Wednesday 16 January 2013

Tribes demand justice over killings of 18 Bara men

Bara tribesmen bring their dead to Peshawar
In most countries the cold-blooded execution of 18 men, taken from their homes in the middle of the night by uniformed men before their lifeless bodies were dumped in a field, would have been major national – not to mention international - news.  
Not so in Pakistan. The killings, which took place on Tuesday night in Bara Tehsil, just a few miles to the south-west of Peshawar, have been reported, but have fought for space on the pages of newspapers crammed with reports about criminal charges against the country’s prime minister, mass protests in Islamabad and the continuing carnage in Balochistan.
Adopting a protest tactic used last week by Hazaras in Quetta of refusing to bury their dead, up to 5,000 Bara tribesmen took 15 of the bodies to the residence of the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in Peshawar on Wednesday, saying they would refuse to bury them until the perpetrators – widely believed locally to have been from the Frontier Constabulary – were brought to justice.
But nowhere in the Pakistan will you find any kind of context for these killings, or investigation into the events. I cannot pretend to solve such a crime, but here are a few facts that may help explain what is happening in Bara. First point to note is that there is ongoing bitter fighting between the armed forces and the Lashkar-e-Islam organisation, led by Mangal Bagh.
On Monday an LI commander was killed and three members of a local peace Lashkar were injured during a skirmish in Bara, which continued most of the day.
Later than night and on Tuesday LI militants attacked three security posts at Arjali Nadi, Machine Dandh and Amshumano Adhera areas of Bara, killing five security personnel and wounding another 16. An LI spokesman denied any of their fighters was killed.
On Sunday a girl’s school was blown up in Sepah Spin Qabar in Bara tehsil, whilst three days before around 200 members of the paramilitary Khassadar force re-entered the Shalobar area of Bara after a three-year break. There were several shooting incidents on the same day. Incidents like this have been continuing for months. 
Whether you believe the latest killings were the work of the LI, its rival Ansarul Islam or paramilitary forces, it is plain for anyone to see that Khyber Agency – and Bara in particular – is in a state of open warfare. 
Update:  On Thursday 17 January police in Peshawar used aerial firing, baton charges and teargas to disperse Bara students from outside the Peshawar Press Club and arrested 18 protesters.
Rioting started when police used water canon and teargas against the families who had brought the bodies of their dead and camped with them overnight outside the Governor's house. The police action started shortly after midnight and many families were forced to abandon the coffins containing the bodies of those killed in Bara on Tuesday.
Police refused to return bodies to the families until they reached an agreement with a tribal jirga that the bodies would no longer be placed on the road. In exchange the provincial governor announced a compensation package of Rs400,000 per family and an inquiry into the affair. According to some reports, several of the slain men had been in military custody before they were found dead. The Human Rights Commission for Pakistan has welcomed the fact that a judicial inquiry has been ordered into the deaths: "
Rather than using tear gas and batons to deal with the people, their demands should be heard with compassion, and the truth of the matter established in a manner that enjoys the confidence of the aggrieved. HRCP welcomes the fact that a judicial probe has been ordered into the killings and hopes that unlike similar probes in the past, the findings of this one will see the light of day.”

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