Sectarian Violence in Gilgit-Baltistan

Published date01 June 2019
Date01 June 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Assistant Professor & Head of the Department of Political Science and International
Relations, Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Corresponding author:
Vivek Kumar Mishra, Assistant Professor & Head of the Department of Political
Science and International Relations, Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida 201312,
Uttar Pradesh, India.
Sectarian Violence
in Gilgit-Baltistan
Vivek Kumar Mishra1
Gilgit-Baltistan region is a Shia-majority region, illegally controlled by
Pakistan and enjoys semi-provincial status as a part of Pakistan Occupied
Jammu Kashmir (PoJK). Sectarian violence has a long history in Pakistan
as well as in Gilgit-Baltistan region. It has increased in the region since the
1980s, especially after the construction of the Karakoram Highway, which
connects this region with China and mainland Pakistan. The Islamic revo-
lution of Iran in 1979, General Zia’s policy of Islamization, and the Afghan
jihad during the 1980s did not leave this region untouched. The poor
economic conditions and the absence of government’s educational insti-
tutions have witnessed a mushrooming of madrasas that preach sectarian
hatred and extremism. The fragile political system, along with an ineffective
judicial system of the region has aggravated the sectarian violence further.
All these had a cumulative effect on the promotion of sectarian violence
in the region. In such a background, the article is an attempt to analyze the
various aspects of sectarian violence in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
Gilgit-Baltistan, sectarian violence, Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir
(PoJK), State Subject Rule, China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEP)
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
23(1) 1–25, 2019
The Author(s) 2019
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0973598418789993
2 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 23(1)
Sectarianism underlines the existence of different sects or denominations
within the larger ambit of Islam (Faris 1955: 76).1 It refers to a rigid
adherence to a particular Islamic sect and often implies discrimination,
denunciation, or violence against those outside the sect. In all cases, there
is a real or felt opposition between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between insiders and
outsiders. It usually refers to violent conflict along religious and political
lines, especially the conflict between different schools of thought such as
that between Shia and Sunni Muslims.
Sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan region is a matter of deep concern
because it is damaging the very fabric of the society and becoming a potent
threat to the very existence of the region (Esman 1994: 28). It has increased
phenomenally over the past few decades and has extended beyond sporadic
clashes over doctrinal issues between Sunnis and Shias and metamorphosed
into political conflict around mobilization of group identity (Nasr 2002:
171). The dissemination of their own literature and variously combating
that of their rivals have become major concerns of sectarian organizations.
The relations among religious sects, that is, Shia and Sunni’s are potentially
divisive. One irresponsible move against any particular group can easily
ignite emotions and shatter relative peace and harmony (Akbar 2003).
‘The problem of sectarian violence lies in the kind of thinking that hold
religious sentiment to be sacred than the right to an orderly civic life’
(Khan 1998: 23).
The objective of the article is to analyze the brief outlook of the
demographic profile of Gilgit-Baltistan region. It has explored the vari-
ous factors of sectarianism and seeks to assess the impact of sectarian
violence and also analyzed the phase-wise sectarian violence in Gilgit-
Baltistan region.
Gilgit-Baltistan Region: An Overview
Gilgit-Baltistan region was given by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir
to the British in 1935, on a sixty year lease. However, the period of the
1 For the first time, the term 'Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir' (PoJK) is used in place
of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) in an official document of the Ministry of Home
Affairs, Government of India Annual Report, 2015–2016. After that it has been continued
in practice in the reports of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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