Protesters Demand Release of Detained Shia Cleric in Gilgit-Baltistan Amid Blasphemy Law Controversy

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In Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, a significant number of demonstrators have gathered in the streets to express their strong objections to the detention of Shia cleric Agha Baqir al-Hussaini under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. These protesters are making demands of the Pakistani authorities, stating their desire for reunification with India if their spiritual leader is not released.

According to sources, residents of Gilgit-Baltistan are voicing their dissatisfaction with what they perceive as a lack of development and essential services. Many among the protesters are lamenting the necessity of taking considerable risks for even basic necessities.

Indian government sources have criticized the Pakistani administration, accusing it of promoting terrorism and investing heavily in the production of explosives and the training of militant groups. They argue that it is time for Pakistan to heed the sentiments of the populace and relinquish its claimed control over Kashmir, which they regard as an unlawful occupation.

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The Indian sources emphasized that armed jihad does not lead to progress in people’s lives, drawing a comparison with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, where residents are reportedly content with ongoing development initiatives.

Agha Baqir al-Hussaini faced legal action for his statements during an ulema council meeting in Skardu, which was convened to discuss the possibility of strengthening blasphemy laws, seen by some as targeting the Shia community.

It is important to note that Pakistan is predominantly Sunni, with a significant Shia population.

Gilgit-Baltistan comprises three distinct regions: Baltistan, Diamer, and Gilgit, with Gilgit and Skardu serving as the primary administrative centers.

In response to the unrest, local authorities have temporarily suspended mobile internet services in the region, as reported by the Pakistani daily Dawn.

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An official disclosed that a First Information Report (FIR) had been filed against the Sunni cleric at the City Police Station in Gilgit due to his statements. Additionally, another FIR had already been lodged against a prominent Shia cleric in Skardu, as reported by the PTI, citing the newspaper.

In light of the situation, authorities in the area have taken action against two police personnel and a schoolteacher who were accused of sharing sectarian content on social media. Furthermore, over a dozen individuals have been detained for posting controversial statements online.”

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