Swabi was gripped by a sense of grief and fear on Tuesday, as residents buried seven health workers, including six women, who were killed on the onset of the New Year.
Grieved family members prayed for the forgiveness of their loved ones and laid them to rest in their respective villages of Manrki, Jalsai, Marghuz, Chota Lahor and Zaida.
A large number of people attended the funeral, expressing much anger on the killings of the Support With Working Solution (SWWS) staffers. Among the mourners was four-year-old Ehsan, whose mother Nahila was shot dead in front of him.
Many women observed the funeral from the roof of their mud houses, while men gathered on the streets to put the bodies to rest.
A high-roof van, carrying the NGO’s staff was travelling to Swabi from Sher Afzal Bhanda village when two gunmen riding a motorcycle intercepted it in the Sheikh Dheri area, 500 metres from the Jehangira-Swabi Road and opened fire. Five female teachers, a lady health worker and a male health technician were killed in the attack.
An FIR was filed by the injured van driver Abdul Majid Khan under sections 302, 324, 34 (ATA of Pakistan Penal Code) in Police Station Chota Lahor.
According to the report, Naila Naz, Rahela, Zahida, Gul Naz, Asmat Begum, Jamila Begum and Amjid Ali were coming from a hospital as part of their routine visits when the incident occurred.
“I was on the way to drop them to their houses from the hospital when masked armed men riding a motorcycle intercepted my van and opened fire on Amjid Ali the medical technician, which eventually killed the six women,” said the driver in the report.
Two of the workers were also part of the anti-polio vaccination team. SWWS Executive Director Javed Akhtar speculated that his staffers may have been targeted because of the polio workers in the van.
What lies ahead for the NGO?
Akhtar said that they will not stop their operations and will continue to work although most of their workers are female. Presently, however, the NGO has closed its offices.
SWWS has been working on health and education projects for 20 years and has 160 staffers in the province.
Akhtar said that their work in the province is being greatly affected by the fear of violence. “Donors will stop funding because of the prevailing law and order problem,” he said.
About his future line of action, Akhtar said that they will hold meetings with district police officials for providing security and donors to know about the fate of their future funding.
Only MNA Bushra Gohar and civil society organisations representatives have called the NGO so far and expressed their sympathy.
This incident comes after a series of gruesome attacks on polio workers that occurred in Shabqadar, Peshawar, Charsadda and Karachi last month.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2013.
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