The Sectarian Specter in Gilgit-Baltistan

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The issue of sectarian violence in Gilgit–Baltistan cannot be analysed through idealized view which tends to paint the region as idyllic paradise where no violence occurred in history before the advent of modernity. On the contrary, the reality is that sectarian violence has remained a part and parcel of the history of Gilgit-Baltistan. Throughout history, Gilgit had been depopulated devastated various times because of intermittent wars between regional polities and different religions. Previously, this region was home to different religions, including Bon Mat, Shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and local forms of animism.

In the historical timeline arrival of new religion disturbed the prevalent arrangements sanctified and legitimized by dominant religion. The tendency of religion to use violence against other religious groups essentially stems from its struggle to maintain control over the ideological apparatus and power. This is done through declaring other detrimental to system by the established religion. At time confrontation between different groups in the region appeared in the form of skirmishes, battles, war and civil war. An example of violent engagement between old and new religion is evident from long altercation between local Balti religion of Bon Chos and Buddhism. The confrontation between both eventually turned into civil war in the 8th century and continued until the emergence of Ali Sher Khan Anchan in the 16th century. Buddhism exterminated Bon Chos through the power of sword. So it is myth that Buddhism is essentially a peaceful religion.

Events in Gilgit-Baltistan took a sharp turn in about the eight century A.D. Commenting on this period, Dr. Ahmed Hassan Dani writes “in about eighth century A.D. international politics around Gilgit took a new turn. With this change began the mediaeval history of Gilgit. The Arab advance into Central Asia and their conquest of Samarkand, Tashkent, Farghana and right upto Kashgar created a great stir among the then non-Muslim Turkish population of the region (Gilgit-Baltistan)”. During this period, Islam came to the region. Muslim religious figures and preachers emerged on historical scene of Gilgit-Baltistan to fill the power vacuum created by withdrawal of Tibetans and Chinese on the one hand, and changes in neighboring region of Central Asia on the other.

Professor Karl Jetmar marks 12th century as the end of Buddhism in Gilgit-Baltistan. According to local historians, the dynasty of Azar or Shamsher became Sunnite through wave of conversions. Majority of preachers came from Central Asia. However, situation started to change when local Raja of Gilgit, Mirza Khan, adopted Shi’ite faith. Karl Jetmar in his paper ‘Northern Areas of Pakistan: An Ethnographic Sketch’ writes “this was the beginning of a religious division between the local population, causing troubles to the present day.”

Contrary to the common perception in modern period, when Islam permeated into indigenous communities of Gilgit-Baltistan, it did not disturb local social order and culture. In fact, it allowed local animistic practices, shamanistic traditions, cultural rituals and festivals to coexist with Islam in the same social space. By doing so Islam succeeded to adopt itself in local culture and social milieu. In addition, owing to its rugged geographical terrain and harsh climatic conditions, Gilgit-Baltistan remained almost aloof from rest of the world, though religious pilgrims from neighboring regions used to trickle in and out. The isolation and absence of organized religion allowed local people to develop their own theological and mythical interpretative scheme about self, society and cosmos.

However, the society of Gilgit-Baltistan started to change drastically with the advent of the British in Gilgit-Baltistan in the mid of 19th century. It is wrong to assume that the British were the first invaders and conquerors from outside. In its history, Gilgit-Baltistan had witnessed numerous invaders who were later either assimilated with locals or driven out. What makes the British advent different from previous invaders was that they brought modern institutions, lifestyle and ideas along with military might, and they did not assimilate with local culture. Until the advent of the British, religious difference was not an issue for the local communities of Gilgit-Baltistan. That is why people did not face sectarian violence.

A new dimension in the power relation was added during the British period in the shape of Kashmiri establishment. Though they were few in numbers, they were strong because of power. Addition of Kashmiri rule within the power relation had long term repercussions on society and emergence of sectarianism in Gilgit-Baltistan. With the conquest of Gilgit-Baltistan in the mid19th century by Sikhs, the concept of pure Muslim among was introduced among local population that was following syncretic traditions. The commander of army was a Sikh General Nathu Shah who was Sayed from Gujranwala. He was appalled by the practices and rituals observed by nominal Muslims of Gilgit-Baltistan, and intended to turn them into pure Muslim. It was to turn local populace into observant Muslim, a cadre of clerics and observant imams were brought from Kashmir. There are anecdotal stories how Muslim mullahs under Dogras try to purge local Muslims of their pagan practices and rituals. Frederic Drew closely observed this process and reports that Nathu Shah “acquired over these Dards [refers to natives of Gilgit mainly for Shina speakers] a great influence, and he exerted to make ‘good Muhammedans’ of them, to get them to attend more carefully to the forms of their religion. It is a fact that before Nathu Shah came (say in 1842) the Astor people used to burn their dead and not to bury them as Muhammedans should.”

From the above discussion, it can be said that the concept of puritan Islam or Muslim was grafted in the society of Gilgit-Baltistan during the colonial period. The major issue at that time not religion but the scourge of incessant fighting between different princely states in various valley domains of Gilgit-Baltistan. When the first British officers, Major Van and W. Agnew, arrived in Gilgit in the first half of the 19th century, they found Gilgit depopulated because of continuous state of war with neighboring states. Repercussions of the fighting between regional states did not remain confined to military front only, it has permeated into every sphere of life ranging from architecture, settlement pattern, representations, literature, music and social ethos. British’s arrival on the political scene of Gilgit-Baltistan broke the cocoon of regionalism and exposed it to outside world. Until then the shell of inwardness kept the populace immune from exogenous lifestyles, things, ideas and institutions. Breaking of the closed society, propelled the region on a trajectory which was new to the local populace. The current phase is the late phase on the path of historical trajectory of modernity embarked upon by the society of Gilgit-Baltistan during colonial period.

Unlike the then local rulers of Gilgit-Baltistan, the British dominated every valley of the region as well as large swathes of territory with diverse people around the world. Owing to the complexity and diversity within regional principalities and polities in Gilgit-Baltistan, the British introduced modern institutions and laws that can ensure peaceful rule over the people with minimum efforts and resources. It proved conducive in eliminating local practices of raids, killing, marauds, kidnapping, slave trading and vendettas from the region. It is during the British rule people of the region for the first time witnessed a modern system that was impersonal, unlike the personal institutions of kinship.

Inter-sect relations during the colonial period were mostly amicable as older identities of region and kinship still superseded other markers of identity. Traditional governance system did not allow any space for clergy in its power structure. Religious figures were supposed to perform limited religious duties. Within the overall power relations, religion did not have overt and significant role. Furthermore, the clergy did not even engage in theological issues, for majority of people were relying on cultural worldview to deal with their daily life. A lay person never raised a question pertinent to theology. The clergy started to become more important when people could not understand modern order of things and new issues through old worldview. Rampant illiteracy and lack of exposure to the outside world provided an opportunity for religious figures to find a niche in society through power of knowledge, however modicum, and exert more influence on people hearts and minds.

Though there was no serious confrontation between different sects during the British period, there were latent sectarian prejudice among populace. Colonel John Biddulph in his book ‘Tribes of the Hindoo Kush’ recorded some practices and attitudes among Sunnite and Shi’ite communities that show increasing disliking for each other among normally moderate people in the matters of religion. Biddulph served in Gilgit, Yarkand, the Pamir and Wakhan in the half of the 19th century. Writing his observations about Sunnites and Shi’ites he states, “The people of Chilas…make it their boast that, though travelers and traders are safe in their country, no Shiah ever escapes out of their hands.” He also provides details about Shi’ite behaviour towards Sunnites in these words ‘’In Gilgit…the greater proportion were Shiahs or Maulais, and it is related that any Soonnee falling into their hands was branded with a hot iron unless he consented to become a proselyte.” Certainly, attitudes and practices of that time have strong affinity with the sectarian attitude in Gilgit today.

Although the independence movement of Gilgit-Baltistan is comparatively recent, it shrouded in mystery owing to the writings of some of its prominent members who were more concerned with cultivating personality cults by reducing objective history into an epic of their heroism partly to turn the whole historical process in their favour. With the rise of sectarianism and increasing radicalization, history once again has become victim, for the biased lenses of sectarianism and violence not only affects future, it also distorts the past. So far, no research has been carried out regarding attitude of different sects during the independence movement. However, there are some oral and written proofs which points at sectarian undercurrent within the composition of leaders and forces of movement of autonomy.

Soon after independence the revolutionary forces established independent political setup in Gilgit-Baltistan. The former Raja of Gilgit, Shah Rais Khan, was appointed as the president of Gilgit-Baltistan and head of Gilgit Scouts, Colonial Hassan Khan as the Chief of Armed Forces. Because of their numerical strength in forces and majority in the region, the ruling elites of this newly born state were mainly comprised of Shi’ites. Since majority of soldiers and leaders in war of independence hailed from Ithna Ashari and Ismaili community, some people among Sunnites felt that they would be made subservient to majority’s will. When some section of Sunnites in Gilgit-Baltistan perceived that all the elite political and administrative positions fell in the hands of Shi’ites, they felt insecure and dreaded that Gilgit would become a Shi’ite state. That is why they started to develop a plan for their safety. In the early days of independence, a Sunnite delegation under the leadership of a Molvi from Damote village in Gilgit are reported to went to Karachi to meet Pakistani leadership to annex Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan.

Some sections in Gilgit-Baltistan claim that the demand by some people in the region to merge it with Kashmir aims at turning Sunnite minority status into majority. Roots of these demands can be traced back to Kashmir conflict in 1948. Pakistani state appended Gilgit-Baltistan with Kashmir imbroglio. That is why its constitutional status has remained in limbo for last 69 years. Some analysts see efforts to link the region with Kashmir issue by Kashmiri political parties as a covert attempt of Sunnites to turn Shi’ites into minority. On the other hand, Shi’ite community considers itself as the biggest stakeholder in the region, and tries to derive its legitimacy for rule from the fact that there were more Shi’ite and Ismaili martyrs than Sunnites in Gilgit-Baltistan Freedom Movement.

The post-independence period in Gilgit-Baltistan is marked by new administrative arrangements by the Government of Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan remained independent state for 16 days with Raja Shah Rais as its first and last president. He was replaced by a political agent Alam Khan. Since then the region has remained under the strong control of bureaucracy. It is a period when several political movements started against local rajas of Punial, Nagar and Hunza. In Punial people agitated against local raja in 1952. It resulted in killing of 5 people. Similarly, people stood up against atrocities of rajas of Hunza and Nagar in late 1960s and early 1970s.

Some people mark 1971 as the starting point of sectarian violence that was instigated by the state when the commandant of Gilgit Scout intimidated the headmistress of Fatah Bagh Girls Schools. It triggered a violent protest in Gilgit town. When late Johar Ali and his comrades increase political pressure on him, the Resident Commissioner sought help of a particular sect and turned an administrative issue into sectarian one.. Some oral sources claim that when Johar Ali held protests and rallies against the of intimidation of local headmistress, Sunnite community did not take serious interests in these. In the following year, Syed Asad Zaidi made an inflammatory speech against Sunnite community. Later he became Deputy Speaker of Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC). Asad Zaidi was assassinated on April 20, 2009 in the locality of Kashrote.

There is a common perception that Bhutto tried to allay the fears of Shi’ite community because he himself was a Shi’ite. It merits mention that the first sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan took place not during the rule of General Zia-ul-Haq, but in the reign of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Some segments in Gilgit-Baltistan accuse Bhutto for initiating the policy of divide and rule. He is accused of abolishing Gilgit Scouts for the fear that they would not follow the orders of Government of Pakistan and prefer to protect their own people. It is during the decade of 1970s the issue of route of Shi’ite procession of Moharram became a bone of contention. Before that it was normal for Sunnites to facilitate procession by providing water and cloths to mourner to wipe out blood.

In 1972 Sunnite leaders demanded that the assembly at the end of the Juloos be shifted to another place. But the Shi’ites refused to comply with that demand. Three years later, in 1975, the Shi’ite assembly was shot at from the Sunnite mosque. The ensuing events led to the mobilization of thousands of people from Chilas, Darel and Tangir valleys to support Sunnites in Gilgit, whereas Shi’ites were mobilized from Nagar Valley. However, security forces managed to keep the armed supporter at bay from Gilgit city. This is a major event not in terms of immediate, but in the long term impact as it polarized the hitherto closely knit kinship based communities in Gilgit on sectarian basis. Thereafter, people have increasingly started to identify themselves on the basis of sect. The shift in markers of identity paved the way for religious extremism and sectarian violence in the following decades.

General Zia-ul-Haq rule is crucial in many ways in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan. Immediately after imposing martial law, he declared the region of Gilgit-Baltistan Zone C. By doing so he extended the subjugating rules to Gilgit-Baltistan. It is irony that every government extends only those rules that are subjugating not empowering. When it comes to empowerment, Zia supported a particular version of Islam and groups that could help him in perpetuating his rule. The time of General Zia-ul-Haq is very important because of regional and local geopolitical and social dynamics of Gilgit-Baltistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto abolished local Rajgi/Miri system in 1974. Though it was commendable step, he did not introduce alternative institutions. Traditionally, the class of ulema did not have important role in decision making process of local princely state. Their role was limited to private sphere. However, Zia’s support to particular religious parties and groups on the one hand, and existing power vacuum in Gilgit-Baltistan provided an opportunity for ulema to assert their role in public space on the other. It is a period that witnessed mushrooming of seminaries (madaris) and introduction of curriculum that propagated a particular version of faith. The Islamisation process of Zia was welcomed by Sunnite leaders as they deem that a dictator’s Islam can protect their interests from majoritarian politics of Shi’ite community.

An important development in General Zia-u-Haq period was the opening of Karakorum Highway in 1979. It connects Gilgit-Baltistan with Western China and rest of Pakistan. It has exposed hitherto relatively isolated region of Gilgit-Baltistan to exogenous life styles, market forces and ideas. The interface between Gilgit-Baltistan and rest of Pakistan is crucial to understand local sectarian politics and violence. Communication with rest of the country facilitated influx of people and good from other regions. It has also enabled local religious elements to foster nexus with national and global Islamist discourses and movements. Izhar Hunzai in his paper ‘Conflict Dynamics in Gilgit-Baltistan’ believes, “while unlocking Gilgit-Baltistan from its physical isolation and ushering in economic opportunity, the highway has also increased Gilgit-Baltistan’s vulnerability to new threats, such as the influx of illegal weapons, drugs, and intolerant attitudes from the south, and it has changed the demographics of Gilgit and other towns.” That is why the early 1980s is considered as significant in impacting sectarian milieu in Gilgit-Baltistan.

In addition to local and national factors, there was international dimension that contributed to sectarianism in Gilgit-Baltistan. In 1980s, Pakistan turned into turf for ideological battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Although, the Iran–Iraq war was confined within the geographical boundaries of Persia and Arabia, their ideological war spilled over into different parts of the Muslim world, including the far-flung areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. Iran-Iraq was to great extent an Arab-Persian conflict incognito, but it trickled down into the perception of Gilgit-Baltistan’s society as a religious one.

Concomitantly, the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan, and Iran–Iraq war left indelible imprints on the social fabric of Pakistan. And Gilgit-Baltistan is not immune from its consequences. During the Afghan war, the then Gilgit-Baltistan was not a forward base, but it attracted local sympathizers of jihadists to engage in holy war (jihad) in Afghanistan. This was the first ever exposure of region to global Islamist discourse and struggle. Since Gilgit-Baltistan was not at the forefront of jihad or epicenter of jihadist activity, it did not witness any major activity in the region. Nevertheless, it prepared a cadre that would become active in the Kashmir jihad where insurgency started soon after the death of General Zia-ul-Haq.

During his whole rule, Zia’s policies palpably favored Sunnite interests. Despite all these developments both local communities never took arms against each other. The final straw on the fragile back of Shi’ite-Sunnite relationship came in May 1988 when a dispute over the sighting of moon resulted in violent clashes in Gilgit town. It all started on one fine morning on May 1988 when a minor clash over Eid al-Fitr celebration in a locality of Gilgit spilled over to other parts of the city in the form of clash between Sunnites and Shiites. Afterwards within a short span sectarian clashes spread to other parts of the regions as Sunnites were supported by people from Diamer and Kohistan and Shi’ites were assisted by their co-religionists in Nagar valley. The lashkar attacked 13 suburban Shi’ite villages, pillaged properties, burnt houses and incinerated everything on the ground. Mohabbat Ali Qaisar in his book ‘Shohdayay Gilgit-Baltistan (Martyrs of Gilgit-Baltistan)’ asserts that total number of Shi’ites killed in attacks was 88. However, International Crisis Group in its report ‘Discord in Pakistan’s Northern Areas’ states that the total number killed during riots in 1988 is between 150 and 200. Sunnite sources contest this figure and claim that the total numbers of causalities were 20.

Within Shi’ite community, a certain section accuses government of sponsoring mujahedeen in the events of 1988. They opine that an attack on such a large scale needed coordination, logistics and training, which local people of Diamer lacked. All the hallmarks of attacks on suburban Shi’ite villages in Gilgit point towards involvement of Mujahedeen. The carnage was committed right under the nose of the state. This event is famously described in English word ‘tension’. Whenever there is a sectarian clash, both communities term it tension. This event was major watershed as it created trust deficit against state in Shi’ite community on the one hand, and led to massive weaponization of both communities and institutionalization of violence on the other.

Jihadists in Gilgit-Baltistan became active in 1990s when Kashmir jihad was in full swing. It is reported that Jihadists managed to establish trainings camps in some valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan. Various Jihadi outfits were also involved in the recruitment of people for Jihad. In the early 1990s there were reports of dozens of young people from Henzal and other villages in Gilgit martyred in Kashmir, but the political/Jihadist party that recruited them did not pay any compensation to their families. Jihadists in the region were strengthened, when they flocked to Skardu town during the Kargil war. It created consternation among local communities who demanded expulsion of Jihadi elements from Shi’ite majority town of Skardu.

Although, people of Gilgit were on the fringes of Afghan Jihad, some of them succeeded to get into the mainstream of Kashmir jihad. Under the banner of jihad, hundreds of people got training. At times the trained guns turned inward and assumed the role of savior among their respective hamlet, village, town and city. They managed to balance opponent in tactical terms if not in numbers. The confuse mix of jihad and violence has exacerbated the situation in Gilgit as the city witnessed increasing sophistication in assassination techniques, and deterioration of socio-economic conditions.

From 1988 Gilgit region witnessed intermittent sectarian violence. However, violence remained confined to Gilgit district specifically Gilgit town. The sectarian mind that has been in formative period manifested itself in the post 2005 when Gilgit city has become clearly divided along sectarian lines after the assassination of Shia scholar and leader, Syed Agha Ziauddin Rizvi in January same year. This time target killings became norm and violence spread over to other districts of Gilgit-Baltistan. At social level, sectarian violence has destroyed the very social fabric of Gilgit. It has created fissures within sects, severed local communities from all the kinship based solidarities and identities, and imbued diverse identities in sectarian colours. Also, it severely impacted economy, social fabric, politics, economy, education and mindset.

In the post 1988, a common perception among people about ‘other’ sect is that of enemy. Under this perception, the extremist elements try to purge members of opponent sects from spaces where they have majority. In the areas where culture of blood feud did not exist, sectarian forces organized themselves on modern management and military lines. Organization of multiple hues of religion under the single banner of sect and religious politics has helped clergies to become the sole spokesmen of economic, political, social and religious grievances. Now religious bodies have become so strong that for jobs, politics and economy people are compelled to use sectarian card. Otherwise, it is difficult to survive. Because of the weaknesses of the major political parties in resolving problems of people, religious parties have become medium for expressing grievances of the people. Seen in this way it can be said that popular discontent finds its expression through religious politics, which in its turn gets legitimacy for its undemocratic tactics by feeding on political economy of sectarian violence.

For the first time, sectarian differences were politicized in the election of erstwhile Northern Areas Council in 1988. These elections were held in the aftermath of May 1988, which paved the way for sectarianization. The election in 1988 in the constituency of Gilgit 1 was contested between Wajahat Hassan Khan and Sunbul Shah. The former was a Shi’ite and a son of the hero of war of independence of Gilgit, whereas the latter was a Sunnite of Kashmiri origin. Wajahat drew his legitimacy from being a scion of the hero of independence – Colonel Mirza Hassan Khan. Gradually, the election campaign took religious colour. Afterwards, because of deft manipulation of sectarianism for political purpose religious parties become more prominent in the elected bodies.

After the opening of KKH economy in Gilgit in particular, and rest of the region in general underwent drastic transformation. Gilgit used to be an idyllic small town with lush green fields, orchards, glacier fed brooks and channels. These disappeared within short span of fifteen years as the small town of Gilgit transformed into big city. Andreas Dittmann has well documented this dynamics of change and processes in market of Gilgit in his paper ‘The Bazaars of Gilgit: Ethnic and Economic Determinants of Centrality. With urbanization, the kinship based relation weakened and modern structures were introduced. When sectarian violence raised its ugly head for the first time in Gilgit city in 1980s, there was no basis of kinship which could enable the people with same racial stock and linguistic group to empathize with each other. To aggravate the situation, the new version of religion tended to demonize the ‘other’. Ultimately, it led to incessant sectarian strife that destroyed economy, polarized the administration, divided settlements and educational institutions on sectarian lines. Now sectarianism has seeped into the everyday life and activities in Gilgit. It is evident from the fact that Gilgit has now no go areas of both Sunnites and Shi’ites. This situation has compelled common people to use separate transport, schools, hospitals and offices along sectarian lines.

Currently, business in Gilgit is factually divided on sectarian lines. Even new economic opportunities and initiatives cannot save themselves from sectarianism. For example, major cellular services in Pakistan launched their business in 2006. Unlike traditional businesses, the cellular companies provide a lucrative business and yield profits in short terms. To gain franchises of cellular companies there is a covert struggle between people from different sects. Telenor was the first to open its franchise office in Gilgit city. Within a year a particular sect issued edict against usage of Telenor services by declaring ‘haram’ because it is owned by Norway. It caused huge loss of business to the franchisee. The opponent sect switched to use services of a cellular company owned by a member of their own sect. Traditionally, businesses in Gilgit bazaar were run by people from different religious denominations and racial and linguistic groups. Now even the bazaar has been turned into exclusive zones. It has robed the businessmen of large number of diverse clientele.

Tourism industry is the backbone of the economy in Gilgit-Baltistan. The unabated violence badly affected tourism as it becomes very dangerous for domestic and foreign tourists to visit the region. In 2012, Gilgit-Baltistan witnessed killing of passengers on KKH. The ensuing violence spread to different parts of the region. Spring in Gilgit-Baltistan attracts thousands of tourists from Japan to enjoy the season of cherry blossom. Owing to the violent events in Hunza, Nagar, Gilgit, Chilas and Skardu, hundreds of foreign tourists were stranded in these areas. They were later evacuated by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in C130 planes. It also caused cancellation of hundreds of trekking and expedition tours to the region. Though nature offers mesmerizing sceneries to the tourists, its beauty is marred by sectarian violence.

Education is also the worst sufferer in sectarian violence in Gilgit. Historically, schools have played an important role in providing a common space for interaction between students from diverse regional, religious, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds. It helped creating cross sectarian solidarities among students and provided social cohesion. Sectarianism has also engulfed educational institutions. In 1990, an historical Government High School No1 witnessed clashes between students of two religious groups. Gradually, sectarianism spread to other educational institutions. The decade of 1990s witnessed mushrooming of schools run by faith based organisations. Today even government schools in the area of particular sect are virtually no go area for the students of opponent sect. Private schools feed themselves on the catchment area of their respective sects. In the case of Gilgit-Baltistan, corruption of social mind precedes degeneration of society.

A major setback in education sector this year is the closure of Karakorum International University (KIU) till March 4, 2012. KIU is the first ever university in the region. The decision to close the university was taken in view of the killing of 3 people and injuring of 7 in a clash between two religious groups over the issue of commemorating religious days in the university in early December. The issue of commemoration of Day of Imam Hussain becomes a major bone of contention in KIU campus every year.

The purpose of writing this series of article on history of sectarianism in Gilgit-Baltistan is to trace the genealogy of religious prejudice by both indigenous and exogenous factors and actors is an attempt to excavate the archeology of historical experiences that forms the collective unconsciousness of people of the region. Tragically, that latent form of religious prejudice is manifesting in tangible form in solid spaces and actions in everyday life. Martin Sokefeld rightly calls it ‘everyday sectarinization’ – the application of sectarian logic to daily action. The cumulative result of politics of religiosity and sect appears in the shape of stifling of meritocratic, democratic, pluralist and open self and society in Gilgit-Baltistan. Such a closed self relishes in wallowing in the swamp that devours everything that is progressive and enlightening. Today the society of Gilgit-Baltistan is living in the second dark age, and only a creation of new enlightened souls can save it from the specter of sectarianism that has captured heart and mind of people.

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