Saturday, April 30, 2011

Protesters castigate authorities for their silence

Mumtaz Alvi
Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hundreds of residents of under-siege Parachinar here on Friday castigated president, prime minister and political parties for what they called their criminal silence over the 0.5 million population's plight at the hands of militants.

They called upon the rulers to either honour their commitments made on several occasions with the Jirga delegates and MNAs belonging to Fata or step down in case they could not make secure the only road link between Kurram Agency and rest of Pakistan.

The protesters, mostly youth, took out a rally and staged a sit-in near the Parliament House. All political parties, barring Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf completely ignored the event.

In their fiery speeches, speakers regretted that PPP, PML-N and so-called NGOs were insensitive to the long-continuing human rights violations in Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram Agency. The rally was organised by the Youth of Parachinar, which has encamped outside the Press Club here since last week to press the government for re-establishment of its writ there.

MQM Parliamentary Leader in the National Assembly Dr. Farooq Sattar expressed solidarity with the protestors and promised to demand lifting of the siege and reopening of the Thal-Parachinar Road on the floor of the lower house. He added MQM leader Altaf Hussain would address the affected of Parachinar if they organised such a programme in the coming days.

They noted Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan had recently staged a dharna in Peshawar in a bid to halt drone attacks. They said they were also against any kind of outside interference in Pakistan's internal matters.

But they decried Imran never issued even a statement against the blockade of Parachinar and in support of their struggle against the militants' barbarism. However, PTI central spokesman of Imran, Zahid Hussain Kazmi on behalf of the party chairman, rushed to the venue and joined the protest. Later, he delivered a brief speech, condemning the siege of the region.

The PTI spokesman expressed solidarity with the protesters and criticised the PPP-led government for its indifference to the seething human misery in Parachinar.

Maulana Asghar Askari cautioned that if the status quo persisted, next time they could stage a sit-in inside the Parliament premises. He noted the president, prime minister and even interior minister had promised to drive Taliban out of the region and secure the road from them but they failed to honour their pledges.

Amid chants of shame, shame and down with Zardari government, he said they were aware as to which hidden forces were behind the diabolical activities of Taliban. "There is uniform behind the rampant terrorism," the participants shouted in response to his statement.

He recalled that Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had very recently rightly said that Pakistan army was the best in the world. "We may dare to ask our army chief why then the Thal-Parachinar Road is not being made secure," he remarked.

The religious scholar complained that the electronic media had not been projecting the crisis, as it should have had been and noted the media often looked for noted political figures for coverage instead of highlighting human misery.

The MNA from Parachinar Sajid Hussain Turi who is also chairman of the National Assembly's Standing Committee on the States and Frontier Regions, in his speech described Parachinar as Pakistani Gaza and said their peaceful agitation would continue unless the road was cleared of militants.

He said due to the road blockade, broiler chicken was being sold in Parachinar at Rs450-500 per kilo, price spiral of the day-to-day commodities such as flour, ghee was unaffordable for the majority.

Similarly, he continued, both ordinary and life-saving drugs were also no more available and in some cases, medicines meant for animals were given to patients.

"Entire convoys of vehicles are taken away along with passengers by the militants: either killed with brutality; their bodies are mutilated and returned only after ransom is paid. These terrorists have martyred over 2000 innocent men, women and even children since 2007," he lamented.

He asserted their struggle would continue until 35 persons abducted a few days back were recovered, the army troops moved in to clear the road; violators of the Murree Agreement punished and at the earliest PIA service resumed from Peshawar to Parachinar.

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