Etihad Chowk in Gilgit. When they were trying to force shopkeepers to close their shops, unknown people threw a grenade on them. Dozens of people were injured.
Within minutes, firing broke out that lasted for about five hours. It appeared as if the entire city was under attack as firing took place in various localities. Panicked residents holed themselves up in their homes and the streets and markets were rapidly emptied of people. Law–enforcement personnel were unable to control the situation despite resorting to firing till curfew was imposed and troops appeared on the roads.
The entry points of the city were closed and helicopters hovered over the area. The scale of violence could be judged from the fact that an official in the Kashrote Civil Hospital said that more than 50 people had been admitted there and four bodies had still not been claimed by anyone. Officials at the District Headquarters Hospital said three police personnel had also been brought in for treatment.
Police official Alam Khan from Chilas told Dawn that Superintendent of Police Jamshid Khan had suffered serious injuries. Another policeman was injured while trying to stop the mob from attacking and destroying buses.
Tens of thousands of people marched towards Karakoram Highway and intercepted a convoy of buses heading towards Gilgit. Nine passengers were shot dead and four buses were set on fire.
Apart from the deployment of troops, no significant steps were taken by the administration to arrest the miscreants.
The district magistrate of Gilgit said no arrest had been made, adding that the culprits would be apprehended after the troops brought the situation under control.
An official said the mob had blocked the Karakoram Highway. Security forces failed to restore traffic on the highway till late in the night.