Huge protests in Swat against militancy

Federal cabinet condemns terrorist attack on school van


​ Our Correspondents October 11, 2022
Huge protests in Swat against militancy. PHOTO: EXPRESS

SWAT:

 

People in Swat on Tuesday staged massive demonstrations to protest against a militant attack on a school van that left the driver dead and two students injured.

The federal cabinet expressed serious concerns over the firing incident on the school van in Swat a day earlier, and strongly condemned the incident which triggered mass protest against the regrouping of militants in the scenic mountainous valley.

The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while expressing concerns on the incident recited fateha for those martyred and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured children as a result of the rising militancy in the valley – often called “Switzerland of Pakistan”.

At a time when thousands of people of Swat are protesting against violence and calling for peace in the region, the cabinet via the official statement merely expressed concerns and condemned the incident without expressing solidarity with the people or its resolve to take concrete action against those challenging the writ of the state.

However, the protesters in Swat ended their second consecutive day sit-in demanding the arrest of the attackers, who opened fire on a vehicle carrying school children in the district’s Guli Bagh village martyring its driver a day earlier, after the administration managed to succeed in their talks with them.

The family of the driver and other protesters had warned that they would march to the federal capital if the authorities failed to arrest the attackers within 24 hours.

On Monday, the driver of a school van was martyred and two students were injured when their vehicle came under attack by unidentified gunmen in the village of Guli Bagh – located in Mingora of Charbagh tehsil, Swat district.

Officials said the assailants were waiting on a motorcycle and attacked the van as it passed. They fled soon after the attack.

On Tuesday, the Swat deputy commissioner reached the site of the demonstration accompanied by other officials and negotiated with the protesters.

According to residents, the sit-in was ended after the administration vowed to arrest the attackers soon and took up custody of the driver’s children.

They added that the deputy commissioner had promised a martyrs’ package for the heirs of the driver.

The deputy commissioner also assured them that the security of Swat would be upgraded.

He also pledged that arrangements would be made to prevent terrorist activities in the future.

The investigation of the attack would be shared with a five-member body formed by the protesters.

After that, the funeral prayers of the deceased were offered.

Locals claim that terrorists from banned outfits, particularly the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), were behind the attack, although no terrorist group has yet taken responsibility for it.

The school van on Monday morning was dropping about 10 students at school when it was attacked by armed gunmen on a motorcycle, police said in a statement.

“An incident of firing on a school van driver happened in Tehsil Charbagh. As a result of the firing, the school van driver [named Hussain Ahmad, aged 30-32)] was killed and a child has minor injuries and was shifted to a nearby hospital. His condition is now normal,” it added.

The police said a motorcycle helmet and a jacket had been found st the scene.

“The district Swat police were present on the spot and a search operation has been initiated in the area,” the statement read.

Also on Tuesday, thousands gathered at Nishat Chowk in Minogora as ANP Provincial President Aimal Wali Khan and Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan reached Swat to join hands with the locals in their protest against the rising militancy in the district.

Aimal urged the residents and all Pashtuns to show unity against militancy and said no bloodshed would be allowed on this soil anymore.

He added that it was a conspiracy that this belt had been selected for the so-called holy war for which innocent people were being slaughtered.

Senator Mushtaq said people were being killed by branding them as terrorists.
“This is totally unacceptable as it will create further anarchy,” he added.

PPP leader, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, condemned Monday’s attack in a tweet. “Such incidents will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

We stand with the students protesting against this attack. The criminals involved in this unfortunate incident should be brought to justice as soon as possible,” she wrote.

She pledged that no one would be allowed to challenge the State’s writ again in Swat. “The provincial government is requested to make arrangements to prevent such incidents,” Sherry added.

MNA Mohsin Dawar wrote on Twitter that the TTP had announced a shadow government in Swat.

“Media is ignoring the protests, how to deal with the TTP should be the main national debate. Yet there is criminal silence on this most serious issue,” he added.

He shared a video of Tuesday’s protests on another tweet and wrote that the people of Swat had rejected militancy “loud and clear”.

Students from private schools across Swat Valley staged a protest on Monday calling for peace.

“People are angry and they are protesting. Students from all the private schools came out to protest,” Ahmad Shah, principal of a private school told AFP, adding that schools would remain closed on Tuesday.

Monday’s attack comes a day after the 10th anniversary of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Swat Valley by the TTP when she was a schoolgirl.

Malala survived the assassination attempt and went on to become a global education advocate, winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

(With input from agencies)

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