KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: Transporters across Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region on Sunday observed a wheel-jam strike after a passenger bus was targeted by unidentified militants near the Chilas town, killing nine people and injuring 25 others a day earlier.
Chilas, a rugged, mountainous town, lies in GB’s Diamer district, which has been a site of militant attacks, including some claimed by the Pakistani Taliban. In 2018, militants torched 13 girls’ schools in the district, while in 2012, unidentified gunmen killed nine passengers and torched six buses in the region.
However, the Pakistani Taliban distanced themselves from Saturday’s attack, while no group immediately claimed responsibility for targeting the passenger bus that was en route to Rawalpindi from Gilgit. Officials said they were investigating the attack.
“All transporters are on strike today after this tragic incident in all districts of Gilgit-Baltistan,” Ashraf Al-Hussaini, president of the GB transporters association, told Arab News.
“This is not the first incident in this region. We had to face such incidents in the past as well in which many people were killed.”
He urged the government to increase patrolling of law enforcement agencies and set up security check-posts along a section of the Karakoram Highway passing through the district.
Hussaini said their strike was only for Sunday and they would announce their next move soon.
GB Information Minister Iman Shah said law enforcement authorities were investigating the attack and trying to ascertain the motive behind it.
“Treatment of the injured people is ongoing and bodies of the deceased are being shifted to their native towns and villages,” Shah told Arab News over the phone. “No one has yet claimed the responsibility for the attack.”
Diamer Superintendent of Police (SP) Sheheryar Khan said unidentified militants opened fire on the bus in the Chilas-Hudur region at around 6:30pm on Saturday.
Arif Ahmed, the Diamer deputy commissioner, said some of the passengers hailed from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southern Sindh provinces.
“Two Pakistan Army soldiers were among the people martyred in the attack,” he told reporters.
In a text message to Arab News, the Pakistani Taliban distanced themselves from the attack.
“Tehreek-e-Taliban has nothing to do with the firing incident on a bus in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Chilas area,” said Muhammad Khurasani, a spokesperson for the group.