Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai on Wednesday said that the government was committed to compensating the residents of tribal areas who suffered immensely during the war against terrorism but that no one would be allowed to take the law into their own hands and undo security forces’ gains against terrorism
He was addressing a press conference in Peshawar regarding Sunday’s deadly clash between Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) workers and Army troops near a military check post in North Waziristan tribal district.
Editorial: Defusing tensions
Yousafzai said a “specific segment” desired that the armed forces vacate the tribal areas but that the troops are needed in the area to maintain peace that can support the government’s rehabilitation efforts.
“I want to ask, if [some] local people have come out to protest, what purpose is PTM serving there? Or if some people have been arrested on suspicion of attacking the armed forces […] why are they [PTM] demanding their release?” the minister questioned.
In a reference to MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, who the military’s media wing said were behind the attack on the check post, Yousafzai said no member of the parliament has the right to show up at a check post “with a gun”.
He said the lawmakers have the “weapon” of the parliament, where he said issues could be discussed “instead of going to challenge and attack the army”.
The minister accused the PTM of “exploiting” the sufferings of the Pashtun people and ignoring the fact that the Pakistan Army is the only force that has defeated terrorism. He said the people of tribal areas will suffer once again if blood-letting and terrorism are allowed to prevail there again.
“The entire government agrees that there will be no concession for whoever takes the law into their own hands and they will be dealt with severely,” he said. “Whoever breaks the law will face the consequences.”
Yousafzai said nowhere in the world would a person, no matter who they are, would be allowed to breach a military check post.
He said “very dangerous” information has emerged regarding the PTM leadership at the government level, and suggested that evidence exists about “the way they receive funds and what their agenda is”.
In response to a question, the minister revealed that a reporter of a Pashto TV channel, Khan Badshah aka Gohar Wazir, who was among 22 people detained in different parts of Bannu during a police operation, had been released after he was found to be a reporter.
Also on Wednesday, asked to comment on some political parties’ demand for the National Assembly speaker to issue the production orders of MNA Wazir, KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said that although this was a prerogative of the federal government, his stance was that “he [Wazir] should be dealt with according to the law and should not be given a free hand because these people are not peaceful”.
‘Resolve issues through dialogue’
Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Shehryar Afridi echoed similar sentiments at a separate press conference in Islamabad, saying it is the government’s responsibility to respect every Pakistani and that they offer the PTM to resolve issues through dialogue.
He asserted that “it is the time for Pakistan to illuminate after darkness. Whoever tries to take the law into their own hands will be dealt with strictly.”
Afridi said that slogans were never chanted against Pakistan in the history of Pashtuns.
The minister emphasised that the government would not have allowed Mohsin Dawar to submit his resolution regarding Fata’s merger with KP if it had any ill-intent against the PTM. Asked if the government would be ready to hold talks with the movement, Afridi said that it is the responsibility of the government to respect every Pakistani citizen.
The minister revealed that the federal government had released an unprecedented Rs102 billion for the development of tribal regions of erstwhile Fata and large-scale development would take place in the area.
He said that efforts were afoot to empower the people of tribal areas and more funds will be released for their prosperity.
Clash in North Waziristan
Three people were killed and 15 ─ including five soldiers ─ were injured in an exchange of fire in North Waziristan’s Boyya area, when the Kharqamar checkpoint was attacked during a protest on Sunday, in which PTM members were also participating.
According to a statement by the Army’s media wing, MNAs Dawar and Wazir were leading the group.
“A group led by Mohsin Javed [Dawar] and Ali Wazir assaulted Kharqamar check post, Boyya, North Waziristan tribal district this morning. They wanted to exert pressure for release of suspected terrorists’ facilitator arrested the other day,” added the statement, without specifying who the suspect was.
“Troops at the check post exercised maximum restraint in the face of provocation and direct firing on the post. Due to firing of the group, five Army soldiers got injured. In exchange of fire, three individuals who attacked the post lost their lives and 10 got injured,” it said.
The statement also disclosed that Wazir along with eight other individuals had been arrested while Mohsin Javed [Dawar] was “at large”.
Dawar, while speaking to VOA Deewa, had denied that the group opened fire and accused the Army of initiating violence