GILGIT: A senior minister among several travellers, including foreign tourists, trapped on Babusar Road near Thak Village of Chilas since Friday evening, were allowed to pass through the area after officials held negotiations with militants.

During the talks, the militants gave a 10-day ultimatum to the authorities to meet their demands.

Sources said GB minister Abaidullah Baig along with his son was on his way from Gilgit to Islamabad when militants, led by Mujahedeen Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan head Abdul Hameed, set up blockades on the road connecting GB with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, leaving travellers on both sides stranded for many hours.

Political and religious leaders of Diamer along with district administration officials met the militants and held negotiations after the latter took the minister to a nearby building.

Leading a team of negotiators from Diamer, former GB government spokesman and PML-N leader Faizullah Faraq told Dawn that talks with the militants were held and that Mr Baig was part of the negotiations.

He said their main demand was the release of dozens of their accomplices from various prisons, as per an earlier agreement reached with the government. Some of them were involved in the Nanga Parbat massacre.

Police had arrested three militants, including GB’s most wanted militant commander, Habibur Rehman, for killing 10 foreigners in Nanga Parbat area in 2013, but he managed to escape two years later from Gilgit Jail along with an accomplice. Another accomplice of the commander, who failed to flee, is currently in a Punjab prison and awaiting trial in a military court.

He went into hiding soon for six years after the jailbreak. On July 7, 2021, he held an ‘open court’ at the polo ground of Babusar in Diamer district and was seen giving an interview in a video released on social media.

In the interview, Habibur Rehman with 15 other militants introduced himself as Naib Amir and Abdul Hameed as commander of Mujahideen Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan. He then read out a statement saying that the first negotiations with government were held in Khanbari Diamer on February 20, 2019. The agreement made during the talks should be implemented, he had said, claiming that they wanted peace and blaming the then government for sabotaging peace by not implementing the deal.

The government had reached an agreement with militants to maintain peace in Diamer, particularly on the Karakoram Highway, after the killing of 10 foreigners and their guide near the Nanga Parbat base camp on June 23, 2013, followed by the murder of an SSP and two army officers and the targeted killing of 19 bus passengers of Shia sect.

After the latest round of negotiations, Babusar Road was reopened, allowing the trapped travellers to pass through the area.

The minister, according to a video statement, said two of the demands by the militants were about the release of their accomplices from jails and placement of a ban on women sports activities.

He said he had forwarded these demands to the GB chief minister for implementation at the earliest.

Mujahedeen GB and Kohistan chief Abdul Hameed during the negotiations said the government had agreed three years ago to release his accomplices and finding two missing persons. He said the artery was blocked after the government had failed to implement the 2019 agreement. Giving a 10-day ultimatum to the authorities for implementation of their demands, he said if it did not happen, the government would be responsible for repercussions.

Mr Faraq said Diamer was gateway of GB, and the Diamer-Basha Dam was under construction there. He claimed that people of the region were largely peaceful, except a few terrorist incidents in the past. After negotiations with the militants, peace was restored to the region, he said.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2022

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