October 2005 News

India expresses concern over Gilgit situation

25 October 2005
The Hindu
Amit Baruah

NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday expressed concern over the situation in Gilgit (on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control), where a curfew was in force after 'clashes' between Pakistani paramilitary forces and Shia students. Pointing out that the Gilgit-Baltistan area had a history of sectarian conflict, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman hoped that the Pakistani forces would act with the utmost restraint and observe international human rights' standards. He said the Government would keep a watch on the situation. This is one of the few occasions when India has spoken out on what it believes is an issue of human rights on the Pakistani side of the LoC. In the 'clashes' between Pakistani forces and Shia students at least 10 persons, including two security personnel, were killed. Relief to the quake- hit The spokesman said Dilip Sinha, Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry, would lead a delegation to Islamabad for discussions on the modalities of getting relief to the people hit by the October 8 earthquake. The delegation, scheduled to leave for Pakistan on October 28, would have talks in Islamabad the next day. Apart from Mr. Sinha, the delegation would comprise officials from the Home Ministry, Army Headquarters and the Jammu and Kashmir Government. In response to questions, the spokesman said the three relief camps proposed by India had not become operational because India was still awaiting concurrence from the Pakistani side. Though India had promised to make these camps along the LoC operational on October 25, this could not be done since the green signal from Pakistan had not come. Though a positive outcome is expected from the talks in Islamabad, these camps are not expected to become operational before the formal discussions between the two sides. The talks will focus on documentation to be carried by those who wish to cross the LoC for relief and medical attention. The duration of such transit will also be discussed. Curfew relaxed As people of Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) grapple with the tragedy caused by the earthquake, Gilgit has been reeling under sectarian trouble. On Monday local authorities relaxed curfew for seven hours, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Gilgit following a slight improvement in law and order. The curfew was eased 11 days after tension gripped the town in the wake of the clashes between security personnel and students on October 13. According to local media reports security forces have set up pickets on high-rise buildings to monitor the situation. There was a cautious movement in traffic as people came out to buy commodities for daily use. Lorries carrying fresh supplies were also allowed for offloading but roads emptied an hour before the curfew was to start. Gilgit has witnessed several incidents of sectarian violence since the beginning of this year. In June, three persons were killed in the town as security forces opened fire on a vehicle violating a curfew. Shiites, who constitute some 20 per cent of Pakistan's Muslims, have been agitated over the syllabus in schools. The issue was supposed to have been resolved amicably a few weeks ago. The provocation for the current round of unrest is not clear.


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