PESHAWAR: Members of a Pashtun clan from a small settlement in Pakistan’s northwest have threatened to march on Islamabad after unidentified gunmen assassinated a tribal elder last month, confirmed senior representatives of the protesting community while talking to Arab News on Friday.
Residents of Janikhel have staged a sit-in for the last 20 days without burying the corpse of Malik Naseeb Khan who was murdered on May 30.
The Pashtun clan also planned a similar demonstration in Islamabad last March after finding mutilated bodies of four teenage boys belonging to the community who had gone out for hunting. Later, they called off their protest after reaching an agreement with the government.
“The non-implementation of our pact with the government has led to the target killing of a prominent elder of our clan,” Latif Wazir told Arab News over the phone. “The incident has forced us to stage another sit-in without burying his body.”
The deal between the two sides required the Pakistani authorities to act against militant outfits and launch a crackdown against illicit weapons in the area. The government also promised to compensate the bereaved families of the teenagers, investigate their killings and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Apart from that, a special development package had to be announced for Janikhel where residents live an impoverished life.
Last month’s killing was followed by another round of negotiations between the provincial transportation minister, Shah Muhammad Wazir, who belongs to the same clan and the angry protesters.
Wazir asked the mourning demonstrators to bury their leader, though his personal assistant, Amir Khan, told Arab News that the Janikhel community refused to heed his advice.
“The minister even assured the protesters during the meeting that their demands would be met within three days,” Khan said. “He also promised that either a high-powered government delegation would visit them in their own town or their delegation would be invited to Peshawar [the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] to discuss the matter.”
Rahimullah Yusufzai, a senior analyst, described the concern of protesters regarding growing insecurity in their area as legitimate, adding there was definitely a presence of militants and armed groups in Janikhel region.
“However, this trend [of not burying the dead and protesting with their corpses] is painful,” he added. “This is against the basic teachings of Islam and our tradition, though it seems that the bereaved families believe they need to protest as forcefully as possible to make the government act.”
Yusufzai said it was the prime responsibility of the government to be empathetic toward the demonstrators and take immediate measures to address their legitimate grievances.
Rafiullah Wazir, son of the slain tribal elder, told Arab News his father had no personal enmities and had played a constructive role for peace in the area.
“My father had been working for peace since 2009 and had escaped an assassination attempt in the past,” he said while referring to a phase when Pakistani tribal territories were widely described as the hub of religious militancy in the region.
However, the country’s security forces launched military operations in and around the area to target militant outfits and re-establish the state’s writ.
“Armed groups are still involved in creating mayhem and turmoil in Janikhel,” Yusufzai said. “It is the government’s responsibility to identify these groups. I think some coordination between the security forces, administration officials and local elders can help restore order in the area.”