March 29th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz & Hassan Raza
Elders of the Jani Khel tribe have finally announced an end to their long march to Islamabad, after successful negotiations with representatives of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government. The Chief Minister (CM) of KP, Mehmood Khan attended the signing of the agreement personally at 4 am today.
In a press conference held later, the CM assured the Jani Khel elders that the government will ensure action on all their demands without delay. He also called on the tribesmen to exercise restraint in the face of the heart-wrenching tragedy that they had been braving.
On March 21, a shepherd’s dog discovered bullet-riddled bodies of four Jani Khel teenagers in a freshly dug grave. Before the bodies were discovered, the teenagers had been presumed missing by the tribe. The boys had gone out on a hunting trip and had never returned.
Angered by the humiliating way in which the boys had been killed and dumped, the tribesmen immediately dug out the bodies and began a massive sit-in outside their local police station in Bannu. Images of thousands of tribesmen sitting with dead bodies went viral on social media soon after. Despite the massive protests and the tragedy of the situation, however, the mainstream media did not cover the incident.
After several rounds of negotiations with the government failed the elders of the Jani Khel tribe announced a long march to Islamabad on March 27. Thousands of tribesmen on vehicles and on foot began their march to the capital. On March 28, the police blocked the route of the rally, and attacked the protesters with tear gas, batons, and live rounds to stop them forcefully. However, the violent actions of the police backfired and angered the protestors even further.
The police faced heavy resistence by the angered tribes people. Scuffles took place between the heavy contingents of the police and the large rallies of protestors on several occasions. The tribesmen countered all the blocks and barriers and still managed to continue their march towards Islamabad.
Local police also took Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader and Member National Assembly (MNA) Moshin Dawar into custody from Karak, while they were on their way to join the Jani Khel long march. Manzoor Pashteen too was taken into custody from Kohat. After the negotiations, both leaders were released.
The demands of the protestors included the immediate arrest of the victims’ killers and appropriate monetary compensation for the grieving families. In addition to the short-term demands, the protestors also demanded lasting peace in their area, and an end to the militancy there. According to tribal elders, several armed groups have established a permanent presence in the area and must be rooted out by the state.
Moreover, the tribesmen also demanded that all members of the Jani Khel tribe who have been ‘missing’ or are in state custody must be treated in accordance with the law. Those who are innocent or involved in petty crimes should be released and those who are guilty should be presented in a court of law.