On Wednesday, June 23, a rally organized from Bannu district in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to protest the killing of an elderly member of the Janikhel tribe, Malak Naseeb Khan, was forcefully stopped by the police. At least one person – 25-year-old Wahid Khan – died in the police action. Dozens of other protesters were injured, as per reports. The protesters were demanding the arrest of the unidentified assailants involved in the targeted killing of the tribal elder on May 30. They had planned to march till the capital Islamabad, around 300 km away before being intercepted by the police.
Malak Naseeb Khan was a member of the Jani Khel Qaumi Committee and had led a protest demanding justice for four teenagers who were mysteriously murdered in March. After his death, the Janikhel tribesmen in Bannu district staged a peaceful sit-in protest for over three weeks demanding justice and an end to targeted killings in the region.
Due to the failure of the state to ensure justice, there is a trust deficit between the authorities and the tribesmen. One of the protesters, Lateef Wazir, told Dawn on Wednesday that the march had proceeded in a peaceful manner for at least seven km towards Islamabad but the police prevented them from moving further. “Police then used tear gas and baton-charge to disperse the participants which led to clashes and death of one demonstrator,” he said.
This is not the first time that the Janikhel tribesmen have attempted a protest march to the capital. When the bullet-ridden bodies of the four missing teenagers – Atifullah, Razimullah, Rahim and Ahmad – were recovered on March 21, a series of protests had swept northwest Pakistan. The bodies were exhumed from unidentified graves in the Wazirwarigani village in the Janikhel area and reportedly bore visible marks of torture and bullet injuries.
Soon after, thousands of protesters had attempted a long march from Bannu towards Islamabad seeking justice for the four teenagers on March 28. The protesters broke through police barricades at several places, carrying black flags and raising slogans against the security forces. The demonstrators also carried the dead bodies of the teenagers in coffins but were stopped by the security forces near the Tuche Pull (bridge) using force.