The locals of Swat’s Charbagh tehsil and Shangla’s Alpuri took to the streets on Friday in continuation of their series of protests against the spate of terrorism in the scenic valley, demanding authorities clamp down on elements ruining the peace in the area.
The protest was organised by a local organisation, Swat Qaumi Jirga, while elders, youth, and children from different parts of Charbagh tehsil took part in the demonstration, carrying placards inscribed with slogans seeking the restoration of peace in the valley.
During their protest last week at Matta Chowk in the Khwazakhela tehsil of Swat, the protesters had warned that they might take up arms to tackle terrorists if the authorities failed to play their due role.
It was the eighth protest today by the locals since the resurfacing of the terror activities in the month of August. The most recent protest was on Tuesday, after a school van in Charbagh came under gunfire, leaving the driver dead and two children injured.
The incident triggered a protests in several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with thousands taking to the streets to show their resolve against terror.
The protest eventually ended after 40 hours after negotiations with the administration.
The protesters had been demanding the arrest of the culprits behind the attack and warned of marching to Islamabad if authorities failed to meet their demands within 24 hours.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Political and Public Affairs, Amir Muqam, also turned up at the protest to express solidarity with the demonstrators, while ANP district head Ayoub Asharey, PkMAP leader Mukhtiar Yousafzai, Charbagh elder Naveed Iqbal, Attaullah Jan and other peace activists were also in attendance.
The speakers were of the view that their demonstrations will continue until the elimination of the last terrorist from the valley.
In his remarks, Muqam said: “The PML-N will never compromise on peace in Swat.”
We are against all forms of terrorism and we are standing with the people of Swat for peace, he added.
“I must underline that the people of Swat are not alone and the leadership as well as every worker of the PML-N in the entire country is standing with them,” he told the protesters.
A speaker said that the people of Swat have “woken up” and are entirely aware of right and wrong and bad and good.
Another speaker, Mukhtiar Yousafzai, said the locals have decided they would not breathe freely until terrorism was completely eliminated from Swat.
“Gone are the days when the people of Swat were made to suffer through an organised pattern of terrorism. This time, we have resolved to eradicate this menace once and for all,” said Yousafzai in his address.
Many participants were accompanied by their children carrying flags and placards demanding peace from the state.
The speakers said that the people of Swat had extended unprecedented sacrifices and were even displaced for peace’s sake.
“We are also the citizens of this country, and we have equal rights but unfortunately we are being treated as foster children of the state,” said Advocate Attaullah Jan in his address.
The leaders of the Swat Quami Jirga said more protests would be organised in every part of Swat until durable and complete peace was restored in the valley.
A similar protest took place in the Alpuri area of Shangla. Chanting residents demanded durable peace in the region and condemned the recent resurgence of terrorism in parts of Malakand division.
The protest, which was organised by local civil society body “Shangla Peace Movement” was joined by political leaders from almost all parties, activists, educationists, lawyers, transporters, the youth and students, who demanded peace and the elimination of terrorism.
Mutawakil Khan, ANP former candidate for PK-23, said his party would raise its voice for every Pakhtun, whether in Waziristan or Balochistan, Swat and Shangla, because “we can no longer tolerate the bloodshed of Pakhtuns”.
He referred to the murder of a father and son, who hailed from Shangla’s Chakesar, and then the attack on the school van in Swat, terming it “extremely intolerable”.
Former MPA Rashad Khan said they wanted the government to protect the lives and properties of the people of Malakand, because they sacrificed their lives for years.
He said they could no longer tolerate more bodies and want peace as it was the constitutional right of every Pakistani citizen to feel safe and protected.
Azam Khan, ANP’s district president, said there was no space now for terrorists in the region and it was their clear message to them that they would never be made fools of this time the people would “react”.
He said the state was responsible for protecting the public’s lives and it should perform its duty to eliminate insurgents. He questioned how they “came from Afghanistan to Pakistan”.
PTI’s tehsil chairman Alpuri, Waqar Ahmad Khan said they had once experienced the migration of three million people in 2009, where families had to face difficulties, but now would not leave their homeland nor let anyone destroy the region’s peace.
He said they would acknowledge those “Talibs” who study in seminaries and for education but “can never accept those carrying weapons and sabotage peace and murder innocent people”.
Noorullah Khan, one of the organisers, said the rally was meant to convey a clear message to the terrorists and state that they could not let anyone enter their houses and the land was their home.
“We will resist if anyone attempts to kill our children and brothers,” he added.
He said “what was unknown is now known” and he urged the federal and provincial governments to take strict action against the resurgence of terrorism and ensure sustainable peace which was “the only way” otherwise they would come to stage protests in Islamabad and Lahore.
The protesters then dispersed.