August 13, 2023
By Xari Jalil and Maryam Missal
Slogans for peace echoed in the main Bazaar of the Bara tehsil in Khyber district, on Saturday, August 12, where hundreds of residents gathered for a massive peace demonstration.
Organized by the BSI or Bara Siyasi Ittehad (Bara Political Alliance), the rally featured prominent speakers who urged security agencies to address the issue of terrorism seriously within the tribal district.
The protestors came from across the Khyber district and surrounding areas, and rallied through the streets, waving flags to express their demands for peace. However it was not easy to organize this rally as the local administration was not fully cooperating, according to the main organizer, Farhad Advocate.
“We tried to seek proper permission from the DC Khyber, but instead we were dissuaded from holding the protest,”
he said while speaking to Voicepk.net. “We were told that there were security issues and there could be an attack. Guests who were invited were calling me up to ask if there was a threat of suicide bombing. But our demands were of peace, and so we continued to carry out our march anyway.”
He praised the efforts of the SHO of Bara police station who took personal interest in checking and security measures and helped deploy personnel there.
“They cannot infringe upon our rights to hold a peaceful demonstration,” he said.
“It is ironic that our protest was against militancy yet that was the reason being given to us not to hold it!”
Because of this, three of the political parties did not attend the rally.
Farhad said that the citizens were tired of living under the pressure of militancy day in and day out.
“There are criminal elements hiding in the mountains surrounding the Tirah Valley. They roam around in broad daylight and have their own check posts as well, where scrutinize the movements of residents. When it gets dark, they come down and harass families to give them food.”
He added that citizens who lived in those areas had to undergo humiliation at checkpoints by military personnel who made each vehicle wait 15 to 20 minutes while they ran checks on them, and checked their CNICs, even though these people travelled back and forth regularly.
Other speakers representing various social and political factions, delivered impassioned speeches demanding a decisive crackdown on militant groups operating within the region.
Senator Mushtaq Ahmad of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Shahabuddin Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Sardar Hussain Babak of the Awami National Party, Manzoor Pashteen of the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement, and local BSI leaders took to the podium to address the gathering.
The demonstrators emphasized there was an urgent need for the security forces to intensify efforts against militant groups, focusing particularly on the removal of “unnecessary” checkposts from Tirah Valley to facilitate the free movement of residents.
They also called for the compensation of those individuals whose properties had been occupied in order to establish security posts.
They asserted that the people of Khyber district, particularly in Tirah and Bara areas, were unwilling to become victims of internal displacement due to a perceived law and order situation in the region.
“We will not be a part of it,” declared the speakers, referring to the potential escalation of a new “war of terror” in the region.
Political and rights activist Manzoor Afridi, also a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that the situation in the areas around Bara were dire.
“Our biggest issue at the moment is security and militancy,”
he said. “This is why all the leaders came together to call for peacein this rally. Our other big issue is that of landmines in the Waziristan area.”
They stressed that the people of Khyber had taken a united stand against any misadventures in the name of militancy, conveying their strong opposition to self-imposed lawlessness on their soil.
Moreover, they noted a significant exodus of businesses from the tribal districts due to rising cases of extortion and targeted killings, which had left thousands of tribespeople unemployed and small-time businessmen facing substantial losses.
As the rally participants chanted slogans for peace, they emphasized that the government and security institutions must prioritize the maintenance of peace and security in the region.
Residents called for protection against extortion, targeted killings, and bomb blasts, while also urging security forces to vacate the historic mosque in Bagh-Maidan Markaz and make it accessible for regular prayers.
This rally follows a similar event on July 25 in Tirah Valley, where the Bara Siyasi Ittehad organized a peace rally against the growing threats of targeted killings, extortion, bomb attacks, and fears of militant intrusion in the region.
Manzoor Afridi added that those who were displaced especially from the Tirah Valley including the Kukikhel tribes, were all so full of anguish having been in camps for days on end, that they had said they would record this year’s August 14 as a ‘Black Day.
“The IDPs have it worst, as they are not registered, they do not receive any stipends, or anything,”
said Manzoor Afridi.
On July 25, Speakers also urged for the swift restoration of peace in the area, claiming that the locals were tired of the increasing number of terrorist attacks, targeted killings, and extortion.
As the voices of the residents unite in their demand for peace and security, the Khyber district sends a clear message to policymakers that the region will not tolerate the continued presence of terrorism and lawlessness.