Hundreds of people took to the streets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat valley on Friday against the recent wave of militancy in the area, demanding police action as they warned of more protests if the spate of terrorism continued.
Earlier this week, eight people, including a former Aman Committee head and two policemen, were killed when a remote-controlled bomb struck their vehicle in the Ghlo Kandaw area of Kabal Tehsil in Swat valley.
Former peace committee head Idrees Khan, two police guards Ramail and Tauheed, and a child were on their way from Kotakay to Bandai village when the bomb, planted on a dirt road, went off, leaving four people dead on the spot. Two pedestrians were also killed in the blast. Two more corpses were found later.
The attack was claimed by the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which stated that Idrees had been on their hit-list for nearly 13 years.
The residents have been holding protest rallies for some time against the growing wave of terror.
Voicing concerns against the growing militancy in the area, the protesters converged at Kabal Chowk after Friday prayers today, holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans including “we want peace, save our lives”. One of the slogans read: “We want books instead of guns.”
A large number of civil society members, lawyers, local political leaders took part in the protest.
Talking to Dawn.com, Rehmat Ali Khan, an Awami National Party (ANP) leader in Swat, said the citizens had been witnessing a spate of terror of late which had never been the case with Swat in recent times.
He said the valley was guarded by law enforcement agencies including police, levies, FC, and army, however, the occurrence of terror activities raised questions on the performance of LEAs.
One of the protesters, Sardar Ali Advocate, said it was odd that hundreds of people had taken to the streets against terror in an era when other nations were advancing in science, robotics, artificial intelligence and e-commerce.
He said it was disappointing for the residents to converge on the streets to demand their basic rights.
Other protesters said it was beyond comprehension that terrorists were openly disrupt law and order while authorities were allegedly keeping mum.
“It is enough. We will no longer tolerate these activities and if the law enforcement agencies and police fail to take action against terrorists and anti-state elements, then the people of Swat will themselves stand against rogue elements and take action,” Fawad Ahmed, a social activist, told Dawn.com.
Some parents also brought their children with them and said they had witnessed the horrific period of militancy in Swat from 2007 to 2009, adding they had yet to recover from the terror more than 15 years ago.
The protesters vowed that they would resist the resurgence of terrorism in the valley come what may.
The demonstrators said they would stage another protest at Nishat Chowk in Mingora on Sunday.
A decisive military operation succeeded in eliminating militancy from the region in 2009. But there have been reports of late that militants have resurfaced after 12 years and they are threatening villagers with dire consequences if they denounce them to the authorities.
Protest in Shangla
Residents of Shangla district’s Puran tehsil also staged a rally against the resurgence of terrorism in Swat.
Locals, including prayer leaders, addressed the rally and demanded of the government and state institutions to maintain peace in the region.
Maulana Waqas, a prayer leader said human lives were precious and they should not be killed by insurgents just for seeking peace and opposing terrorism.
He said in the past the people were “cheated” and terrorism was “brought” to the region, but this time, the people were united. The prayer leader prayed for peace and urged the people to show their unity against terrorism.
The participants of the rally walked in Aloch bazaar in Puran and chanted slogans for keeping peace in the region.