PESHAWAR: Opposition members walked out of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Wednesday to protest the Bannu police’s action against peaceful Janikhel tribesmen during a march on Islamabad with the body of tribal elder Malik Naseeb, who was gunned down 25 days ago.
The tribesmen set out for Islamabad in the day to stage a sit-in after seeing the provincial government ignore their street protest, which began on May 31.
During the session chaired by Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani, parliamentary leader of the ANP Sardar Hussain Babak raised the issue and said the protesters had refused to bury the tribal elder to demand the arrest of the killers and implementation of a previous agreement signed by the government with them after the killing of four young men.
He said it was unfortunate that the Bannu police baton-charged and tear-gassed peaceful protesters to stop them from going to Islamabad.
Minister insists police stopped tribesmen after they began march on Islamabad
“Several marchers suffered serious injuries due to the shelling by the police,” he said.
Mr Babak said Janikhel was part of KP, where a sit-in along with the elder’s body continued for 25 days but the provincial government didn’t handle the situation and negotiate with the protesters.
“Both good and bad Taliban militants are re-surging to spread lawlessness in the region. The locals have serious concerns about it,” he said.
The ANP leader said the provincial government’s response to the resurgence of militants was very disappointing.
“The government’s silence on the presence of militants has raised questions whether the districts of Bannu and South and North Waziristan are not part of Pakistan,” he said.
Mr Babak said if the government didn’t act against miscreants, who were killing innocent people, what the locals would do other than staging street protests.
He said the provincial government appeared helpless whenever the issue of militants arose.
“The powers that be should be brought in to resolve this issue,” he said.
The ANP leader said the deputy commissioners and district police officers of South and North Waziristan region would highlight the ‘real picture’ of militancy resurgence if the government’s representatives approached them.
Inayatullah Khan of the Jamaat-i-Islami informed the house that if the government and powers that be didn’t take notice of the rights violations on its soil, the country would lose right to talk on such international issues.
“When we tweet about rights violations and brutalities in the India-held Kashmir, the people in their comments also ask why you people are silent on such issues in Pakistan,” he said.
The JI lawmaker demanded of the government to take killings in the militancy-hit areas seriously and said it was inappropriate to stage a sit-in for 25 days along a human body.
MPA Khushdil Khan of the ANP suggested that the speaker of the provincial assembly invite the relevant deputy commissioner, district police officer and army officer to the house for an in-camera briefing on targeted killings and investigation into them.
Responding to the criticism of the opposition, labour minister Shaukat Yousafzai informed the house that over 4,000 people of Janikhel tribe staged protests at three different places, including Janikhel Canal, Bakakhel and Touchi Pul.
“When they [protesters] started moving towards Islamabad, the police stopped them and the situation turned violent afterward,” he said.
Also, the house continued debate on the next budget for the third consecutive day.
The chair later adjourned the session until Thursday (today).
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2021