Hundreds of tribesmen protested on Wednesday against the extrajudicial killing of 18 people allegedly by security forces in an overnight raid, refusing to bury the dead until they get justice.
Mirroring the recent vigils by the Shia Hazara community in Quetta, the tribesmen, carrying 18 bodies, marched from Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency to the Governor House in Peshawar where they staged a sit-in protest.
Armed men attacked three homes in the Alam Gudar area of Bara on Tuesday, killing 18 people, according to residents. Protesters blamed security forces for the massacre, claiming the raid was unprovoked and that the victims were innocent tribesmen.
Security and military officials, however, denied security forces were involved and said it was militants who attacked the homes, according to AFP.
The government failed to pacify the enraged protesters, who refused to end their sit-in and asked for a national-level assurance that such incidents would not occur again.
Earlier Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar met with 16 tribal elders and politicians from Khyber Agency on the direction of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The meeting decided that Rs4 million would be paid as compensation to the heirs of each victim.
Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that the Peshawar commissioner has been directed to investigate the incident.
March and sit-in
Carrying the bodies in cots, tribesmen marched through Peshawar Cantonment around 11:00am after travelling 19 kilometres on foot from Bara. Stunned onlookers watched as protesters walked along Saddar Road, chanting slogans against security forces and the government.
Khan Gul, a tribesman who lost seven family members in the raid, told The Express Tribune that his son, Umar Gul, was evacuating his cousins from the conflict-hit region, when they were allegedly targeted by security forces around 2:00pm on Tuesday.
He added that they were not allowed to claim the bodies till 9:00am on Wednesday, after which they headed to Peshawar to register their protest.
Muhammad Daud, a resident of Alam Gudar, told The Express Tribune that six unclaimed bodies were lying in the Shalobar area of Bara.
The protesters were led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Iqbal Afridi, MNA Haji Muhammad Shah Afridi and Muttahida Qabail Party Vice Chairman Habib Noor Malik.
Addressing the protesters, Iqbal Afridi announced that they would not budge until their demands were met and Bara’s future was decided once and for all.
They demanded an end to the ongoing military operation in Bara, that the curfew be lifted, troops withdrawn, action taken against those involved in the killings and compensation for the families of the dead.
The sit-in also witnessed rowdy scenes when protesters lashed out at MNA Haji Mohammad Shah, provoking his guards to resort to aerial firing. Organisers alleged that at least two persons were injured as a result.
Protesters also criticized the media for its “apathy” towards the plight of tribesmen. “The media is only chasing Tahirul Qadri for the past month,” said Wasim Afridi, a young protester.
Wednesday’s protest was the second of its type in a week in the country. In Quetta, thousands demonstrated for four days after the worst-ever bomb attack on the Shia Hazara community killed over 100 people. Consequently, the provincial government in Balochistan was sacked and Governor’s Rule implemented.
Militants kill five of a family
Meanwhile, five members of a paramilitary personnel’s family were killed by militants in the Dogra area of Bara on Wednesday, security officials said.
A Peshawar-based security official said over a dozen militants from the banned outfit Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) barged into the house of a Frontier Corps (FC) personal, Shabbir, and gunned down his family members, including his father Abdul Jalil and four brothers.
He added that Shabbir was on duty when the incident occurred. The bodies were buried in the Dogra area, after which security forces launched a search operation.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2013.