September 20th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz & Hassan Raza
Citizens of South Waziristan who have been injured as a result of, all too frequent, landmines and IED blasts in their region have announced that they will set out on a long march for Islamabad, on Tuesday, September 21, after negotiations with representatives of the local administration fell apart earlier today.
Most of those who have been handicapped by IED blasts, began a sit-in at the Kotkai area of South Waziristan after local and provincial governments failed to clear landmines planted their areas during a series of operations carried out under the ‘war on terror’ despite dozens of casualties and hundreds of injuries. The sit-in is being led by local organizers of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM).
According to recent reports phone signals in the sit-in area have also been suspended.
Participants of the sit-in have demanded that their area be cleared of all landmines and that the victims and their kin be granted compensation money by the government because most of them cannot fend for themselves and have to bear expensive medical costs for their treatment.
“This sit-in was launched on the September 6, while the rest of the country celebrated Defense day. Years of frustration and financial distress has forced many of these people who can barely walk on their own to take this extreme measure,” says Alamzeb Mehsud, member central committee of the PTM.
The participants continued their sit-in for about eleven days but were ignored by the local administration and the national media alike. So, in order to gain greater visibility, the participants decided to move their sit-in closer to the main road near the Murghi Band area of South Waziristan.
“Soon after the protestors started their planned long march to Islamabad. Only after a few miles when two of the participants Farhan an 11-year-old boy and Khalid a 40-year-old man, both of whom were disabled by landmine blasts fainted due to exhaustion and the intense heat. But still, the district administration paid no heed to their demands,” continues Alamzeb. Both Farhan and Khalid were later shifted to the hospital where they have now recovered.
Following an outcry from locals a team of the district administration finally met with the participants of the sit-in and assured them that their demands will be forwarded to higher officials “who have authority over the issue.” But the protestors are tired of such repeated assurances and have decided to continue with their March regardless.
“For years and years, we have listened to these hollow promises and assurances. This time we will not break our movement’s momentum merely over words,” explains a participant of the Long March on the condition of anonymity. Sources aware of the matter informed Voicepk.net that the participants now plan on leaving for Islamabad via vehicles instead of on foot because their poor health does not allow them to walk so far.
Landmine blasts have become endemic to South Waziristan and have been ongoing for years. An untoward incident occurred even while this current long march was ongoing. Farhan a 12-year-old boy lost his right foot to an IED blast in the Tiarza area of South Waziristan. A teenage girl and woman were also injured in the incident.
According to local activists, the current incident has brought the total number of civilian-related IED incidents in the South Waziristan tribal district to a staggering 188.