July 27th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
Local organizers of the Jani Khel sit-in have informed Vopicepk.net that the tribe has once again decided to call off its Long March for Peace to Islamabad after successful negotiations with leaders of the civil and military administrations. The talks were mediated by the Masharaan (tribal elders) of the Ahmadzai and Usmanzai clans of the Wazir tribe. Sources have revealed that the Dharna will be formally called off by later today.
The Jani Khel protestors who set-out on a Long March for peace from Jani Khel in Lakki Marwat to Islamabad and were encamped near Bannu airport as negotiations with senior civil and military officials continued for almost 4 days. A Pindal was set-up near the air-port and hours long consultations were carried out on a daily basis.
“The restorations of lasting peace in our hometown and the return of missing persons of our tribes were two of the most central demands we put forth in front of the government delegation. They have guaranteed swift action regarding both these demands. According to the latest information I have, four missing persons of our tribe will be handed over today while several others who are being held without charges or for petty crimes will either be sent to their homes or to the courts in the near future,” explains Lateef Wazir, a local organizer who is aware of these developments.
“Regarding peace in our area the state has assured us that a special committee comprising of members of the civil and military establishments as well as elders of Wazir tribes will be formed to negotiate peace with the ‘good and bad’ militant organizations active in our area to ensure the safety of our tribe,” continues Wazir.
“I have been sitting with my father’s dead body for the last 28 or so days. I have not buried him and the youth of our tribe had sworn on the Quran that our lives are not worth living and even if we have to die we will continue to Islamabad. But now that the elders have decided that the negotiations were successful. We accept their verdict in the greater good of our tribe,” exclaims a disgruntled Rafiullah, son of the deceased Malik Naseeb Khan.
The current talks are being mediated by the elders of the Usmanzai and Ahmadzai clans of the Wazir Tribe, who will also act as guarantors of the promises made by the government “We know that the government has betrayed us in the past but this time fellow clans of the Wazir tribe have guaranteed to us that if the government fails to stand by its word and does not translate its words into concrete actions anytime soon then all clans of the Wazir tribe will stand with the Jani Khel and march to Islamabad,” explains Wazir, while hinting towards a flexible timeline extending till the end of the month.
The Killing of Malik Naseeb
The recent agitation started with the killing of peace activist and tribal chief Malik Naseeb Khan on May 31. Immediately after the killing, Jani Khel tribesmen launched a sit-in outside their local police station. Malik Naseeb was shot dead in broad daylight on his way home by unknown assailants.
Even though the police registered an FIR of the incident, locals say they are tired of the state’s inability to protect them from what can be described as an organized campaign of targeted killings being carried out in the area by local militant outfits. The tribesmen demanded the state root out militants operating in their home town and take concrete measures to ensure long-lasting peace.
The sit-in continued for almost three weeks, during which several rounds of negotiations took place between government officials and tribal elders. After talks broke down, tribesmen launched their Long March for peace towards Islamabad. The peaceful marchers were met with brutal police repression at the Tochi bridge that connects Jani Khel to Bannu. The protestors alleged that the police fired live rounds straight into the crowds, resulting in the death of a youth, Waheed. Several other protestors were ‘picked-up’ or injured during the police onslaught.
Police, however, claimed that violence erupted when protestors ‘attacked’ them and set fire to a police vehicle, injuring several on-duty personnel. This version of events has been rejected by the Jani Khel, who maintain that the scuffle was provoked by the unwarranted and brutal assault of the police.
Despite serious efforts by the administration to stop them, the protestors were able to reach Bannu Airport, where the current round of negotiations is being carried out.
The four boys whose remains were found by a dog
This is not the first time the Jani Khel have launched a march for peace to Islamabad. On March 21, a shepherd’s dog discovered bullet-riddled bodies of four Jani Khel teenagers in a freshly dug grave. The teenagers were believed to have gone missing prior to the discovery of their corpses.
The people of Jani Khel dug the bodies out and placed them in front of the same police station, initiating a week-long sit-in which later evolved into a Long March towards Islamabad following the failure of several rounds of negotiations.
At first, the local authorities tried to stop the march by force. Despite severe pressure by the authorities, the protestors managed to push forward with all force. The episode came to a close on March 29, when a special delegation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government led by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan personally met with the Jani Khel elders at 4 AM, and signed an agreement accepting all of their demands with the personal guarantee of lasting peace in their tribal homeland.