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Lawyers and journalists manhandled on way to Bajaur

November 07, 2006

PESHAWAR, Nov 6: A fact-finding team of lawyers went to the village of Chingai in Bajaur Agency on Monday after tribesmen thwarted an attempt by the political authorities to stop them from visiting the area.

The team recorded statements of scores of tribesmen regarding last week’s aerial attack on a seminary in which 82 people were killed.

The members of the team said that personnel of the levy force intercepted the convoy of lawyers, journalists and tribesmen near Sadiqabad checkpoint and asked them to go back.

Kareem Mehsud, a member of the team, said that the lawyers and journalists were manhandled. He added that a scuffle took place between tribesmen and levy officials when the former warned of severe consequences if the guests from Peshawar were stopped from going to the destroyed seminary. An official of the political authorities summoned five tribal journalists and questioned them about activities of the team.

“The tehsildar asked various questions, including whether the lawyers had taken any picture or made any movie which could tarnish the image of the agency,” said one of the journalists.

He said that some journalists, including private television channel correspondent Nowsherwan Qalander, had been beaten up by the levy personnel.

The six-member team was constituted by the Peshawar High Court Bar Association and the Peshawar Bar Association.

“The situation turned tense when levy jawans encircled us and asked us to return back. Tribesmen gathered there and told levy officials that the team would visit the madrassah at all costs,” Mr Mehsud said.

The tribesmen said that the team members were their guests and they would not allow anyone to insult them or stop them from going to the site of the aerial attack.

Mr Qalander confirmed that the members of the team and the journalists accompanying them had been manhandled by levy jawans. He said that local journalists were summoned by the administration and told to keep ‘national interests’ in mind while covering such events.

Mr Mehsud said that most of the tribesmen believed that the attack had been carried out by the US.