GILGIT: The fear of being sentenced to death by a military court is what spurred two suspects charged with the Nanga Parbat basecamp massacre, along with two other prisoners, to risk a jailbreak in Gilgit, investigators said on Sunday.
In his statement to the police, an injured Dilbar, who was among those attempting to escape from Gilgit District Jail during the early hours of Friday, said he and his accomplices were certain of a death sentence. “This forced them to risk their lives,” said one of the investigators, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Nanga Parbat perps
Dilbar was shot and injured by security forces during the jailbreak, while fellow inmate Bilal was killed. The latter was accused of attacking the foreign mountaineers at Nanga Parbat basecamp.
Inmates Liaquat and Habibur Rehman managed to escape, prompting security forces to start a manhunt. Home Secretary Sibtain Ahmed confirmed the deceased prisoner and Rehman were among the gunmen who overran the basecamp of the Killer Mountain. Liaqat is said to be involved in the deadly Chilas attack on the Nanga Parbat massacre investigators. After the jailbreak, IGP jails were also suspended.
The great escape
The investigator said the inmates planned to escape through Gilgit River View road to Minawar and then on to Diamer district.
“The four of them escaped after making a hole in the adjacent library wall before scaling the main boundary wall,” said the official who was part of the joint investigation team probing the jailbreak.
A loud thud caused by them jumping off a 14-foot wall alerted the force deployed outside and security officials opened fire on the escaping prisoners.
Based on information extracted from the wounded militant, security forces took over Minawar for 24 hours. In an overnight siege, forces cornered the fugitives in a compound but failed to capture either of the two during a stand-off. One security official suffered injuries in the exchange of fire. Later, security forces conducted a door-to-door search with no luck.
G-B IGP Zafar Iqbal Awan told journalists the suspects would be captured soon as “sensitive areas” had been cordoned off. “The search operation could expand up to Diamer district to capture them,” he said.
Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism court granted physical remand of 10 prison staffers arrested for their alleged role in the jailbreak.
In the wake of the deadly Army Public School massacre in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, the federal government decided selected cases related to terrorism would be tried by the country’s military courts. As part of the National Action Plan, the Gilgit-Baltistan government chose to send the case against these terror suspects to a military court.
The 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill 2015 and the Pakistan Army Act 1952 (Amendment) Bill 2015 were signed into law by President Mamnoon Hussain at the beginning of the year. As many as 3,400 terror suspects would be tried by military courts.
In June 2013, the Nanga Parbat attackers, dressed as paramilitary Gilgit Scouts, killed 10 foreign climbers. After the grizzly incident, the economy of the region suffered a considerable dent.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2015.