GILGIT, March 10: Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said the alleged perpetrators of the target killing of 16 bus passengers in Kohistan district late last month have been traced through frequency of their cellphones and five of them have already been arrested.

However, their identity cannot be disclosed at the moment.

Speaking to journalists here on Saturday, Mr Malik said there was no need to conduct raids to arrest the alleged killers because the Jirga system was quite effective in the northern parts of the country.

“The names of the killers will be given to the Jirga members who will hand them over to the law-enforcement agencies,” the minister remarked.

Mr Malik was of the opinion that the incident should not be viewed as a terrorist action against a particular sect. “Rather, the killings were carried out by those who want to destabilise the state, the government and are active throughout our country.

“An international conspiracy may be under way and the investigators have taken this into consideration.”

He said an adequate amount had been given to the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, who would distribute cheques among the heirs of the victims of Kohistan carnage. Some of the heirs would be provided jobs by the authorities.

Mr Malik said nobody would be allowed to create dissension and disharmony among the various sects. Security on the Karakoram Highway had been beefed up.

In order to abolish the “no-go” areas in the region, the Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts and Punjab Rangers had been given the powers of police, he said.

The paramilitary forces would assist the police in dealing with criminal and terrorist activities in the region.

Mr Malik said that offices for issuance of passports and identity cards would be set up soon in the Diamer district. “I will myself inaugurate these offices.”

He said the number of flights linking Gilgit with the rest of the country would be increased.

He said that foreigners could not buy property in Gilgit until they obtained no-objection certificates from the Gilgit-Baltistan authorities and the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

Earlier, the minister was given a briefing on the law and order situation by officials of the Gilgit-Baltistan administration and by senior paramilitary personnel.

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