In a tragic incident in the Chilas area of Gilgit-Baltistan’s(GB) Diamer district, a passenger bus en route to Rawalpindi was targeted by unknown assailants on December 2. The attack resulted in the loss of at least nine lives, including two soldiers, and injuries to 21 passengers.
The attackers fired from nearby hills, causing the bus to collide with a goods truck.
Six people have been arrested in connection with the attack, according to a local police official as per Dawn.
The bus (Number BLN 4647) was traveling from Gahkuch, the district headquarters of Ghizer, operated by K2 Travels, a private transportation company.
This isn’t the first time passenger buses have been attacked on the KKH by terrorists. Unlike the past attacks, in which passengers from the Shia community were targetted, this time the victims are not from a particular faith group.
Mir Alam, bus driver in cowardly attack that took 10 lives, bravely attempted to save passengers amidst indiscriminate gunfire. His efforts resulted in collision with an oncoming truck. Mir Alam also perished. He was from Hunza and had served in army as driver.#GilgitBaltistan pic.twitter.com/XBlvOipqKg— ShabbirMir Shina (@ShabbirMir) December 3, 2023
Contrary to previous incidents in the region, GB Home Minister Shams Lone emphasized that this attack was not sectarian but rather a terrorist act that claimed lives from various backgrounds.
The local community in Diamer has reportedly rejected such acts, and the government has assured the public of taking tough measures against the perpetrators.
The minister said that the GB government has taken “tough decisions” to deal with militants and “all culprits will be arrested soon”.
He added that religious scholars from all sects, civil society and political parties have condemned the attack.
GB Chief Minister Gulbar Khan, along with other top officials, attended the funeral of the victims and announced compensation of Rs1 million for the deceased, Rs500,000 for the seriously injured, and Rs300,000 for other injured passengers.
The government has also implemented security measures, including daytime travel for passenger vehicles through Diamer in convoys escorted by security personnel.
Protests erupted across Chilas, Gilgit, Skardu, and Hunza, with the transporters’ association calling for protection for vehicles traveling on the Karakoram Highway (KKH).
Bus Service Suspended
In response to the incident, bus services from Rawalpindi to Gilgit-Baltistan remain suspended until foolproof security is provided, as stated by Malik Shahbaz, the general secretary of the Pakistan Transporter Welfare Association.
Malik Shahbaz, the general secretary of the Pakistan Transporter Welfare Association, told Dawn that 150 to 200 coaches and buses operate from Rawalpindi to 10 GB districts daily.
He claimed that only one security official on a motorcycle is deputed to escort the convoy of buses along the 50-kilometer-long stretch of the KKH in Chilas.
“The public transport service will remain suspended until the provision of foolproof security to Gilgit-bound buses,” Mr Shahbaz said.
The Pakistan Association of Tour Operators also condemned the attack and said the act of violence not only resulted in the loss of innocent lives but had a profound impact on the tourism industry as well. “Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, and all those affected by this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, Islamabad Capital City Police Officer(ICCPO) Dr. Akbar Nasir Khan issued directives to enhance security measures in the Diplomatic Enclave following the attack.
“Police remains steadfast in its commitment to maintaining a peaceful environment and ensuring the protection of the lives and property of the citizens within the federal capital,” he said.
“Citizens are urged to cooperate with the police and report any suspicious activities or items by dialling helpline Pucar 15 or at ICT-15 app,” he said.