Scores of Pashtuns staged a massive protest earlier this week in the Swat district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province over being ill treated at army check posts in the area.
Demanding the removal of what they described as “unnecessary” check posts, the protesters said army soldiers, officers and other relevant authorities needed to treat the people of the area well.
“These unnecessary check posts must be removed and officials should treat the people politely,” the Dawn quoted local elder and political leader Mohammad Riaz, as saying.
“For the last 15 days, people are reaching their destinations late and one has to prove one’s identity several times due to which people cannot reach to their offices, educational institutions and hospitals in time,” said another protestor.
Afghan journalist Bashir Ahmad Gwakh took to Twitter to underscore the Pakistan media’s negligence in giving a coverage to the protests in the Swat region.
“While #Pakistan TV channels are busy putting Indian dance songs with @ImranKhanPTI’s yet another wedding pictures, #SwatProtest took place with no coverage. #SwatLongMarch launched against mal treatment at army check posts! #priorities #ImranKhan,” Gwakh tweeted.
Taking to the streets with banners and sloganeering, the protestors asked, “What kind of freedom is this when our kids die at army check posts?”
This was reflected strongly in a tweet, which said:
“Protest Rally in Swat against Terrorism, Harassment of innocent people at Army Check Posts in Swat. The song from #PashtunLongMarch is the main rallying point. The protesters in Swat also added “What kind of freedom is this when our kids die on Army check posts. #SwatProtest”
The Swat protest comes on the heels of a sit-in protest in Islamabad. In the beginning of February, thousands of Pashtun activists demanded that the military and the civilian government address their grievances, including an end to unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and landmines.
According to a report, 50,000 Pashtuns in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in the neighbouring province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been killed in militant attacks and military operations since 2001. There are over six million others who have been displaced.