PESHAWAR, Jan 17: Police on Thursday resorted to aerial firing, baton charge and teargas to disperse Bara students protesting outside Peshawar Press Club the crackdown on peaceful tribesmen, who had placed bodies of 15 people killed in their tehsil outside the Governor’s House here.
Police said 18 protesters had been arrested during the action.
Several media persons covering the event, including camerapersons Siddique Bangash of Geo Television, Waqar of AVT Khyber and photojournalist Fayyaz Aziz, also sustained minor injuries after being hit by stones during the action.
The people already aggrieved due to the killings of their dear ones had got infuriated when police used water canons and teargas against them for sitting outside the Governor’s House with coffins on the night between Wednesday and Thursday.
Mohammad Ali told Dawn that police used water canons against those observing sit-in at around 12.30am (Thursday) but most of the people remained firm and got off their shirts but later police used excessive teargas and forced them to leave behind the bodies and escape.
“We had no other option but to go to safer places because the chilly weather coupled with teargas made our lives extremely miserable,” he said while narrating the ordeal of protesters.
He said the elderly were the worst affected people who were beaten up by police as they were reluctant to leave bodies of their relatives.
Some other tribesmen, including Subhanullah and Akbarullah, said the people also faced great difficulties to know as to where the bodies had been kept by police.
They said the political administration did not allow them to see the coffins unless a jirga of elders assured them that the bodies would not be placed on roads again for protest.
Later, the people, particularly the internally displaced persons, held a rally outside Peshawar High Court where they blocked the main Courts Road for around three hours, which also disrupted vehicular traffic.
Leaders of different political parties and Fata Lawyers Forum also joined them and demanded registration of FIR against those involved in the killing of 18 tribal people.
Noted among the speakers were Lateef Afridi, Shah Faisal Afridi, Haroon Luqman Afridi and Khan Bahadur.
The lawyers, Ijaz Mohmand, Taj Mahal Afridi, Noor Alam Khan and Ghulam Nabi, condemned the killing of the tribesmen and demanded judicial probe into the incident to award exemplary punishment to those found guilty in this respect. They also expressed sympathies with the families of dead people and IDPs.
Speaking on the occasion, the tribesmen condemned police for resorting to water canons and teargas against protesters and described the action as sheer violation of basic rights of human beings.
They said sit-ins were frequently observed in other parts of the country and the government accepted all the demands but the Fata people, were beaten up, disgraced and humiliated for no reasons.
Heavy contingents of police remained alert on Sher Shah Soori Road, especially near press club to take action incase of any procession.
Also in the day, Jamaat-i-Islami workers took out a rally on GT Road in Hashtnagri area of the provincial against police action against protesters of Bara outside Governor’s House.
They warned that if the government did not stop the Bara operation, their party would continue staging rallies for the oppressed people.
APP adds that the Fata additional chief secretary, law and order secretary, Peshawar commissioner, CCPO, and political agent of Khyber Agency held a meeting with the members of jirga named by the families of the dead people to reach an accord.
On reaching the accord, the 18-member jirga met the provincial governor, who agreed to the demands of the jirga and declared a substantial compensation package for the families of the slain people which includes Rs400,000 for each family in addition to the standard official package and the constitution of an independent judicial commission acceptable to all sides to investigate this tragedy impartially. The finding of the reports would be incumbent on all concerned, he added.
The governor also announced that a grand jirga comprising elders nominated by the afflicted people would be set up to conduct negotiations between the government and the families of the dead people from Bara.
The governor directed the political agent of Khyber Agency to devise mechanisms in consultation with the jirga members, the Bara trade union and security forces for opening up of roads and shops in the areas closed due to the ongoing operation.
He also ordered the release of all innocent people imprisoned by the political agent of Khyber Agency and said indiscriminate shelling would be halted after taking security forces on board.