MIRAMSHAH: Three people lost their lives and 10 others were injured in an exchange of fire after a group led by MNAs Mohsin Javed and Ali Wazir assaulted the Khar Qamar check post at Boya in North Waziristan tribal district on Sunday morning.

They wanted to exert pressure for the release of a facilitator of suspected terrorists arrested the other day, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

Troops at the check post exercised maximum restraint in the face of provocation and direct firing which left five army soldiers injured. In the ensuing exchange of fire three individuals who had attacked the post lost their lives and 10 got injured, the military’s media affairs wing said.

All the injured were evacuated to an army hospital for treatment.

Mr Wazir, the MNA, along with eight individuals, was arrested while MNA Mohsin Javed was at large after inciting the crowd, it said.

However, local reporters were unable to confirm the details of circumstances in which the incident took place.

In a tweet, ISPR chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said, “Innocent PTM supporters / workers need care. Only few are inciting and using them against state institutions for vested agenda. No one will be allowed to undo the gains of decades long national struggle & sacrifices especially of brave Pakistani tribals.”

According to sources, clashes at Khar Qamar check post on Miramshah-Datakhel Road occurred when a vehicular procession led by the two MNAs was stopped from proceeding to Macha Madakhel to participate in a protest. They said the participants of the rally belonging to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) got into scuffles with the personnel at the post which resulted in firing. The number of people proceeding to Boya was put at 300.

Sources claimed that the residents of Macha Madakhel, a remote area near the Afghan border, had organised the sit-in against a search operation in the village on Friday.

A curfew was imposed in the area after the incident.

Independent sources said some of the protesters started chanting provocative slogans upon reaching the check post. They said the situation turned violent after firing and the army fired back in retaliation.

Sources said that Mohsin Dawar reportedly received a minor “non-bullet” hand injury.

Mohsin Dawar told foreign media service that security forces did not allow people to go ahead to participate in the sit-in. He claimed that more than 24 people were injured.

District Health Officer Dr Abdul Hameed told media that eight people with bullet injuries had been shifted to the DHQ hospital in Miramshah.

Awami National Party president Asfandyar Wali Khan while condemning the incident urged the government to exercise restraint.

In a statement issued in Peshawar, he said the government should not create an atmosphere that jeopardised the democratic process in the country.

He said it seemed there were separate laws for handling public protests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

The tribal area falls in the domain of the provincial government after its merger, but no press note or official statement was released about the incident. Two spokespersons for government were not available for comment.

However, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan termed the attack on check post unfortunate and stressed that nobody in any way would be allowed to undermine the country’s image, dignity, national identity and national interest.

Speaking to different television channels, she said the government would take action against the attackers as per law and the Constitution.

Ms Awan said if a public representative challenged the writ of the state, law would take its course and writ of the state would be maintained. Those who attacked the check post would be exposed becaue it had been attacked to free the terrorists, she added.

“We paid a huge price to clear this area of terrorism, gave unprecedented sacrifices of thousands of precious lives to restore peace and created conditions where political meetings could be held,” she mentioned.

Opposition reaction

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif warned against politicisation of the Khar Qamar incident and called for a comprehensive report of the matter to be presented to the parliament.

Mr Sharif in a statement issued from London expressed his “grave sorrow over the unfortunate incident” and said that all facts of the matter must be thoroughly investigated and known before making any judgments.

Mr Sharif said all stakeholders must act in national interest considering the critical circumstances.

Party’s vice-president Maryam Nawaz Sharif expressed concern over the incident.

Using her Twitter account, she called for preferring the use of love, peace and reconciliation over weapons and said that the nation should be taken into confidence about the facts behind the incident.

In another tweet, she said the country can ill-afford internal tension.

Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari condemned violence in Miramshah but stopped short of issuing his party’s policy statement on the incident.

In replying to a question at a news conference in Larkana, he wondered how an elected representative could attack a check post. “I don’t understand that any elected representative could attack a check post.”

He said there should be no violence on peaceful citizens and politicians who had the right to protest.

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan while referring to the PPP leader’s remarks said his statement was political, [showed] non-seriousness and put a question mark on his politics.

Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao while expressing serious concern over the incident demanded inquiry into the case and called for taking steps to defuse tension.

Demanding a probe into the incident to establish the facts, Mr Sherpao said in a press release that Pakhtun leadership should be taken into confidence regarding the incident and the grievances of the Pakhtun be addressed properly.

“All sides should exercise restraint and take steps to defuse the tension,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2019