ISLAMABAD/ KARACHI: February began with thousands marching towards National Press Club in Islamabad to demand justice for Naqeebullah Mehsud, who was killed in what is called a fake encounter by former Malir SSP Rao Anwar in Karachi last month.
Mehsud tribesmen, tribal elders and youth from South Waziristan have gathered at the press club, demanding the arrest and accountability of the fugitive cop.
As the protest gathering enters the sixth day, a 15-member jirga representing protesters met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at his office on Tuesday. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Federal Minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and advisor to the PM Amir Muqam were also present.
The protesters demanded capital punishment for Anwar and his team for the killing of Naqeebullah; setting up of a judicial commission monitored by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP); investigations into ‘extra-judicial’ killing of Pashtuns in Karachi; and recovery of all missing person and their handing over to the courts for fair trial. The list also stresses against enforcing curfew in FATA, Waziristan particularly after any unfortunate incident and removal of landmines, which have left at least 78 people injured in Mehsud area alone.
The premier assured that all necessary resources would be utilised to arrest the culprits and justice would be served. He promised to build and name a college after Naqeebullah in Waziristan. On the issue of landmines, PM Abbasi directed authorities to hasten the process of eliminating them and promised compensation to the injured.
The protesters, from all over Pakistan, have set up tents and canopies on the greenbelt in front of the press club where they sleep, eat and pray. Meals are cooked every day.
“The sit-in has been organised by community volunteers,” said one of the organisers, Mehmood Khan Mehsud. He added that most of the donations came from the Mehsud tribe.
The camp, according to the organisers, was a result of frustration of tribal people over continued suffering due to the insurgency in their area.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Mehmood insisted that the sit-in was apolitical. “We will not end the protest until our demands, particularly the arrest of Rao Anwar, are met,” he said.
Civil Rights Activist Jibran Nisar questioned the lack of urgency on the part of the law enforcement agencies and the government in apprehending the controversial police officer even after a suo motu notice by the Supreme Court.
“They are either incompetent or complicit,” Nasir told The Express Tribune. “This so-called failed manhunt has ruined reputation of our security agencies.”
A number of politicians, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali, have addressed the sit-in expressing solidarity.
Interestingly, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Amir Fida Paracha was welcomed with “shame, shame” slogans on Monday when he attempted to address the crowd from stage. The PPP is alleged to have close ties with the former police official.
Strong Protest and criticism by participants at Naqeeb dharna in Islamabad when PPP team arrived there pic.twitter.com/ixi2gJb7zI— Khalid (Halit Ertuğrul) (@khalid_pk) February 5, 2018
However, Naqeebullah’s cousin and an organiser of the march Noor Rahman regretted the incident. “A delegation of the PPP led by Faisal Kundi had already attended the event and were received with respect,” he told The Express Tribune.
The sit-in organisers had also clarified that representatives from all political parties were welcome to visit. They said the reaction at the arrival of Paracha was a manifestation of the anger over the Sindh government’s failure to arrest Anwar.