Following a week of sectarian strife, the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan on Monday saw temporary relief as Chief Minister Mehdi Shah succeeded in deferring the strike called by the aggrieved Shia community.
Though no untoward incident was reported in any part of the region, residents avoided visiting markets in the city amid fears that fresh violence could break out, after it escalated last week when 16 people were killed in Kohistan.
Following Sunday’s clash in Baseen that left three men injured, including a Gilgit scout official, security was beefed up in the city as another 100 policemen were moved in from Skardu.
Police and scouts carried out body searches of those travelling by car and foot all day at various check posts, resulting in long queues of vehicles.
At least three people have been killed, with five injured, following the Kohistan bus incident last week.
Earlier, Mehdi Shah met Shia clerics in a bid to retract the strike call.
The clerics, following a meeting with Interior Minister Rehman Malik in Gilgit last week, had given a week’s deadline to the government to fulfill their demands, including the arrest of perpetrators and enhanced compensation to the victims of the Kohistan tragedy, army patrols on the Karakoram Highway and the extension of Gilgit airport.
An official from the G-B government said that “Mehdi Shah, along with some cabinet members, met the clergy in the central Imambargah and convinced them to put off the strike call.”
The clerics, however, made it clear to the chief minister that the situation would slip out of their control if the government failed to honour its commitments.
Meanwhile, the district administration in Skardu also imposed Section 144 in the city to discourage public assemblies.
Sunni clerics in Gilgit have termed the bus incident a conspiracy against Gilgit-Baltistan. In a statement issued on Monday, they said that if G-B cannot become a constitutional province, the region should be annexed with Azad Jammu Kashmir.
Published in The Express Tribune