Violence erupts as Bannu police bar Janikhel tribesmen from marching towards Islamabad

Published June 23, 2021
A visual of the protesters from the Janikhel area of Bannu are seen during their protest in March, while policemen are also present. — File photo by Sirajuddin
A visual of the protesters from the Janikhel area of Bannu are seen during their protest in March, while policemen are also present. — File photo by Sirajuddin

A violent clash erupted between the tribesmen of Janikhel tribe and police in Bannu district on Wednesday as the former started their march towards Islamabad to protest the police’s failure to arrest the killers of a local elder, who was gunned down by unidentified assailants in the area three weeks ago.

The Janikhel tribesmen have been staging a sit-in in the area for the last three weeks over the killing of a tribal leader, Malak Naseeb Khan. He was shot dead by gunmen in the area three weeks ago and protesters today decided to march towards Islamabad for what they termed the police’s failure to arrest the culprits.

Malak Naseeb Khan was an active tribal leader and had been at the forefront of a recent sit-in against the killing of four teenage boys in the area.

Conflicting claims

According to the protesters, one of the participants was also killed by the police — a claim that has been refuted by Bannu police. They said: “We have no information of killing of a young man during the protest.”

Officials at the District Headquarters Hospital Bannu, however, confirmed receiving the body of a man aged between 20 and 23 years, while at least 24 injured, including 12 policemen were also undergoing treatment.

A doctor at the hospital said the man who lost his life had sustained a bullet injury to the chest.

Meanwhile, the opposition in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly voiced concern over the use of force by police against the Janikhel tribesmen and staged a walkout from the assembly in protest.

Provincial minister for Labour and Culture, Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, told the House that a dozen police officials were also injured in the clash.

He said the protesters attacked police, damaged a police post and set on fire a vehicle of the law enforcement personnel.

He said the protesters were more than 4,000 in number, adding that large contingents of police and Frontier Constabulary personnel had summoned and subsequently deployed to control the situation.

The clash

The violence erupted, according to one protester Lateef Wazir who spoke to Dawn.com via phone, said that “peaceful” demonstrators proceeded some seven kilometres from Janikhel area towards the capital and police blocked their way and “used tear gas and baton-charged the participants to disperse them”, leading to a clash between the two sides.

He said one of the protesters, identified as Wahid Khan, a resident of JaniKhel, lost his life during the police action. Lateef claimed that a number of other demonstrators were also injured in the clash. A police vehicle was also reportedly damaged during the protest.

The local administration had earlier attempted to convince elders of the Janikhel tribe to end the agitation and bury the slain tribal leader, but in vain.

One of the protesters told Dawn.com that the chief minister had also assured the tribesmen two months ago that they would arrest the killers of four teenage boys whose bullet-riddled bodies were found in the area in March, however, no one could be captured as yet.

Similar protests had erupted in the Janikhel back then when the bodies of the four boys — aged between 13 to 17 years — were found. The locals had taken to the street demanding justice and arrest of those responsible for the attack.

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