Hunza News

Sectarian harmony: Two men pardon attackers in reconciliation ceremony

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GILGI: Two men, who were critically injured in what was said to be a sectarian attack in 2012 in Gilgit, have pardoned the men believed to be responsible for the shooting, setting a crucial precedence in sectarian harmony in the region.

HunzaNews May 23rd, 2014.

Shakir Rana and Naeem Akhtar made the announcement at a gathering held by elders from both Sunni and Shia communities on Thursday in Bargo, about 50 kilometres from Gilgit.

“From now on we will act like brothers and members of a family. I am quite sure this is the way for a more permanent solution to this menace (sectarian violence), at least in my village,” said Shakir.

While this may seem like a drop in the ocean, residents of their respective villages believe the gesture has opened a door to mutual trust and reconciliation between the two sects for generations to come.

Shakir and Naeem were traveling in a car from Bargo to Gilgit in 2012 when they were allegedly ambushed by Rustam Ali and Altaf Hussain. Critically injured in the shooting, Shakir and Naeem were taken to a nearby hospital where doctors were able to save them. Both victims suffered more than five gunshot wounds and were later shifted to a hospital in Islamabad where their treatment took months. Both suspects have been in jail since the incident and are currently undergoing trial.

The attack took place in what was the worst year for residents of Gilgit-Baltistan in terms of sectarian violence. The region saw its worst sectarian bloodshed in 2012 which left over 70 people dead. With equal representation in a population of nearly 3,500 people, many residents of Bargo Valley were caught in a dangerous cycle of revenge killings, the repercussions of which were felt in other parts of the region.

Today, residents are showing signs of working towards a reconciliation. The forgiveness extended by Shakir and Naeem to their alleged attackers is being seen as a major victory in this regard.

“We want to tell the world that forgiveness is more pious than vengeance,” said Tahir Rana, a relative of Shakir.

In the ceremonious gathering, participants emulated the goodwill gesture of Shakir and Naeem and also pardoned each other for previous transgressions, vowing to live peacefully.

“This act of our youth has opened up new avenues for mutual trust and love for generations to come,” said Hajat Ali, an elder from the area.

The ceremony ended with prayers for lasting peace and prosperity in the valley. Later, Shakir and Naeem went before a court and submitted a request for the release of Rustam Ali and Altaf Hussain.

Express Tribune

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