On March 28, Tuesday, thousands of protesters attempted a long march of 300 km from Bannu district in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province towards the national capital, Islamabad, seeking justice for four teenagers who were allegedly killed by security forces in Bannu’s Jani Khel area.
The protesters broke through police barricades at several places and were seen carrying black flags and raising slogans against the security forces. Protesters carrying the dead bodies of the teenagers in coffins were intercepted by the security forces near Tuche Pull (bridge). The security forces fired scores of tear gas canisters to disrupt the march and even resorted to aerial firing.
The bullet-ridden bodies of four teenagers aged between 15 to 17 were recovered from Bannu’s Jani Khel area (formerly a semi-autonomous tribal area) on March 21. Identified as Atifullah, Razimullah, Rahim and Ahmad, the teenagers had been missing for the past three weeks. A series of protests have swept northwest Pakistan ever since.
As per locals claims, news of stray dogs scratching some unidentified graves in the nearby Wazirwarigani village immediately led to suspicion and the bodies of the four teenagers were exhumed. Their bodies reportedly bore visible marks of torture and bullet injuries and were shifted to the hospital for postmortem.
Initially, provincial minister Malik Shah Mohammad tried to pacify the Jani Khel tribesmen who were demanding an impartial investigation and arrest of the killers outside the Jani Khel police station.
Talks between senior tribesmen and the government team failed after three days as locals refused to accept the compensation offered by the government to the families of the deceased. The tribesmen were determined not to bury the bodies of the teenagers until the killers were arrested.
The tribesmen finally agreed to end the week-long protests on March 29 after the federal government’s assurance that the culprits will be punished within three months. In a statement, the government said that it will clear the armed forces stationed in the area, which will pave the way for peace in the region.
Chief of the Jani Khel tribe, Malik Adnan Wazir, along with the families of the deceased and locals were met by chief minister Mahmood Khan who visited Jani Khel to hold talks with elder tribesmen. “This incident (was) a challenge for my government and for law enforcement agencies,” Khan said.