Clash Between Protesters and Soldiers Turns Deadly in Pakistan


PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani troops clashed with protesters on Sunday near the border with Afghanistan, leaving at least three people dead and scores wounded, officials said.

The violence broke out as several hundred people, including two Parliament members, were protesting for the rights of Pakistan’s Pashtuns in the North Waziristan region. They fought with security officials at a military check post.

A military spokesman described the violence as an assault by members of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, or P.T.M., but the protesters disputed that. That movement has galvanized many Pashtuns in recent years with its protests against extrajudicial killings, disappearances and displacements of members of the community in the wake of military operations against the Taliban and other militants.

Most of the Taliban and their leaders, past and present, have been Pashtuns.

Leaders of the Pashtun movement say they are exercising their right to protest peacefully. But the military sees the movement as being propped up by foes of the state and accuses neighboring Afghanistan and India of trying to stir up unrest with support of the movement in areas straddling the Afghan border.

Sunday’s deadly clash came just weeks after a warning by the Pakistani Army to the Pashtun movement’s leaders that their “time is up.”

“You have enjoyed all the liberty that you wanted to,” Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, the military spokesman, had warned P.T.M. leaders in a news conference.

On Sunday demonstrators, led by two members of Parliament representing the region, had been on their way to a sit-in protesting recent arrests and searches by the military. The military operation was a response to attacks on its forces.

There was no official statement from the regional government which oversees the recently merged tribal district of North Waziristan and other tribal regions straddling the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

But the army said that a group led by the two lawmakers, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, had assaulted a checkpoint in Boya, North Waziristan, to “exert pressure for the release of suspected terrorists’ facilitators arrested by the law enforcement agencies the other day.”

The military said the attackers fired directly at the check post, adding that troops had “exercised maximum restraint in the face of provocation.” It said five soldiers had been wounded, one of them seriously, and that the exchange of fire killed three people who had attacked the post and wounded 10.

Leaders of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement denied the accusations and said military personnel had fired indiscriminately on the protesters. Mr. Dawar, a lawmaker representing the area, said in an audio message sent to journalists that the protesters had managed to cross the checkpoint because they outnumbered the soldiers there.

But then, he said, they heard firing from above. He said troops fired in the air, then directly at the protesters, injuring about 30, including himself.

The lawmaker Mr. Wazir and eight others were arrested and will be charged with inciting violence against the state under antiterrorism laws, the government official said. Mr. Dawar was not arrested.

Local residents said a curfew had been imposed in some parts of North Waziristan.

On Sunday, opposition politicians condemned the clash. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of Pakistan People’s Party, said he found it hard to believe that a member of Parliament would engage in violence.

While condemning the armed clash and any attack on the military, he also said political figures should not be targeted by violence.

“When we dub our own citizens as traitors when they talk about democracy, rule of law, then it is a very dangerous course to take,” he said.

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