Peshawar: Killing of 45 villagers by terrorists
PESHAWAR: In the wake of December 28 suicide attack on Shalbandai village during the by-election in Buner district, though a sense of profound grief prevails in the area, yet the incident has not shattered the resolve of residents, who continue to oppose the militants trying to destroy peace. Armed people are patrolling the streets of the area to foil the designs of militants, who are still hurling threats of more attacks to bring the villagers — who had killed six militants in August 2008 — to their knees. The News talked to the traumatised but resolute residents of Shalbandai after the terrible attack to bring their sufferings and miseries to light. People said the atmosphere was still gloomy, as almost every third home had lost their family member(s) and friends.
Sultan-e-Rom, a lawyer by profession, told The News by phone that the villagers were in a shock and a sense of fear prevailed in the area. “The perpetrators of the heinous crime brought insurmountable sufferings to the innocent people of Shalbandai,” he said.
He said that the blast was so powerful that a child and five others died due to the deafening sound of the explosion. Asked whether it was a reaction to the August 13, 2008 incident in which six militants were killed by the villagers or a bid to sabotage the election process, he said it was a retaliation to the last year’s action. “If they had to disrupt the election process, they could easily target the candidates’ home constituencies.”
Lamenting the government’s indifference to those claiming responsibility for the deadly attack, he said the perpetrators were still threatening to carry out more attacks on their village.
Fayaz Khan, a law student who resides near the polling station, said that after the August 13 incident, they had formed armed patrolling committees to keep an eye on intruders.
However, he said, the by-election divided them when the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) activists insisted to participate in the election against the will of the majority, who were advocating a boycott, fearing such an attack from the militants.
He also criticised the government for not taking precautionary measures and added that due to security threats, announcements were made from mosques to request the people of nearby villages not to come for the Fateha in view of rumours about the presence of more suicide bombers, including women.
A teacher, Fakhr-e-Alam, narrated the story of his nephew, who was killed in the incident. “Iqrar Ali, 16, was a Hafiz-e-Quran who, after coming from his tuition was standing in a shop, which collapsed with the blast, killing him,” he said, adding that 14 people of his street were killed in the attack, leaving the entire vicinity in a state of gloom and despondency.
Fakhr said the Swat militants had threatened the people of Shalbandai, through FM radio, of more attacks to teach them a lesson for committing the ‘crime’ of killing the militants.
“We did not know the hatred of the people of Shalbandai for Islam (militants declare everyone who opposes them against Islam). Now we will let them taste our response,” another villager, who requested anonymity, quoted a presenter of the FM channel as threatening.
He questioned as to what kind of Islam the militants wanted to impose upon the people of Swat and Buner. “Is there any precedent in the history of Islam that justifies the killing of innocent people, particularly children?” he asked, adding that they were mere terrorists whose sole purpose was to terrorise the people of the area.
Mahboob Khan, a businessman, stated in a choked voice that the pangs of gloom and grief still overwhelmed the entire Shalbandai village as the villagers were mourning the death of 45 people. “All those killed were poor people.”
About the participation in the rescheduled polling on January 14, he said: “People will not participate even if polling was held after three months as there is a sense of fear and insecurity. Why should I put my life at risk for good-for-nothing politicians?”
About the security situation, he said that after the incident, no outsider was allowed to enter the village. “Those who do not belong to our village must have the reference of any villager or they are not allowed to enter. We will also not allow vendors to sell items in streets,” he added.
After the blast, he said the village wore a deserted look in evenings and the only source of communication was mobile phone.
However, Mehboob said that instead of shaking their resolve, the gory incident had strengthened their determination not to allow the militants to carry out activities there.