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Pakistani tribesmen ignore leaders' calls to end sit-in, demand arrest over killing of Naqeeb

Tribal elders and youth at a protest camp in front of the National Press Club in Islamabad. (AN photos)
Tribal elders and youth at a protest camp in front of the National Press Club in Islamabad. (AN photo)
ISLAMABAD: A group of tribesmen from Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas has rejected a call by tribal elders to end a sit-in protest in the capital.

The protesters are seeking justice for Naqeeb Mehsud, a 27-year-old aspiring male model who was killed on Jan. 13 in what they claim was a falsely staged police encounter.

Most of the tribal elders left the sit-in early on Wednesday morning, but several protesters refused to pack up following verbal assurances by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to meet their demands.

Badshahi Khan, one of the protest’s organizers, told Arab News that the tribal elders did not discuss their meeting with the prime minister with fellow protesters and took a unilateral decision to end the sit-in.

A 15-member delegation of the Mehsud tribe, from the Waziristan tribal region, called on the prime minister on Tuesday night and presented their demands.

“We are here and will continue to protest until all our demands are met,” Manzoor Pashteen, a member of the delegation, said. “We cannot believe the verbal assurances of the prime minister.”

Pashteen said that he had asked the tribal elders to speak with protesters before making any decision on the sit-in, but they did not listen to him.

“I am with my tribal youth and am staying here with all those protesting for justice for Naqeeb Mehsud,” he said. “The politicians have called off the sit-in. The ordinary people are staying here.”

Pashteen said that the prime minister had refused to confirm in writing that the delegation’s demands would be met.

The protesters’ demands include the arrest of the fugitive suspended official Malir Rao Anwar, leader of the team responsible for the operation in which Mehsud and three other men were killed.

“The prime minister has promised the tribesmen that all available resources will be used to locate and arrest Rao Anwar,” the Minister for Capital Administration and Development, Dr. Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, said. “The government’s job is to (serve) the people, and we are trying our best to do it.”

Tribal elders called off the sit-in after they met the prime minister and received a verbal assurance that their demands would be met, according to Mohammed Jamal-ud-Din, one of the members of the delegation. However, he warned that was not necessarily the end of the matter.

He said the tribesmen had no wish to disrupt public life in the capital, but “if our demands are not met in due time, we reserve the right to protest in front of the Parliament House.”

Jamal-ud-Din said the protesters would continue to raise the issue in forums including the National Assembly and Senate.

An investigation team headed by Additional Insp. Gen. of the Counter-Terrorism Department Sanaullah Abbasi declared Mehsud innocent in its report, saying he was the victim of an “extrajudicial killing.”

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