MANSEHRA: Three women of the Gujjar tribe were injured, one of them critically, when security personnel of the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) allegedly opened fire on them in the village of Bata Kundi, Naraan.
The incident occurred after the FWO personnel tried to forcibly take possession of a piece of land that had been sold to members of the Gujjar family by a local landlord. When the tenants resisted this encroachment, they were fired upon.
An eyewitness, Muhammad Idrees, told the police that his tribe had been cultivating the land for over 50 years, which was under shamlaat: combined ownership of people belonging to the area. He said that during the winter season they would move to Bata Kundi village and make their living cultivating the land, while during summer they would return to the hilly area of Naraan.
He said that since his tribe has been occupying the land, it could not be transferred or sold without their consent. He accused Syed Ahmed Shah, a provincial minister in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly, for illegally selling the land to the FWO.
Idrees that his family elders, Salman Mian and Haroon Mian, took the matter to court and had obtained a stay order. Despite the stay order, FWO military personnel entered their land and tried to occupy it forcibly. When they resisted, the FWO personnel opened fire on them, injuring Idrees’ wife Bulbul Bibi, Hasana Frari and Saima Bibi.
When approached for comments, SHO Kaghan, Rasheed Khan said that Syed Muzamal Shah, the former federal minister, was the actual owner of the land and it had been in Shah’s family for generations. He had sold a piece of the land to the FWO. The Gujjar families had only been tilling the land as tenants for the past several years.
On Saturday afternoon when army personnel from the FWO went to take possession of the land for which they had made payment, they entered into a scuffle with the tenants.
However a member of the FWO was also injured when the charged villagers pelted them with stones, Khan said.
Khan avoided getting into details, saying the area was far off from Naraan and that a team that had been sent to investigate the matter had not yet returned. He also confirmed that a criminal case had been registered against some FWO personnel for firing shots at the tenants under section 324/34 but did not disclose the names of the accused or whether or not any of them were arrested.
He claimed that it was yet to be ascertained whether the women were injured by the firing from FWO officials or from their own men. The injured had been refered to King Abdullah Teaching Hospital in Mansehra for treatment.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.
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