Peace Plan For Gilgit
10 November 2005
Karachi: ONE hopes that the recent jirga-approved peace proposals for restoring normality to Gilgit will lead to at least a temporary solution for the area that has been wracked by several months of sectarian violence. According to these proposals, mosques will not be used for political purposes and action will be taken against those raising sectarian slogans during local elections. It is believed that these proposals will be given legal status to make them binding on the people and the community leaders. Sectarian tensions since last year have led to the death of over 100 people, besides skirmishes between law enforcement personnel and students, curfew, and the frequent closure of schools and colleges. Despite the heavy security presence in the area, the violence has affected the economy badly and trade and tourism have been hit hard by random attacks on buses on the Karakoram Highway. No doubt, the recent proposals will help calm the situation, especially when they acquire legal status. However, while the jirga leaders may exert some influence over the locals, a more lasting mechanism needs to be worked out whereby law and order can be maintained by state-sanctioned political authorities. As of now, there is very little political representation for the Northern Areas that continue to be in a state of constitutional limbo. The Northern Areas Legislative Council that comes closest to a democratic dispensation in the area, remains an incomplete body with elections to some seats still pending. According to reports, the real power rests not in the hands of elected officials but in the military and the bureaucracy. The people are thus deprived of any meaningful democratic forum that could allow them to voice and resolve their grievances. The government would do well to address these concerns before violence erupts once again in this troubled spot.