PESHAWAR: As a protest demonstration by people in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal district against a fresh wave of lawlessness and militant violence lingered for about a week on Wednesday, local authorities said they were trying to pacify the situation by accepting the “legitimate demands” of protesters.
According to the organizers of the sit-in in Wana, the largest settlement of the district which was once infested by militant outfits, people belonging to all walks of life are participating in their movement for peace.
Many of these individuals have complained of rising cases of extortion, kidnapping for ransom and extremist violence while asking the authorities to deal with the armed factions to strengthen security of their hometown.
Speaking to Arab News, Salman Kundi, the area’s assistant commissioner, said civilian authorities with security officials had held a series of meetings with the protesters and recognized their demands for peace.
“We will accept all their legitimate demands such as tackling the kidnapping issue and strengthening, arming and deploying police force for greater peace,” he continued. “The construction work on police stations in Azam Warsak and other peripheries of Wana city has already started.”
Kundi said police patrolling around the financial hub of the area would soon be intensified to instill a sense of security among the business community.
“We are in talks with the organizers of the sit-in,” he added. “I’m quite sure we will be able to convince them to end the protest on Thursday.”
A senior provincial official of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province told Arab News Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had also directed the relevant authorities to accept the demands of the protesters and ask them to end their sit-in.
“I hope the sit-in will end soon because our chief minister has directed the provincial minister from the district to meet these people and resolve their grievances,” Babar Saleem Swati, adviser to the chief minister on tribal affairs, informed.
Ayaz Wazir, a senior member of the Awami National Party (ANP) who is among the organizers of the protest, said the local and provincial authorities were not willing to listen to the people since the beginning of the protest.
“We demand peace,” he said. “For the last six days, we have been chanting slogans for peace and denouncing terrorist violence but the authorities did not hear us.”
He maintained the people were participating in the demonstration to raise their voice against violence, “including attacks on security forces and police in broad daylight,” adding they were also willing to block highways and bring life to a standstill if their demands were not met.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in extremist violence in recent weeks after a proscribed network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), unilaterally called off its cease-fire with the government last November.
The protest in Wana has been attended by a large number of people, showing the intensity of public outcry against lawlessness in the area.
A similar sit-in was also held last week by political workers, social activists and traders in Bajaur tribal district who demanded peace and security while condemning growing incidents of militant violence.
“We really don’t know why this specter of militancy has come to haunt our region again at a time when stability is gradually returning to Afghanistan,” Wazir said. “Previously, we were told that terrorism was spreading due to instability in Afghanistan.”