Citizens and civil society members took to Peshawar’s streets for the second consecutive day on Saturday and took out a rally demanding peace in the region and protection of Pakhtun communities.
People across the province had taken to the streets on Friday as well against the recent wave of terrorism in the province. The rallies come as Pakistan has been hit by a wave of terrorism, mostly in KP, but also in Balochistan and the Punjab town of Mianwali, which borders KP. A terror attack also reached as far as the peripheries of Islamabad.
On Jan 30, a powerful explosion ripped through a mosque in Peshawar’s Red Zone area where between 300 and 400 people — mostly police officers — had gathered for prayers. The suicide blast blew away the wall of the prayer hall and an inner roof, claiming the lives of 84 people.
January was the deadliest month since 2018, in which 134 people lost their lives — a 139 per cent spike — and 254 received injuries in at least 44 militant attacks across the country.
On Saturday, people from different districts of the province took out rallies on the call of the Peshawar Olasi Pasoon (People’s Movement). Carrying banners, placards, and peace flags, red-capped people — including women — chanted slogans for the peace and protection of the Pakhtun community.
The rallies began from various points in the city before converging at the Peshawar Press Club.
Political and social activists, including members of the Olasi Pasoon, attended the rallies.
The main rally was led by Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leader Manzoor Pashteen while another one was led by the Awami National Party’s provincial general secretary Sardar Hussain Babak.
“We cannot bear further terrorism on our soil. It is enough because we have lost thousands of people in terrorism. We want peace and only peace on our soil — that is our main and primary objective,” Pashteen said in his address, adding that it was time to wake up and urged Pakhtuns to unite against terrorism with one voice.
He said the issue was not limited to tribes, religions, regions, organisations, parties or cities but pertained to the entire nation.
Pashteen said every Pakhtun needed to come out and show unity against terrorism for their safety.
“I am glad that Pakhtuns of every part of the country are now waking up against the so-called terrorism and demanding peace from the state which will have positive results. I am hopeful that one day there will be a sustainable peace,” the PTM leader said.
He said that at the current stage the people were holding rallies but if it did not work, they would call on all Pakhtuns living in all parts of the country to “conduct their own court of justice”.
Pashteen said their only demand was peace and for the state to let Pakhtuns live independently and protect have their constitutional rights, adding that the demonstrators wanted every citizen of the country to live in peace and enjoy equal rights.
He said the government should not force the demonstrators on a path of resistance and let them rally for their rights.
Meanwhile, ANP’s Babak said it was the state’s poor performance due to which terrorism had resurfaced in the region.
He said the crowd demanded the protection of Pakhtuns and peace on their soil, saying that the present situation was the “consequence of the bad governance and failed policies of the state”.
Olasi Pasoon, ANP and PTM leaders from various regions, including MNA Mohsin Dawar, also spoke on the occasion and demanded peace and an end to terrorism.
Section 144 imposed
Meanwhile, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code was imposed for a 10-day period in Peshawar District due to “security concerns”.
The order from Deputy Commissioner Shafi Ullah Khan, available with Dawn.com, said that gatherings of five or more people without prior approval were hereby banned and action would be taken against anyone found violating the restriction.
The order said it was important to maintain a “peaceful and agitation-free environment” within the district keeping in view the prevailing law and order situation and to provide a congenial atmosphere to the public.
It said that a gathering of five or more people may create a law and order situation, result in a mishap and lead to a “breach of peace and tranquillity” in the district.