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Waziristan: Staring at the sun

By Francesca Marino | Updated: Jun 24, 2019 19:11 IST

Waziristan [Pakistan], Jun 24 (ANI): "They stopped me at a checkpoint. They stopped me and my friends and started harassing us as they usually do with all the PTM members. They told us to stop our campaign, our activities on social media. Told us we were not supposed to be in the street and that, if we needed food, we could eat the dust. Then, they made all of us standing in the heat staring and the sun with open eyes, for a long, long time. As a punishment, they said".
This was happening yesterday in Bannu, Pakistan. More or less at the same time, a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's fact-finding team that was trying to reach the area to investigate on what is now know as 'Khar Qamar massacre' has been stopped by the Army who imposed the curfew on the whole area. Again, we shall say, because since the May 26 Waziristan has been under curfew almost all the time. The facts are well known, everywhere except in Pakistan of course, because the local press has been ordered not to give voice or space to Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) or any related episode and protest.
The coverage has been limited to the official version of the story: according to the Army, in fact, there's been a battle between them and PTM supporters who opened fire at a checkpoint. The reality, proved by the footage, is different.
That day in Khar Qamar members of the Army attacked, with no reason, a peaceful, unarmed crowd of PTM members killing seventeen and leaving on the ground many more injured.
The demonstration was led by two parliamentarians, democratically elected in the 2018 elections, Mohsin Dawar, and Ali Wazir - both are illegally in jail since then with fake charges of terrorism. According to eyewitnesses and local journalists, the Army tried to prevent Wazir and Dawar from reaching the area where they were supposed to give speeches. Supporters started to remove the barriers and the Army opened fire on demonstrators.
Curfew was imposed immediately after the incident, hence it has not been possible to shift all the victims to the hospital. Since then, and is a month now, the victims of the massacre or, for what it matters, anybody in need of medical assistance, can not go to the hospital, local doctors do what they can but the situation is almost desperate.
People are practically locked into their houses and find almost impossible doing even the basics of daily life - going to the market shopping for food or for goodies. The only ones who can roam freely in the area are apparently Taliban and Haqqani network commanders crossing the border from Afghanistan; sources say the Army keeps the border opened for them.
PTM has been accusing, for a long time, the Army of using border regions as training camps and nurseries for jihadi, as battlefields for war-like actions against the 'bad' Taliban, as safe havens for the 'good' Taliban', as factories for fake documents in order to send ISI spies to Afghanistan. "They cross the border at Ghulam Khan," says the same eyewitness "They still run a camp in the hills between Bannu and Waziristan. The good Taliban, are still recruiting young people, still harbouring terrorists coming from other parts of Pakistan and helping them crossing the border with Afghanistan when they need to. They all work under the patronage of the Pakistani military".
PTM will start a campaign asking the state to investigate the Khar Qamar Massacre, but the situation is not likely to change.
During a press conference held on April 29, Major General Asif Ghafoor talked of PTM for most of the time, declaring that "their time it's up". Elections in the region are due in less than a month, and the Army is preventing PTM members or their supporters from campaigning while providing money, cars, and logistics to the few members of PTI, the ruling party.
Waziristan, according to locals, looks every day more like an occupied country. The Army has a standard way to deal with protesters: violence, abuses, harassment, disappearances, extra-judicial killings.
This is an old recipe and proved to be a very bad one. East Pakistan, undergoing the same treatment, became Bangladesh. Balochistan is fighting against the state for decades. Maybe, attending history classes instead of cricket matches would be a better strategy for the future of the country.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are strictly those of the author) (ANI)