Peace efforts resumed in Gilgit, jirga reactivated
20 October 2005
Gilgit: The Gilgit peace jirga comprising notables and public representatives has been reactivated to help the local administration and conflicting parties in their efforts to restore peace in the city. Notables from Nagar and Chilas areas held a meeting on Wednesday night to assess the situation and devise a plan to defuse tension. Representatives of the local administration also attended the meeting. Some participants demanded withdrawal of paramilitary forces from Gilgit and called for their replacement by a ‘neutral and impartial force.’ According to sources, the participants were hopeful of working out a new peace plan but said it would need approval by the detained clerics and leaders of both sides. Earlier, a grand jirga headed by the Northern Areas Legislative Council Speaker, Malik Mohammad Miskeen, had achieved some progress in promoting peace. It had drafted an agreement to be signed by top leaders and clerics of both the sects. The sources said that Shia cleric Agha Rahat Al- Hussaini (in detention) had approved the draft agreement but the Sunni cleric and Amir of Tanzeem Ahle Sunnah wal Jama’at, Northern Areas and Kohistan, Maulana Qazi Nisar Ahmed, was away in Rawalpindi. Before Mr Ahmad could sign the agreement, large-scale violence broke out in the city and necessitated the imposition of curfew. Meanwhile, the authorities relaxed the curfew in Gilgit for five hours on Thursday. However, the markets and shopping centres remained almost deserted as frightened people preferred not to venture out. Meanwhile, the members of the Shia community from Hunza and Nagar valleys recently gathered in Ghulmet village, 70kms north of here, to decide their line of action in the wake of Gilgit unrest. They told journalists that they had extended their ultimatum for removal of Rangers from Gilgit to 72 hours and they would retaliate if the paramilitary force was not removed till the deadline. A resolution passed on the occasion said “The Rangers have abused their powers and exceeded their mandate by targeting unarmed civilians.” They said that if the Northern Areas’ deputy chief executive, the NALC speaker and members were powerless or unable to play any role to resolve the crisis, they should resign. They alleged that target killings were being carried out in Gilgit since January but nobody had been arrested so far. They called upon the chief of the army staff to initiate an inquiry against Rangers personnel deployed in Gilgit and curtail their powers.