Authorities in Swat agree to handover checkpoints to police after protests

Published: February 23, 2018
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File photo of a jirga (consultative body) meeting in progress. PHOTO: AFP

File photo of a jirga (consultative body) meeting in progress. PHOTO: AFP

MINGORA: Talks between Swat Qaumi Jirga and the military and police authorities succeeded on Friday as the authorities announced that the military check-posts formed in the area after 2009 military operation will be handed over to police and an FIR registered against the protesters will be withdrawn.

Residents in Mingora area of Swat took to streets on February 18 against the increase in security checkpoints and barriers in their areas and ‘maltreatment’ at military checkpoints in the scenic valley,

The alleged death of a sick infant at a checkpoint in Khwazakhela last week appeared to have prompted the protests, in which civil society activists and representatives from political parties also took part.

The police later registered an FIR against the six organisers of the protest under seven provisions of Anti-Terrorism Act and sedition for ‘trying to foment rebellion against the state, and spreading hatred.”

Reacting to the move, the Peshawar High Court Bar Association (PHCBA) passed a resolution on Thursday, objecting to the arrest of protesters. The PHCBA President Arbab Usman had said such measures were “making people hostile towards the national institutions”.

The lawmakers in the Khyber-Pakhtunkwa (K-P) Assembly on February 22 also debated on the crisis and demanded that security forces remove unnecessary check-posts to relieve the public from humiliation.

Swat arrests: Lawyers may challenge check-posts in PHC

In this backdrop, the authorities – including military authorities, Malakand division’s commission and RPO – held talks with 15 tribal elders and announced to withdraw the FIR as the protestors also called off their scheduled protest of Feb 25. The parties decided that effective steps will be taken immediately.

Briefing the media about the successful talks, the Jirga’s spokespersons – Khursheed Kakaji and Ahmed Shah – said Jirga leaders and the civil and military high authorities of the Malakand division discussed the difficulties faced by the people of Swat and the situation resulting from the protests of February 18.

It was decided that the checkpoints will take the Pakhtun traditions into account and make the commuting easy on the roads. The police will deal with the people while the law of the land and the social values of the area will be taken care of during the search operations.

The authority will be gradually transferred to the civil administration and people will not be forced to take up security responsibilities. The people of Swat will have no restrictions on cutting trees on their own lands.

Forces will not do any unnecessary interference in educational institutions. The Kalam road will be built along the River Swat up to Chakdara without affecting the agricultural lands and residential areas.

It was also decided that there will be no restriction on acquiring sand from the River Swat for construction if it does not affect beauty of the river.

Malakand commissioner took the responsibility and assured the elders that the cases registered against the organisers and speakers of the demonstrations of February 18 will be cancelled.

They said the military authorities will issue their own press release about the points agreed upon in the meeting on the security issues.

“In wake of the successful talks and decisions, the elders of the Jirga decided to call off the February 25 peaceful protest meeting that was to be held at Nishat Chowk, Mangora,” said one of the Jirga spokespersons.

JI chief supports protestors

Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq issued a statement demanding of the federal government to immediately withdraw the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulations and security check-posts from across Malakand division.

“The federal government and the Supreme Court should immediately remove check posts from across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and specifically Malakand division. Check posts should be taken over by police, frontier constabulary and the civilian administration,” he demanded.

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