Riots and unrest have erupted in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, with the minority Shiite population rebelling against fundamentalist Sunni organizations and the repressive actions of the Pakistani army. It’s noteworthy that this marks the first time that Shia organizations in the region are openly challenging the army’s authority.
In Skardu, located approximately 90 kilometers from India, members of the Shia community are advocating for the reopening of the Kargil highway that leads to India. They express a strong desire to leave Gilgit-Baltistan, which is currently under Pakistani military control, and seek refuge in India.
The situation in Gilgit-Baltistan has escalated with the deployment of 20,000 additional Pakistan Army troops to counter the uprising among the region’s Shiite population, which numbers around eight lakh out of a total population of approximately two million.
Referring to Pakistan Army as Terrorists
The Shia community in Gilgit-Baltistan has been raising slogans against the Pakistan Army, accusing them of being responsible for terrorism and for driving Shias away from the region since 1947. They claim that the army has settled Sunni populations in the area, leading to a shift in the demographic balance, making Shias a minority in what was once a Shia-dominated region.
The situation has escalated to the point where even the Pakistan Army is hesitant to enter Shia-dominated areas. Protests by Shia organizations persist in places like Skardu, Hunza, Diamir, and Chilas, despite the imposition of Article 144, and mobile internet services have been banned in some areas.
Army Chief Munir sends Ulema to quell insurgency:Pakistan’s Army Chief Asim Munir has dispatched four Muslim Ulema (Islamic scholars) from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan in an effort to quell the ongoing insurgency. Despite the deployment of additional army battalions, the unrest in the region continues. A Shia resident of Skardu expressed that it is too late for them to back down, indicating that the Shia community remains resolute in their protests.
Arrest of Shia Religious Leader Triggers Protests
The arrest of Shia religious leader Agha Baqir Al Hussaini in Skardu came as a result of comments he made during a religious event that raised concerns within the government. Al Hussaini questioned a meeting of Ulema (Islamic scholars) in the Skardu area and demanded stricter blasphemy laws, expressing fears that the Shiite community would be targeted by such changes. This situation is seen as part of a broader pattern in which various Pakistani leaders, starting with General Zia ul Haq, have sought to alter the demographics of the region.