Chilas is once again all over in the new and again for not so good reasons. On the night of 22nd June, a team of climbers were attacked and killed by some unknown gunmen. Climbers belonged to China, Lithuania, Ukraine and Nepal. The incident happened at an altitude of around 4200 meters at the Diamir basecamp of Nanga Parbat which is one of the most frequent routes for climbers who dare to attempt the killer mountain.
Many of the local news channels during the day coverage of the event and some of the print media the next day wrongly attributed the incident to Fairy Meadows which is another face and base for Nanga Parbat. Fairy Meadows remains safe and at the time of incident there was more than 500 trekkers staying in different facilities. As per contacts from Fairy Meadows, even now there are 100 plus trekkers there including females and some more local groups are in the pipeline despite this unfortunate incident. The wrong news coverage will definitely stop many from going to Fairy meadows. If media cannot differentiate between Diamir face and Fairy Meadows, what can we expect from the poor parents who don’t know how far is Gilgit from Skardu? For foreign tourism and climbing expeditions in Pakistan, this event will haunt for coming many years now. Already have all the teams been evacuated from all routes of Nanga Parbat and Alpine Club has announced the halt of all of the permits at least for the remaining summer season. Its effects will also be felt in Karakorum where most of the expeditions come. Already there are groups who have called their ongoing expeditions off and some reports indicate the cancellation of expeditions which were in the pipeline.
Another debate has started here regarding who was behind the attack and what could be the motive. Having been to the area and seen all of the terrain myself, I can say that this is an act done by locals not outsiders. Yes, these locals could have been brainwashed, pushed, financed and motivated by external forces but traversing the trek, reaching the basecamp at such an altitude and coming back can only be done by locals familiar with the area. An un-acclimatized individual with load cannot just come in the area from outside and climb up. It is not even possible for the guys to do this and get out without getting detected. Most probably the assailants are still hiding somewhere in the area within the villages. Same was mentioned by the IG police for GB in his press conference yesterday. This area already has a past history of crime and violence. Last year, there had been very unfortunate incidents in the same vicinity where Shia Muslims were targeted and killed after identification.
Diamir is a district of Gilgit-Baltistan but is a part of a bigger region that extends from Besham to Jaglot and is known as Kohistan – an almost tribal area. Kohstanis already have a bad reputation because of their strict attitude and violent behaviors. Not all Kohsitanis however support these activities rather most would tend to oppose if asked. Last year, we did Mazeno pass trek from where we descended to the area very near to Diamir base camp. We hired local Chilasi porters from Bunardas. We were cautious but our experience with them had been surprisingly very pleasant. They were extremely hospitable, friendly and caring and it pretty much changed our earlier perceptions.
The incident must be condemned at every possible level. However the actual question is for the concerned authorities if they fail to take an appropriate and swift action yet again. Had an appropriate action been taken last year and culprits be apprehended and punished, this might not have happened. This is a very remote area and outsiders cannot stay and wander unnoticed. People know who committed last year’s incidents and from where they came. Same would be the case this time. I wouldn’t believe if people from Tharamos, Halaley and Diamir villages would say that they don’t know anything at all. Most we have been seeing so far is mere lip service. If nothing happens this time around too that the world can see, would be enough to conclude that our authorities don’t want to resolve this issue at all. They have their own vested interests related to overall geo-political situations and the so called war on terror which are being fulfilled by a continuation of such actions.