Taliban threats to target the indigenous Kalash tribe and Ismaili Muslims have prompted authorities to put in place a four-tier security system in the northwestern Chitral Valley, a top police official said on Friday.
“We have a four-tier security arrangement,” said Ghulam Hussain, police chief of the picturesque region in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province that is a popular tourist destination.
The Pakistan Army is among security forces deployed in Chitral Valley, which is home to the polytheistic tribe. The Kalash claim descent from Alexander the Great and have maintained separate cultural traditions for centuries.
The Taliban threat to target the Kalash and Ismaili Muslims was made in a 52-minute video that recently surfaced on a jihadi website. It was not clear when the video was made as it contains a reference to former army chief Pervez Musharraf’s “dream” to stand for elections from Chitral.
Musharraf was barred from contesting polls by a court before last year’s general election in May.
“I am not sure when this video was made but the Taliban had issued a similar video in 2011. We have put in place extensive security arrangements,” Hussain told PTI.
Since the region is frequented by foreign tourists, security has always been on high alert.
“It is fool-proof as we have snow-capped mountains on one side. The army is stationed at the bottom and the entry routes into the valley are secured through strict checking,” he said.
Asked about the Taliban threat to Ismailis and NGOs in the area, Hussain said security is provided to prayer houses and charity organisations.
Chitral Valley is the northern-most district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. It is part of Malakand division that was once dominated by the moderate Ismailis.
The Taliban claimed 70 per cent of people in the area are Muslims while the rest are Ismailis and Kalash. The video warned the Kalash to convert to Islam.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan also criticised charitable work done by the Aga Khan, the Ismailis’ spiritual leader, claiming schools and colleges run by the Aga Khan Foundation were “brainwashing” young men and women.
The video further claimed the foundation’s schools and hospitals were “espionage tools” for foreign powers, and accused NGOs of creating an “Israel-like state” in Chitral.