An internally displaced person (IDP) from the conflict-hit tribal agency of Bajaur on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been shot dead during a protest in a town near Peshawar, capital of North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
The incident took place on 25 March when some 1,500 IDPs at Jallozai camp in Nowshera, 35km east of Peshawar, staged a rally and blocked a main highway. They were protesting about poor facilities at the camp.
Malik Said, one of the IDPs who led the protest, told IRIN over the phone: “We initially staged a demonstration inside the camp because we want better food, regular supplies of basic items so we can cook, and compensation for families who have lost relatives in the conflict.”
Bajaur, home to some 600,000 people, has seen fierce fighting since August 2008 when the army began an operation against militants in the area. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report in early March that at least 550,000 were displaced within the NWFP and remain based at camps located in the province or with relatives.
Some 30,000 IDPs are currently in Jallozai camp.
The violence was sparked after the protesting IDPs moved into Nowshera city centre, blocking traffic. Eyewitnesses said the police used tear-gas and batons to try to disperse them, and the IDPs responded by stone-throwing; 20 vehicles, including and two belonging to police, were destroyed.
The police said shots were fired by some protesters, with one of the bullets killing an IDP identified as Mustaqeem Jan.
The District Coordination Officer (DCO) Nowshera said that as the protest was about to end “gunshots were fired by some unknown persons in the crowd, which resulted in the death of one protester.”
Other accounts, however, say the police, armed with assault rifles, may have fired at the protesters. At least 27 people were injured in the clashes.
District Police Officer Abdullah Khan said nine people had been arrested and police were searching for others.
Haroon Rasheed, a former lawmaker from Bajaur who was among the leaders of the protest, told IRIN on the phone: “The police opened fire while we were holding a peaceful protest.” Rasheed was among those later arrested by police.
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