By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Peshawar to protest the alleged extra-judicial killings carried out by Pakistani paramilitary forces.
The Frontier Corps, a division of paramilitary forces in Pakistan, has been blamed for 18 deaths which resulted from overnight raids in the Khyber tribal area. The paramilitary forces have been fighting Islamic militants in the area and were conducting a late night raid when the deaths occurred.
Human rights groups and local residents of the tribal area say that the operations carried out by the Pakistani military frequently cause civilian deaths. The bodies of the dead were found by local residents discarded on the side of a road.
The protestors openly displayed the bodies of the dead in Peshawar in public areas and across the street from the governor’s house to mourn the deaths of family members and to demand vengeance for the wrongful actions of the paramilitary forces.
This strategy of displaying the wrapped dead bodies is very rare and used sparsely by protestors to make a point to local governments. Anti-military slogans were also shouted at army officials and other government officials. One of the signs displayed by the protestors read, “We are also Pakistanis. Don’t kill us.”
The protestors called for a stop to the military operations in the Khyber tribal area of Pakistan where frequent military exercises and raids of this type are carried out. The protestors also called for the government to compensate the victims and their families and to end a five year old curfew still enforced in the area.
Pakistani police in the city of Peshawar responded to the protestors with barrages of tear gas. The police forces, desperate to keep peace in the volatile city, also used water cannons to disperse the scores of protestors outside of the governor’s house.
Protestors are at a loss as to where to seek justice for these alleged extra-judicial killings. The locals believe that there is nowhere to turn for help to stymie the growth of barbarism perpetrated by the Frontier Corps and their fellow citizens continue to be murdered in cold blood.
The leaders of the paramilitary forces, however, have privately denied responsibility for the deaths of the 18 civilians that were dumped on the side of the road and used in the demonstrations by protestors in Peshawar. The paramilitary forces are simply doing their jobs to rid Pakistan of the Islamic militants.
Locals vehemently contend that the tribal people in the Khyber region are being persecuted by both the paramilitary forces and the militants. The civilians are essentially caught in the middle of the two conflicting groups. Amnesty International accused Pakistani officials last month of failing to remedy the thousands of human rights abuses prevalent in this area.
For further information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Pakistan protests move to Peshawar – 17 January 21 2013
BBC – Pakistan police use tear gas to disperse ‘dead bodies’ protest – 17 January 2013
Global Times – People protest against overnight raid in Pakistan – 17 January 2013
The News International – Protest demonstration ends in Peshawar – 17 January 2013
The Star – Pakistanis pile bodies outside governor’s house in protest – 16 January 2013