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PESHAWAR: Tribe ends Indus Highway blockade

August 04, 2004

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PESHAWAR, Aug 3: Traffic was restored on the Indus Highway late on Monday evening after Fata Secretary (Security) Mahmood Shah held talks with the protesting tribesmen.

Thousands of armed people of the Marwat tribe had blocked the highway for traffic on Sunday morning after the body of a kidnapped victim of the tribe was found by the Khasadar force near Tajori in FR Lakki Marwat on Saturday.

The protesters, led by MNA Maulana Amanullah Khan and other JUI leaders, had refused to either remove the body from the road or bury it unless the authorities ensured the safe recovery of eight other kidnapped people and take action against the criminals.

Earlier, the leaders of Marwat Qaumi Jirga held a meeting at a madressah in Serai Gambila and decided that they would not end the road blockade. Officials of the Lakki Marwat district and FR Lakki made several attempts to persuade the protesters to open the road.

However, later, the Fata secretary (security) went to Lakki Marwat and held negotiations with the jirga at Serai Gambila. He assured the jirga that the government would shortly initiate an operation in the FR Lakki Marwat, FR Tank and North Waziristan Agency against the kidnappers' gang, Arsal group.

During an operation against the Arsal group, led by Arsala Khan of the Bhetanni tribe, in April, the law-enforcement authorities had taken into custody at least 24 members of his family to force the gang leader to surrender. Reports reaching from Lakki Marwat said that several passenger vehicles were looted by armed bandits as the traffic was diverted to link roads in the area.

A college student, Pir Usman Shah, 15, who was going from Peshawar to Dera Ismail Khan, told Dawn that the flying coach he was travelling in was intercepted on a link road near Darra Tang by seven armed men and deprived the passengers of cash and other valuables.

He said that armed bandits struck at different points on the link roads and looted a number of public and private vehicles.