IT is inexcusable that despite having full knowledge of the growing terrorist activity in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Diamer district the local authorities have shown a lax attitude towards the danger. Now, with the murder in Chilas of three security men said to be investigating the June killings of foreign climbers at the Nanga Parbat base camp, the onus is on the state and local security forces to take strong action to curb the extremist threat in the region. There have been reports that a TTP affiliate has claimed the attack. Regardless of which group is involved, the ambush and murder of the three men is a chilling indicator of the extent to which the militants have infiltrated the area. If security officials investigating the Nanga Parbat killings have been gunned down with such ease, it only confirms that the militants remain two steps ahead of the authorities. Not only is it apparent that religious extremists are establishing themselves in the region, in many pockets of Diamer there seems to be sympathy for the militant forces as well.
Diamer is a highly conservative region with low literacy rates, in stark contrast with other parts of GB. Arms are common in the district while the writ of the state is tenuous. Many of the suspects believed to be involved in the Nanga Parbat massacre hail from Diamer, while there exists support for the Afghan Taliban, local sectarian groups as well as self-styled jihadis in parts of the district. Last year, Shia passengers were pulled off buses and shot in this district; there was a similar incident in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Kohistan district which borders Diamer. While military operations may be ongoing in Fata and other areas, unless the extremist threat here is addressed immediately we may see a new hotbed of militancy emerge in this corner of GB. A thorough security operation is needed in Diamer and its surrounding areas to prevent militants from strengthening their presence and creating a new terrorism nightmare for Pakistan.