Rebutting reports from the past week of a decline in the law and order situation of Gilgit-Baltistan, the region’s home department and the interim information minister on Sunday maintained conditions were “normal,” and the Army had not been deployed to ensure peace.
Over the past week, several reports—mostly shared on social media—have alleged that the situation in Gilgit-Baltistan is worsening due to sectarian strife. The core issue, per the reports, was demands for the arrest of a cleric that locals accuse of committing blasphemy. This had, in turn, triggered several protests, with the U.S., U.K. and Canada issuing travel advisories warning their citizens against all but essential travel to the region. On Sunday, a shutter-down strike was observed in Skardu against the alleged remarks.
In a statement, the GB Home Department denied all reports of unrest, terming them “baseless.” It said that Section 144 (barring gatherings of five or more people) had been imposed in the region to maintain law and order, protect the life and property of local residents and avoid any untoward incident during the chehlum of Imam Hussain, adding this was also why the Army and civil armed forces had been deployed. However, it maintained, all roads, trade, business centers and educational institutions were operating as normal.
Similarly, interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi issued a statement on X, formerly Twitter, describing the social media narrative as “misleading.” Stressing GB was “experiencing peace and stability,” he acknowledged that while some peaceful protests had occurred in reaction to some religious and sectarian concerns, the law and order situation remained calm.
“No Army deployment has taken place and the Pakistan Army is prepared for community protection during the events like chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) in the coming week,” he wrote. “The reports of unrest are baseless; no shots were fired, no damage to public and private property occurred,” he said, adding reported protests were a “natural political democratic response” to local issues, which had been managed by the local administration.
In a subsequent posting, Solangi shared some videos and pictures from Skardu, saying both local and foreign tourists were enjoying their stay in the region without hindrance.
Also on Sunday, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Haji Gulbar Khan met with delegations of the Anjuman-e-Imamiya Gilgit and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat as part of efforts to maintain law and order. According to a press release, both groups appreciated the government’s efforts to establish peace and order in the region and vowed to play their role in promoting religious tolerance and brotherhood.