Thousands take to the streets in Pakistan’s South Waziristan to demand peace

Protests have been taking place in Pakistan against the conflict between the army and groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan

January 11, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Anti-terrorism protest Pakistan
(Photo: Mohsin Dawar/Twitter)

Thousands took to the streets in Pakistan’s South Waziristan district on Friday, January 6, to protest against increasing violence between the army and groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan. The protest in Wana demanded the immediate restoration of peace following several weeks of violence.

Lawmaker and representative from North Waziristan Mohsin Dawar shared visuals from Friday’s massive protest in Wana, at which thousands gathered, and tweeted: “Our people refuse to be used as cannon fodder and scapegoats in the new great game being imposed on the region.”

The protest in Wana was joined by political workers, social activists, traders, and the youth. Holding white flags and placards, the participants chanted slogans in favor of peace and against the fresh wave of violence in the region.

Addressing the rally, leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and Awami Workers Party condemned the violence. Local leaders said that the government had failed to control the situation, and that terrorism was not acceptable at any cost, as per Dawn.

A similar rally was held in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bajaur district the previous day. It was organized by the Bajaur Peace Action Committee, comprising local leaders and workers of political and religious parties, as well as the residents of the area. “We want to tell the US and the state of Pakistan that our people will not allow the imposition of proxy wars on Pashtun lands. We will resist any and all attempts to impose proxy wars on our lands,” said Dawar, chairman of the National Democratic Movement (NDM) at the Bajaur Aman (or peace) March.

On January 5, the military’s media wing reported the killing of 11 militants including a key commander of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP) outfit in South Waziristan. This development came a day after the Pakistani government announced that it was going to take “pre-emptive measures” alongside a conciliatory approach to eliminate terrorism.

In recent weeks, incidents of violence resulting in deaths of civilians and soldiers have been reported from Balochistan, Islamabad, and several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Militant group TTP is widely believed to be directly or indirectly involved in these incidents. The ceasefire between the Pakistani government and the TTP was officially called off by the latter in November last year.

Violence on the rise in Pakistan’s peripheral provinces

Releasing its annual ‘Pakistan Security Report 2022’ on January 7, the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) noted that the TTP was one of the major perpetrators of violence in Pakistan in 2022. The think tank highlighted that the total number of terrorist attacks in the country had increased by 27% from 2021. According to its statistics, a total of 262 attacks took place in Pak­istan in 2022—including 14 suicide bombings—which claimed 419 lives and injured another 734 people.

The Annual Security Report  of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) documented 376 terror attacks in 2022, and a total of 506 incidents of violence related to either terrorism or counter-terrorism, leading to 973 fatalities over the year. It noted that 57 of these were claimed by outfits like the TTP, Islamic State of Khorasan, and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), and resulted in a disproportionately large number of casualties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The CRSS said that an “unprecedented spate of terrorist violence” ensued in the two provinces after November 28, with over two dozen attacks recorded in the month of December alone, Dawn reported.

On December 18, militants detained in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police’s Counter Terrorism Department Centre, located in Bannu district, broke out of lockups, took over the compound, held security personnel hostage, and demanded safe evacuation to Afghanistan. The standoff continued for at least 48 hours before the Pakistani security forces regained control of the building. TTP later claimed responsibility for the attack.

On December 23, one policeman died and at least six people—including four police officers and two others—were injured in a suicide blast in national capital Islamabad, which was later claimed by the TTP.

On December 24, at least five security personnel were killed in two incidents that occurred in Turbat and Chaman in Balochistan. The TTP claimed responsibility for the Chaman attack. Attacks were also reported across Balochistan on December 25, killing six security personnel and injuring 17 people.

Violence directed by the Pakistani military at the Pashtun ethnic minority in the region, once part of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), now a part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has also been long documented, and critics of that violence have been targets of state persecution.