The phone lines are down and wireless connections are jammed since last three days. It is very difficult to get the right information about how many people have died in recent target killing incident in Gilgit-Baltistan. Some put the numbers as high as 80.
However, there are people who have received information from eye witnesses about the massacre of Shias in Chilas. One person is Shujat Hussain Mesam who has recorded statements of three witnesses who were riding the buses which were attacked in Chilas. The passengers were interviewed by Hussain’s father, who is a retired government employee. One eyewitness, Aslam, is a 30 year old male who said that about three thousand (3,000) fully armed assailants intercepted a convoy of 25 buses. They pulled all the passengers down. After confiscating the luggage, the buses were then set on fire. Aslam claims that it was all pre-planned and even the police and administration were either helping the assailants directly or turned a blind eye throughout the entire episode of bloodshed and mayhem.
The assailants had set up a makeshift tent to host those who were going to be released later. The male Shia passengers were then lined up. The gunmen checked their ID cards and shot and killed many on the spot. Many bodies were riddled with bullets. Those who ran for life were then attacked by the mob with stones and bricks and killed them in that manner. The assailants pelting stones were laughing and high fiving each other upon hitting the target. Aslam stated that many Shias were also taken hostage and may be still alive. He estimated the death toll at no less than sixty (60), while at least another sixty (60) went missing. Aslam insisted that he was not carrying an ID card and remained associated with a Sunni family as the kind hearted elderly male guardian claimed him to be his son. Those males suspected as non-Shias were then sent to the tent along with females and the children. Later, they were sent to the house of Haji Abdul Aziz, where they were offered refreshment. At some point, the police arrived at Haji’s house and escorted the passengers to the few remaining buses which then took them to Gilgit.
Another survivor, Zakir – a 22 year old Shia male, said that his bus was first to arrive at Buner farm, where the assailants had gathered. He claimed to be a student without an ID card upon which the assailants hurled him towards a government building along with two old ladies and three girls. There, he was able to call his family members and also contacted an influential government official in Chilas, who was later instrumental in saving his life. The official sent his police guards who escorted Zakir away. After spending the night at the officer’s residence, he was then sent to Gilgit in a helicopter with the dead bodies. From there, he reached his hometown Skardo. Zakir said that the man sitting next to him in the bus showed his ID card to the assailants and was subsequently killed.
Ilyas is the third survivor and eyewitness who was assisting some ladies from Khapulo during the bus journey. As the attackers approached him, one of the ladies claimed him to be his son and a Noorbakhshi by faith from Khapulo. This way, Ilyas was able to save his life with the help of that kind and brave lady.
Once the assailants were done with the passengers at Buner farm, they then marched towards Gilgit. The military personnel stopped the mob at Juglote and refused further advance. Juglote is only 40 kilometers from Gilgit city. At the same time, Shias of Nagar retaliated by taking 19 Sunnis hostage. Further, thousands of men of Nagar valley marched towards Gilgit and Chilas to protect and avenge the death of innocent Shias. They were stopped by military personnel at Danyor from where they could not march any further.
Despite curfew, exchange of heavy gun fire continues in Gilgit city. Many people have got injured as well as died of gun shots but exact numbers are not known. In absence of proper rescue and first aid facilities, and imposition of curfew, the number of deaths could increase. The main hospital has run short of medicine while residents have no access to food supplies. Life has come to a complete halt in Gilgit city yet government opts to act as bystanders. In the absence of justice and good governance, the people have no hope from Pakistani administration.
People are sleepless, restless and helpless. The mothers, sisters and daughters have shed all the tears they had. The children cannot sleep due to nightmares. But the bloody coffins continue to arrive with each passing day. The aged fathers have no strength in their shoulders to carry all those coffins to the graves.
The government has shown its real face as the supporter of terrorists and extremists. The politicians are also selfish who have sold the interest of their nation for political favors. The Shia massacre has exposed the two nation theory. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan must rise and unite before it is too late.