GB’s most-wanted militant resurfaces amid rising tensions


GILGIT: As the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government has intensified its search for terrorists responsible for the recent bus attack in Chilas, the region’s most-wanted militant commander, Habib-ur-Rehman, has resurfaced in a surprising turn of events.

Rehman, accompanied by associates, publicly distanced himself from the attack on an Islamabad-bound bus, which claimed the lives of 11 passengers, including two soldiers, and injured 26 others in the Hudur area of the Diamer district. This incident has triggered an extensive manhunt across Gilgit-Baltistan.

In a video circulating on social media, Rehman condemned the Chilas incident, stating, “I condemn the Chilas incident. Mujahideen-e-Gilgit-Baltistan deny their role in the act. The organization views it as its duty to protect Muslims’ lives, property, and honor. We want peace.”

The footage shows the commander flanked by two armed men, their faces covered, with one wearing camouflage trousers.

Rehman’s unexpected reappearance, coupled with recent high-profile incidents linked to his group, has heightened security concerns in Gilgit-Baltistan, already grappling with challenges of extremism and militancy.

Eight killed, 26 injured in Chilas bus attack

Despite denouncing the Chilas attack, Rehman’s previous involvement in various terrorist activities, including the murder of 10 foreigners in the Nanga Parbat region, adds to the prevailing unease. He has been accused of orchestrating an attack on a passenger bus in Manshera district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where 20 Shia passengers were killed at Lulusar, and of setting fire to girls’ schools in the Diamer district.

Rehman and two companions were captured by authorities in 2013. However, in a dramatic jailbreak in 2015, Rehman and one associate escaped from a Gilgit jail, while their third accomplice failed to do so.

After their escape, Rehman and his associate remained in hiding until they publicly resurfaced in July 2021, holding an open forum in the polo ground of Babusar Top in the Diamer district. This event, captured on video and shared on social media, featured Rehman claiming an agreement with the government and intelligence agencies during an interview with a local journalist.

In a related incident in October 2018, Rehman’s group allegedly kidnapped the then Minister for Finance, Ubaidullah Baig, and his two guests from the Babusar Road in Chilas. The abduction aimed at securing the release of their accomplices from prison, ended with the minister’s release following successful negotiations.

Former Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman, when contacted, categorically denied any agreement with the militants. He stated, “We have not made any deal with the militants. If any government officer has struck a deal with them during my tenure, I’m not aware of that.”

Hafeez claimed that his government had dealt with militants with an “iron hand,” forcing them to go underground. He alleged that people now openly display weapons in Gilgit city, blaming the PTI government for undoing their policies.

The former CM revealed that he asked the apex committee of GB on Thursday to deweaponize the region and withdraw all licenses of private guards given to influential figures, including Agha Rahat Hussain Alhussaini and Qazi Nisar Ahmed.

Hafeez claimed there has not been a single apex committee meeting in the last three years, despite the National Action Plan mandating meetings at least once a month.

Speaking to HUM News English, Special Assistant to G-B’s Chief Minister Eiman Shah said that the apex committee has decided to take stern action against the militants “without ifs and buts.” Shah mentioned GB’s Home Minister Shams Lone’s press briefing after the apex committee meeting, where Lone emphasized the government’s commitment to uphold the state’s authority and bring terrorists to justice.

Lone cautioned that anyone considering themselves above the state would face stern action, declaring that no one in Gilgit-Baltistan would be allowed to openly carry arms, with violations to be met with immediate action.

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