After decades of sectarian violence, July 14 marked the day Gilgit readied itself for a hopeful new reality.
A local jirga in Gilgit achieved a landmark breakthrough after dozens of bereaved Sunni and Shia families of Napura locality embraced each other – forgiving the blood spilled over their decades-long sectarian rivalry.
“We are forgiving each other to herald a new era of peace, happiness and tranquility,” Maulana Motabar Shah and Sheikh Bashir told The Express Tribune at the regional chief minister’s office, where they formally announced their unison. Shah and Bashir are top clerics of the Sunni and Shia communities in Napura, respectively.
The ceremony was attended by Chief Minister Mehdi Shah, senior government officials, members of the Masjid Board, jirga members and Shia and Sunni community members of Napura.
Towards the end of the ceremony, the communities unanimously demanded health, transport, and education facilities for their area, saying that the decades-long rivalry stalled progress in the area.
Chief Minister Shah promised to fulfill their demands. “It’s really a historic day for the region,” he said. “I’m ready to extend whatever help is possible to the jirga and the people of Napura.”
In the past four to five years, at least eight people from both sides had been killed in the sectarian violence, not to mention dozen others wounded.
In Gilgit, at least 23 people died and over 60 were wounded in the region’s worst sectarian bouts a couple of years back.
Advocate Mohammad Aslam said he initiated the peace process in November 2011 on a self-help basis and was supported by many others, including SP (retd) Anwar Ali, Dr Usman and Didar Ali.
“Initially, some days were highly frustrating as people refused to cooperate. However, our relentless efforts finally bore fruit,” Aslam said.
The jirga made the community members take an oath for not violating the treaty. Under the treaty, in case of a violation, the jirga would set the culprit’s house on fire and impose a fine of Rs500,000.
By Shabbir Mir for Express Tribune.