PESHAWAR: An internal government document has pinned blame on two PTM-affiliated parliamentarians for instigating protesters at a military check post in North Waziristan that led to the death of 13 of them besides a soldier and causing injuries to 25 others.
The two-page Special Situation Report, titled “Clash and Casualties in North Waziristan District” and submitted to the government by the deputy commissioner of North Waziristan on May 28, provides by far the most detailed account of the incident at a military check post in Kharqamar on Sunday.
On the other hand, the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) contests the government account and blames security forces for firing at unarmed civilians. There is, however, no independent corroboration of either of the versions.
Recounting events leading to the unrest, the deputy commissioner said in the official report, Tochi Valley, particularly Dattakhel, Alwara, Admi Kot, Doga Macha, Kharqamar, Degan, Boya and other areas, had been hot spots and troublesome with regard to maintenance of law and order.
“Security forces have regularly been targeted either in the form of physical attacks, ambushes, fire raids, rocket attacks or improvised explosive devices,” he said.
According to the official, on April 29, an army convoy in Dattakhel was ambushed resulting in the martyrdom of three soldiers and injuries to four others.
Similarly, on May 1 multiple attacks were launched on fencing teams in the Alwara area which again resulted in the martyrdom of four soldiers and injuries to 17 others.
That was followed by another attack on May 5 in Doga Macha as a result of which one soldier was martyred while three others were injured.
To clear the area of terrorists and make it safe, the security forces launched an operation on May 24 during which two suspects were detained and a soldier was wounded.
To protest the detention of the two suspects, residents of Doga Macha village marched towards the Kharqamar check post, damaged the security barrier and raised anti-state slogans, the report said. Army showed restraint and did not respond.
On May 25, it said, after negotiations with a jirga of 12 notables in Boya, the authorities agreed to release one of the suspects on the condition that the protesters would end their sit-in.
“However, on the instigation of MNA Ali Wazir and MNA Mohsin Javed Dawar, the protesters again gathered near the check post at night and awaited the arrival of the parliamentarians,” the report said.
On May 26, it said, the two parliamentarians entered North Waziristan tribal district from Saidgai check post and reached Kharqamar check post at 09.30am, along with about 300 supporters.
“Troops at the first barrier requested the MNAs to join the protesters’ camp using the alternate route and not the main road but in return, Ali Wazir used abusive language against the Army and instigated the crowd to attack the post,” the report alleged.
“Protesters started intense stone pelting and armed men with parliamentarians also started firing at the post. Army fired warning shots and asked protesters not to get close to the post and stop the fire immediately,” the report said.
However, the post came under fire from multiple directions from the distance of 100 metres to 200 metres. “Meanwhile, protesters charged at the post and reached within troops’ deployment and tried to snatch weapons,” it said.
“At this stage, Army soldiers opened fire at the positions across the causeway from where the fire was being received. Fire was opened for a very short duration,” it said. However, bullets from “miscreants hit a number of protesters and the MNAs vehicles.
Firing stopped within a short time of this activity, leaving behind a number of casualties on the road and the nearby nullah”, it said.
Subsequently, personnel of the Quick Reaction Force were called in who shifted the dead and the injured to the Army set-up in Boya.
Initially, the report said, only two bodies were found within 40/50 metres of the post, however, later, six bodies were found 150/400 metres away from the post. Five more bodies were found by patrolling troops at night approximately 1,500 metres away from the site of the incident.
The death toll among the locals, it said, stood at 13 with 25 wounded. The military suffered one death and seven injuries.
MNA Wazir was arrested with seven individuals from the nullah while he was fleeing while MNA Dawar escaped to Hamzoni/Darpakhel village, the report concluded.
Mohsin Dawar, in an interview with an international media outlet, said he and his colleague Ali Wazir were on their way to show solidarity with the protesters at Kharqamar.
“There were two barriers on the check post”, Mr Dawar said, speaking in English. “The initial one (barrier) was to stop the people coming from this side. The second one was to stop people from coming from the other side.”
He said they approached the army officials and asked them to let them “go and reach the people”. He said they crossed a row of army personnel and managed to cross the second barrier.
“When we reached the people who were protesting, they started shouting (slogans) to welcome us. When they were chanting all of a sudden, I heard firing from the back side,” the MNA said.
“Initially, I thought it was aerial firing but when I saw two people on my left and right falling and I saw them bleeding, I realised that they have been shot.”
Both the lawmakers have been charged with terrorism offences and are presently under custody of the Counter-Terrorism Department.
Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2019