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Tribesmen pile bodies outside Governor's House in protest

17 January, 2013

PESHAWAR: Pashtun tribesmen dumped 15 bloody bodies in front of government offices on Wednesday, protesting against what they said were extra-judicial killings by security forces in the latest challenge to the government's authority.

The protest in Peshawar follows a three-day sit-in by members of the Hazara Shia community alongside the bodies of 96 people killed in a sectarian bomb attack in Quetta, and coincides with a protest against corruption in the capital that has attracted thousands of people who have set up tents in front of parliament. In Peshawar, the protesters said members of the security forces had arrested the victims on Tuesday after the beheading of six paramilitary forces in the area three days ago.

Their bullet-riddled bodies were later dumped in their village in the in Alamgudar area of the Khyber region, the protesters said. The Frontier Corps, the paramilitary force chiefly responsible for the area, did not give an official comment. Privately, officers denied responsibility. In an echo of the Quetta demonstration last week, the protesters laid out the bodies on blankets in front of the Governor's House in the provincial capital and insisted they would not bury them until their demands were met.

Those include an impartial inquiry and punishment for those responsible. A committee of the protesters demanded that the government stop a military operation in their area, withdraw a five-year-old curfew and compensate the victims. "Where we should go to seek justice?" asked protester Gulajab Afridi. "There is dark night in Khyber Agency. There is no one to check the barbarism of the Frontier Corps against local people. Our blood is worth nothing."

He said villagers were trapped between the military and the militants. "The militants of Lashkar-e-Islam wanted us to stay in our homes and don't want us to vacate our villages but when we stay there, the security forces arrest us on charges of supporting the militants," said 45-year old Haji Gul Jabbar Afridi. Human rights groups have for years accused the security forces of abductions and killings. The security forces deny that.

The rights group Amnesty International said in a recent report that civilians in the ethnic Pashtun areas along the Afghan border, where Taliban and al Qaeda militants operate, are frequently abducted, tortured and executed by either the military or the militants. The military strongly refuted the report. While the Frontier Corps declined to comment, a force official speculated that the killings might have been done by militants in disguise. "They were the militants who wear Frontier Corps uniform and kidnap people and later kill them just to create hatred among the people against Pakistani security forces," he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Wednesday took immediate notice of the protest demonstration by people from Khyber Agency over the killing of their relatives on Tuesday, in front of the Governor's House, Peshawar.

Speaking to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar over telephone, the prime minister directed him to engage the elders and redress the grievances of the protesters. The governor assured the prime minister that he would submit a report promptly after discussing it with the affected people and make recommendations for a decision by the prime minister.

The prime minister said that all necessary assistance and cooperation would be extended by the federal government for early resolution of this unfortunate incident. Prime Minister Raja asked the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to convey his personal pain, grief and condolences to the bereaved families.


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