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Political Parties Should Defuse The Situation Before It Gets Worse

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Talimand Khan in this article calls for the political parties to take charge of the narrative on what happened in Khar Kamar, North Waziristan, on Sunday. He argues that the political parties consider the PTM demands to be genuine and they should now come forward to defuse the situation before it is too late.

For the last two decades the Pakhtun belt, particularly ex-FATA, has been bleeding for no fault of its own. The region remains a sandwich amongst the vested interests of powers due its geo-physical location. Yet again, for no fault of its own.

The recent addition to its pangs of interminable pain was the gory incident occurring in Khar Kamar of North Waziristan last Sunday, on May 26, 2019. On that ill-fated day, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, two elected members of parliament from the South and North Waziristan, led a procession to join a protest sit-in in North Waziristan where the locals were protesting against the disappearance of their relatives.

According to the statement of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public relations’ wing of the military, the incident turned bloody when the protesters opened fired on a check post forcing the army to retaliate resulting in killing three and injuring 10 protesters. In the wake of the violence, the army not only severed all means of communications like telephone, internet and cellular phone service in the area, a curfew was also quickly imposed to ‘manage’ the backlash. So far a blanket media censorship of the other side of the story is persistently trying to validate the army action against the sit-in protestors and assailing Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar for inciting people to attack the check post.

The following day, Mohsin Dawar managed to record a video message both in Pashto and Urdu languages providing firsthand details of the bloody incident. Dawar stated in the video, which was circulating on social media, that early morning Ali Wazir and he had proceeded from Islamabad to join the sit-in in North Waziristan. Within no time hundreds of people joined them on their way turning it into a sort of procession.

As soon as they reached the army check post in Khar Kamar, they were stopped from going further by the army manning. When they refused to go back, the army began to body search the participants and allowed them to cross the first entry point into the space between the first and second checkpoint. As they stood in the middle of the two checkpoints, the army opened fire from behind. Mohsin claimed while Ali Wazir and he narrowly escaped, scores of protesters were killed and many injured. He added that when Ali Wazir rushed towards an injured protestor to rescue him, the security forces deterred him from helping the wounded.

These are the two versions, the army’s and the protesters’. This incident occurred three weeks after the DG ISPR’s press conference on April 29, 2019 where he had warned the PTM with the warning that, ‘your time is up’.

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First, as per the authorities’ claim, the entire region of ex-FATA had been disarmed wherein the civilians had no arms nor was it is possible for them to carry unauthorised arms in the presence of ubiquitous army check posts and thorough checking. More importantly, it is highly unlikely that members of the PTM who are under the close watch would undertake such a step.

By now, for almost one and a half years, the government has been trying to nab the PTM by stopping them on check posts, arresting, and registering FIRs against them under the Anti-Terrorist Act for simply participating in rallies or making speeches. But PTM has always maintained that they are committed to a peaceful non-violent constitutional struggle for their basic rights.

Why would PTM resort to violence at this point when their level of popularity has increased across the board? Most importantly, why would it compromise the integrity of the two members of parliament from Waziristan and initiate an attack on a roadside checkpoint in their presence?

According to the ISPR’s statement, the attackers were aiming to recover the alleged facilitators of terrorists arrested by the security forces.

In the present political situation the so-called elected government and media are churning out a partial narrative. Media self-censorship has left no room for alternate voices and independent points of view.

The mainstream political parties, particularly the parliamentary leader of PML-N demanded on the floor of the National Assembly to constitute a parliamentary commission to investigate into the incident to unearth the facts surrounding the Khar Kamar brutality. He also called for a peaceful political solution to end the miseries of the people, particularly those belonging to ex-FATA.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also demanded setting up of a parliamentary commission to investigate into the gory incident to determine responsibility. In the absence of an independent fact finding body it is hard to ascertain the veracity of the claims made by both parties.

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The state should not repeat the history of 1971 by crushing a legitimate rights movement through force and by keeping the rest of the country and the media in the dark. For the sake of sustaining a functional federation, a movement demanding the constitutional rights cannot be a threat to the state. Recent events have made polarisation even deeper.

Most political parties, sections of civil society consider it a legitimate civil rights movement. Now they should come forward to defuse the situation before it is too late.

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