If James Hilton, the British Author of the best seller, Lost Horizon
published in 1933, had visited Hunza valley on Thursday, 11th August,
2011, it would have shattered his dream of a Shangri-la, the fictional
land of harmony, peace and tranquillity.
On that day, paradise was turned into hell; it was like paradise on
fire, and seemed like the Ultar mountain demon, the evil spirit had come
down the valley, and entered the evil body of the police officers, who
sprayed bullets indiscriminately at innocent, unarmed and peaceful
protestors, who’s homes, land and everything they lost on January 4,
2010, in the Attabad landslide lake. The shooting, killed a father and a
son and injuring dozens of others.
As one speaker, addressing the spontaneous crowd of over 8,000 people
who gathered the other day in Aliabad, at the crime scene, to condemn
state terrorism and demanded arrest of the killers, said, ‘yesterday the
sky was also weeping, you saw the sudden black clouds up above the
valley and the heavy rain shower for almost one hour’, he said while
crying. ‘Never before in the history of Hunza, such barbaric act of
violence has ever happened, those buried in their graves for centuries,
might have shaken as to what happened in Hunza, the land of peace and
heaven on earth’, said another speaker.
Termed as a worldly paradise and a permanent happy land between the
Himalayas and the western end of the Kunlun mountains, bordered with
western Xinjiang Province of China, Hunza remained fiercely independent
state for over 1000 years, and has close historic ties with China,
before it was attacked and occupied by the British colonialists in 1892,
and later, the British installed rulers joined and lead the other
occupied neighbouring states to annex the whole Gilgit-Baltistan region
with newly carved state of Pakistan in 1948.
The overt reason cited for the brutal killing was, the police force on
forward security protocol duty along with the entourage of the Chief
Minister Gilgit-Baltistan, who was visiting to distribute cheques to the
same unfortunate victims of Attaabad lake who were protesting, wanted
the road to be clear of any protest to pass the caravan smoothly.
In a similar pattern of incident, five days earlier, on August 5, 2011,
over hundred armed mafia group linked to border trade with China,
entered Hunza from south, passed quietly through all the police check
posts, with no hindrance and boarded boats at Attabad spillway and
reached Hussaini lake harbour upstream, attacked the small village of
around 60 households, terrorized women and children, broken into houses,
torched shops, tents and motor bikes, and inured dozens in a clash with
local wage-labourers and local people. The police on site remained
aloof and as spectator.
The reason for this act of terrorism and barbarism at Hussaini was that
the local wage labourers and youth who are internally displaced and
unemployed due to submerging in the lake of their houses and land and
the only highway linking the valley down with Hunza. While the mafia and
trade groups want a total business control at both ends of the Attabad
Lake, which was unacceptable to the local people.
Later a peace delegation from the neighbouring valley visited Hussaini,
and condemned the acts of the mafia, and apologized to the people and
promised that such incidents will not happen again.
“We are born soldiers. We know how to fight and die for our land and
our people. Look at the list of martyrs of 1948, 1965, 1971 and the
Siachen and Kargil wars’, said an ex military officer from Hunza, ‘but
we will never be such a coward to shoot at unarmed, civilians, terrorize
women and children. Don’t be mistaken by our patience and love for
peace, we know how to defend ourselves, and protect our people and our
peace of mind, he added.
Other speakers at the gathering in Aliabad also draw a pattern in what
happened on 5th August and what happened on 11th August. Obviously there
is merit in many of the points raised. Who is for example interested in
containing China, by delaying the widening of Karakoram highway (KKH),
and draining of the lake that has blocked the KKH; who is interested to
control the newly established Hunza-Nagar district, which is an
important trade corridor with China; what is the interest of the vested
interest groups in gaining petty shares in the existing booty from the
illegal sale of relief goods including fuel oil at the spillway; What
happened as a mob response damaging public property and buildings, was
it pre-planned by the same vested interests who attacked Hussaini and
killed IDPs or was it just a spontaneous reaction of teen-aged boys
frustrated for many other reasons? who actually ordered the DSP to shoot
and kill? Who armed the people and provided boats to transport to
There is a need to look back at what happened, and what is being
planned to happen as a result of these two recent events, and may be
other twists that are coming.
Who is watching these and the early signs?, who will take pre-emptive
measures, and issue early warnings? Who is responsible for preparedness
and response in the event of such man-made disasters?
The youth, nationalist and democratic leaders and activist need to call
an all parties MARAKA to address these issues, draw lessons and chart a
plan of action to defend the people and protect the Shangri-La from the
Rise up again, before our Shangri-La is shattered, and we are LOST in the Horizon!