Parachinar sit-in called off after Bajwa’s visit

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PARACHINAR: Protes­ters in Parachinar called off their eight-day-long sit-in against last week’s devastating twin blasts after Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited them on Friday and gave several assurances, including turning it into a “safe city” by beefing up security.

The army chief ordered the removal of the Frontier Corps Commandant in Parachinar, Col Omar, which was one of the key demands of the protesters who had alleged that FC personnel had opened fire on the protesting mourners after the deadly explosions.

According to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement, the army chief said that firing by the FC troops while handling the mob situation after the twin explosions was being investigated and those found responsible would not be spared.

Gen Bajwa said clear evidence existed that hostile foreign hands were involved in the recent terrorist incidents. He said local facilitators and abettors of terrorists had been apprehended and they would be tried in military courts.

During the visit, he interacted with tribal elders and expressed grief over the loss of lives in terrorist acts.

A total of 75 people were killed and around 300 injured in the explosions that devastated the Turi Market on June 23.

Soon after the incident, local people as well as inhabitants of adjoining villages started the sit-in, demanding that they would negotiate only with the army chief or the interior minister.

The COAS also met representatives of the protesters and listened to their concerns. “While administrative concerns will be pursued with the executive body, suggestions regarding security mechanism are being incorporated forthwith. We can only be effective when locals are part of the security and vigilance,” he said.

He said that notwithstanding the irreparable loss, four martyrs and persons injured due to firing had been given separate compensation by the FC.

The army chief said additional troops had been moved to Parachinar to enhance its security, while FC troops were being beefed up on the Afghan border to seal it effectively.

The army chief said fencing of the border was already in progress. The more sensitive areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) were being fenced in the first phase, while the whole border, including in Balochistan will be fenced in the second phase.

He said Turi tribe’s volunteers were also being detailed on check-posts.

He also announced a safe city project for Parachinar by installing closed-circuit television cameras in line with Lahore and Islamabad.

He said the Army Public School, Parachinar, was named after Maj Gulfam Shaheed and would be upgraded to a cadet college in due course.

Maj Gulfam, who hailed from Alamsher village in Parachinar, embraced martyrdom on Oct 20, 2015 in a military operation in Khyber Agency.

Gen Bajwa said a trauma centre would be set up in Parachinar and the local Civil Hospital would be upgraded for better medical care.

He said the government had now announced compensation for the Parachinar victims on a par with those elsewhere in the country. All Pakistanis were equal, he said.

He said the nation had given unprecedented sacrifices in the war against terrorism and “we shall succeed”. “Our enemies shall never succeed to lower our resolve or to divide us.”

The COAS said the army fully supported mainstreaming of Fata, which was being pursued, and its early implementation was essential for enduring peace and stability.

He said the army would continue its efforts to restore normality to the country.

The army chief said the threat continued to reside across the border in Afghanistan with the militant Islamic State group gaining strength there.

“We need to remain united, steadfast, prepared and vigilant against this threat which has an agenda of exploiting sectarian fault-line,” he said.

“Our security forces are symbol of national integration and so is our security apparatus; we are one nation.

“Also, greater Pak-Afghan border coordination and security cooperation is required in this regard.”

The COAS acknowledged the contribution of the FC, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the local administration. To date, 126 brave soldiers of FC, KP, alone have laid down their lives and 387 have got injured while performing security duties in Kurram Agency. “FC, KP, is a professional force inclusive of all tribes and sects performing their duties selflessly,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, tribal elders expressed their full confidence and in the army and its leadership. “We stand with our security forces and our blood is for our motherland. We all are Pakistanis and Muslims,” they said.

Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Nazir Ahmed Butt and the inspector general of the FC, KP, were also present.