Tribesmen pile relatives’ bodies, hold sit-in
PESHAWAR, Jan 16: Reacting to the killing of at least 18 people in the Sepah area of Bara on Tuesday allegedly by security forces, enraged tribesmen from different localities of the tribal region brought coffins of 15 of the dead to the provincial capital and started a sit-in outside the Governor’s House on Wednesday.
Talking to reporters, relatives of the deceased narrated the chilling account of people in army uniform entering their residences and firing which left 18 people killed.
“I had gone to the factory to work there when the killers entered my home on Tuesday morning and killed my grandfather, two brothers, two uncles and a cousin. My brothers worked as labourers in the same factory and were resting at home having worked in night shift,” said Jawed Afridi.
He alleged that after the gruesome incident, they were not allowed to enter their residences to pick the bodies.
A 16-member committee headed by Senator Nasir Khan and Maqbali Afridi held talks with Governor Barrister Masood Kausar till late in the night.
Some of their demands include: Ending military operation in Bara (Khyber Agency), lifting of the four-year curfew and opening of Bara Bazaar, providing a shuhada package to the victims, holding of an impartial judicial inquiry into the incident and punishing the army officials responsible, and registering a case against the Inspector General of Frontier Corps.
Later, the tribal leaders and the governor told the media that negotiations were successful. However, relatives of the deceased were not ready to end the sit-in before pullout of troops from Bara.
The governor assured the tribal elders that an inquiry would be held and action would be taken against those responsible for the murders.
A source said the two sides had decided that modalities about limited road movement would be discussed with the political agent, law-enforcement agencies and local people, random mortar firing would be avoided and innocent prisoners, if there were any, would be freed. A jirga would be formed to discuss issues related to operations and payment of Rs400,000 by the political administration as compensation to the family of each victim.
Earlier, emotionally charged relatives of the deceased and members of the Fata Students Federation roughed up an MNA and former federal minister Hameedullah Afridi when he came to the venue of the sit-in and tried to speak to the protesters. Shoes and water bottles were hurled at him. One of his security guards fired in the air to make room for him to escape. A protester was injured and he was taken to the nearby Lady Reading Hospital. He was identified as Yar Badshah from Bara.
The protesters said that although the former minister was their representative he did not go to their area during the past five years and had now appeared on the scene when the general elections were round the corner.
The protestors adopted a unanimous resolution demanding an end to the Bara operation, replacement of the commandant of Mehsood Scouts and arrest of the killers. They appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take notice of the killings.
One Subhanallah Afridi of the Sepah area said most of the victims lived in his neighbourhood and he had heard their cries.
“A man in army uniform was also after me but I escaped to nearby fields,” he claimed. He said all male members of Mughal Baaz family, except a young girl, had been killed. But the girl has been left alone because her mother had already died.
He said 15 bodies had been placed outside the governor’s house, but corpses of two children and a woman were not brought.
Former MNA Haji Mohammad Shah Afridi said innocent people had been killed after separating them from female members of the families. Two of the victims were teenage students. “We will continue the sit-in till the acceptance of our demands,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa government has promised to conduct an inquiry into the incident.
“Although the provincial government has no administrative authority in Fata it condemns the killing of innocent people and has directed the commissioner to investigate the matter,” provincial Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain said in a statement. Those found involved in the killing of innocent people would have to face strict action, he added.