PESHAWAR: The issue of checkpoints impeding the free movement of people in Swat landed in the provincial legislature on Wednesday where lawmakers demanded that security forces remove unnecessary check-posts to relieve the public from undue humiliation.
Thousands of people of Swat took to the roads on Sunday against check-posts dotting the landscape of the picturesque valley — set up in the aftermath of militants wresting control of the area almost a decade ago, demanding that they are removed. The move had prompted strict action from the police who had resorted to booking several protesters.
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Lawmakers in the assembly on Wednesday demanded that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government withdraw the first information reports (FIRs) it had registered against the protestors.
Awami National Party (ANP) lawmaker Syed Jafar Shah, who had raised the issue in the house, said that residents have to wait in queues for as long as four hours at some of the check-posts where they are frisked.
“It seems as of people are crossing the [international] Wagah border,” said Shah, adding that people of Swat are being humiliated.
Dr Amjad Ali, a lawmaker of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from Swat, said that checking at these posts had been enhanced in recent weeks because of which was taking longer for residents to pass through.
“The people of Swat are fed-up,” the lawmaker stated. “I am afraid they will turn against their own institutions,” he warned, demanding that the number of check-posts should be reduced or the checking procedure returned to normal.
ANP lawmaker Sardar Hussain Babak demanded that the K-P government’s spokesperson Shah Farman withdraw the FIR registered against protestors by the provincial government.
“Those who are oppressed and abused, protest against the oppression. The people of Swat came out and cried against the oppression demanding that the check-posts should be removed and the provincial registered FIR against them under sections of the anti-terror laws,” he complained, urging that the government stop snatching the right of peaceful protests from its people.
“These people have supported the government and security forces in the war against terrorism. They have lost their lives and properties. They are angry and sad. They need to be consoled,” Babak urged, warning if their anger turned into hatred.
The ANP lawmaker also criticised Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for calling Malir SSP Rao Anwar a ‘brave child’.
“A leader of very high stature from a big political party has called the killer of Naqeebullah Mehsud a brave child. Did you ask the mother of that young man (Naqeebullah Mehsud) about the pain she suffered? Did you ask the people of that tribe whose young man was killed?” Babak said.
Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) lawmaker Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli criticized the murder of Bajaur native Ahmad Shah in Karachi and demanded the arrest of the killers.
Farman started by joining Babak in criticising former president Zardari as he sought to divert attention away from FIRs in Swat and responding to queries from other lawmakers.
“The question is where is that ‘brave child’ [Anwar] hiding and who is responsible for tracking and arresting him,” he said, adding that ‘enemies of the state’ and some other elements were trying to politicize the issue.
“We have no hatred for the people of Sindh. Who gave shelter to Rao Anwar, only time will tell, but Pashtuns are standing with this country,” he declared.
The assault on their co-chairman had infuriated PPP lawmakers in the house and started protesting.
They demanded that the PTI-led government should first arrest the culprits behind the Mardan rape incident and the Dera Ismail Khan incident, rather than criticizing other provinces.
Earlier in the question hour, the education department was grilled by Mufti Fazale Ghafoor of the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) for the dismal performance of the University of Peshawar which had slipped to 13th in the country rankings for 2017.
Higher Education Minister Mushtaq Ghani quickly found the scapegoat —the vice chancellor.
Ghani laid the blame for the varsity’s degradation and loss in rankings firmly with the VC’s office, claiming that the official had been appointed by the previous government.
“Universities are autonomous bodies and the VCs were appointed in the previous government who are responsible for the decline of the universities. Our appointed people have just completed 6 months,” he explained matter-of-factly.
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Jaffar Shah reminded Ghani how the VC for Islamia College University, appointed by the PTI-led government, had been removed by the Peshawar High Court since he was not qualified. Moreover, the VC of Bacha Khan University — also appointed by the incumbent government, was facing inquiries.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2018.
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