Gilgit-Baltistan is in grip of panic and rumours after two young men were gunned down in the scenic Naltar valley 55 kilometers South of Gilgit city on Eid holidays. The two youth, Farjad Hussain and Saleem Abbas, residents of Lower Naltar were killed in Naltar Bala, the upper reaches of the valley.
As per eyewitness accounts, the two had gotten in an altercation with some locals who asked them to lower the volume of the music playing in their car. The altercation led to a scuffle whereupon the locals opened fire. Farjad succumbed to his injuries at the spot, while Saleem Abbas breathed his last at DHQ Hospital Gilgit the next day.
Soon after the incident, rumours went rife on social media in Gilgit-Baltistan. Some elements on social media tried to paint the incident as sectarian clash. However, religious clerics, journalists, peace activists and common citizens dismissed the rumour mongering as a ploy to derail peace in the region.
A Twitter user, Yawar Abbas advised caution against asocial elements’ attempts to stoke sectarianism in the region. He stressed on the need to promote interfaith harmony for lasting peace and condemned the atrocious murder of youth.
Another Twitter user Nasir also rubbished the rumours that the clash was sectarian in nature. He said there is no sectarian conflict in Naltar and peace prevails in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The Tanzeem Ahl-e-Sunnatwal Jamat Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan condemned the murder of the youth and urged the local government to bring the responsible to book. It also urged religious leaders of all factions to preach tolerance and forbearance to rid the society of sectarian violence. The Tanzeem said Pakistan faced multiple challenges already and a law and order situation on sectarian grounds could only aid the enemy in dealing great damage to the country.
Shia cleric Sheikh Mirza Ali also condemned the incident and called it an attempt to sabotage peace. He called for free and fair investigation of the matter to bring those responsible to justice.
Journalist Abdul Rehman Bukhari highlighted the need of timely and effective official communication on sensitive matters. He said the official silence on the Naltar incident triggered rumour mongering which could derail peace in the region.
The Chief Minister Gilgit Baltistan Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman has ordered the highest-level inquiry of the incident to bring the culprits to justice. He promised zero-tolerance for those responsible.
It is heartening that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan rejected the plot to stoke sectarian hatred and violence over the unfortunate incident. This is welcome development in a region that has been mired in sectarian violence for years.
This is perhaps what the deceased Farjad Hussain himself would have wanted. One of his Facebook posts show him yearning for love, tolerance and peaceful coexistence in his homeland.