Police disperse villagers protesting with coffins

January 18, 2013 - 3:20:18 am

PESHAWAR: Pakistani police early yesterday fired tear gas shells to disperse coffin-carrying protesters who refused to bury 14 people allegedly killed in a raid by security forces, officials said.

The pre-dawn operation was launched about 13 hours after around 300 people staged a sit-in outside the governor’s house in the northwestern city of Peshawar along with bodies of those killed in the raid on Tuesday night.

The protesters blamed security forces and refused to bury the bodies until they get justice.

“We used tear gas and dispersed the protesters because they were creating a law and order situation in Peshawar,” senior police officer Kamal Hussain said.

The bodies were taken to their home town of Bara in the tribal district of Khyber and handed to the local administration for burial, he said. Local police station chief Shabih Hussain confirmed the tear gas shelling and that 17 people were arrested and later released.

Residents said armed men attacked five homes in Bara and killed 14 people on Tuesday night.

“They entered our houses and killed our relatives to avenge the killing of six security personnel in the same area of Bara on Monday night,” said local resident Muhammad Shabbir, a former member of the Frontier Corps paramilitary said.

Security and military officials denied that security forces were involved and said it was militants who attacked the homes.

Shabbir said his father, five brothers and two cousins were among the dead.

The government ordered a judicial enquiry into the incident and decided to pay 400,000 rupees ($4,000) each to the families of the deceased, Hussain said.

Pakistani troops have been fighting Islamist militants and local militia for months in Khyber, which is part of the semi-autonomous tribal district on the Afghan border where the Taliban and other Islamist groups have strongholds.

Wednesday’s protest was the second of its type in a week in Pakistan. Islamic custom dictates that the dead should be buried the same day or a day later.

In the southwestern city of Quetta, thousands of Shias demonstrated for four days after the worst-ever bomb attack on their minority community killed 92 people. 

They refused to bury the dead, demanding the army take over security in Quetta. The protest mainly by ethnic Hazaras ended after Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf sacked the provincial government.

Last month, Amnesty International said both the Pakistan military and the Taliban were guilty of rights abuses in the tribal belt. The military rejected the allegations as a “pack of lies”.