Six Swat men charged with terror over protest at military checkpoints

Security beefed up in the valley following recent militant attack that left 11 soldiers dead

News Desk February 20, 2018

Police in Swat are investigating six people for sedition and terrorism after they organised protests against 'maltreatment' at military checkpoints in the scenic valley, according to BBC Urdu.

An officer in-charge of the police station in the Khwazakhela area said that authorities have registered an FIR against the six individuals under seven provisions of Anti-Terrorism Act, sedition and other offenses.

“We have registered an FIR because they [the accused] were trying to foment rebellion against the state, and spreading hatred,” Ali told reporters.

Pashtun protesters hold out for ‘concrete’ assurances

“They were forcing people to protest, closing shops and spreading false propaganda against the security agencies," he added.

However, police officials have confirmed that no arrests have been made under the FIR.

The alleged death of a sick infant at a checkpoint in Khwazakhela last week appears to have prompted the February 18 protests. Photos showing a man holding the dead child wrapped in a blanket were circulated widely on social media.

Local residents in Swat and Mingora had come out on the streets against the increase in security checkpoints and barriers in their areas on Sunday, with civil society activists and representatives from political parties also joining their march.

“We only want to live peacefully with dignity in our homeland," said Humayun Gul Khan, one of the protest participants in Khwazakhela.

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Authorities in Swat, however, are not impressed. Wahid Mehmood, head of the police in Swat, says the government has already reduced the number of checkpoints from 97 to 17.

Mehmood told a news agency that the protests were organised by a handful of individuals driven by a specific agenda. “The population of Swat is now more than 2.5 million. If these claims [of abuses] were true, then all of these people would have come out to protest,” he said.

Security has been beefed up in the valley after 11 soldiers, including a captain of Pakistan Army, were martyred when a terrorist blew himself up during a volleyball match in the city. The bombing was one of the deadliest since 2013.

The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack in an email sent to the media as it warned of more such attacks.

Swat, which was briefly taken over by Taliban militants led by Mullah Fazlullah in 2009, was recaptured by security forces after a three-month-long military campaign. Mullah Fazlullah, then head of the TTP Swat, later fled to Afghanistan.

This article originally appeared on BBC News


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