BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
GILGIT: Hundreds of passengers from Gilgit-Baltistan [G-B] were forced to spend their night in the shivering cold in Chilas town on Thursday after Kohistan police refused to let the convoy of buses proceed on the Karakoram Highway [KKH] due to security threats.
The passengers, including more than 50 women and children, were heading towards Rawalpindi from different valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan on Thursday when Kohistan police at Harban area stopped the convoy of more than 30 buses, saying they aren’t allowed to let it go by next morning because of security threats in the Kohistan region.
“This infuriated the passengers as they can’t afford to stay in wilderness in extreme weather conditions,” said a passenger also part of the convoy.
“This led to a brawl and then police resorted to aerial firing to disperse the passengers,” said the passenger requesting anonymity. “To me this is humiliation, just humiliation of human rights.”
Another passenger Abdul Hameed said the situation created panic among the travelers who had already heard of mass killing on the highway by terrorists in police uniform.
“Some women and children were simply crying in the wake of the firing,” said the passenger.
The buses returned one by one and reached Chilas, the last town of G-B before Kohistan on the KKH which is the only route connecting G-B with rest of the country.
The misery of poor passengers didn’t seem to end here in Chilas.
Most of the passengers couldn’t afford to waste money by staying in hotels. But there was no alternative either given that temperature had already dropped 10 degrees below freezing point.
“But I saw most of the passengers stayed in buses the whole night,” said Hameed. “The cold was just killing and I wonder how they managed to do that.”
Those few who checked in hotel were able to get a bed though the hotels deprived heating facility.
The convoy however left for Rawalpindi early on Thursday and it will be reaching the destination by midnight.
A police in Chilas control room told reporters “Chilas police remained alert in the night after buses were parked in the town with hundreds of passengers.”
Security was augmented on KKH following organised attacks on passenger buses during 2011-12 which resulted in several fatalities of passengers mainly from G-B.
The dilapidated highway and the convoy system has increased the 15-hour journey from Gilgit to Rawalpindi to 23 hours.
The convoy system requires 50 to 100 vehicles to move in groups from G-B’s Diamer district till Bisham in Shangla with K-P law enforcement authorities escorting them.