Outrage on footage

North Waziristan: His face is emotionless, and tone measured. “Don’t release my dad and brother but please take care of the sanctity of our home”.

The teenage boy goes ahead explaining his ordeal in the footage.

“They come and sit inside our home investigating us and making undue demands that are totally against our culture and customs. They even don’t mind breaching the sanctity of our privacy.”

Hayat Khan Wazir

The footage of this touching short talk by 12-year-old Hayat Khan Wazir, of Khaisoor, a remote town of North Waziristan, is doing the rounds on social media. The video was recorded and uploaded on social media by Noor Islam Dawar, president of the Youth of Waziristan, a civil society body. Soon, the video, also with subtitles in Urdu and English, drew medley of comments from all over the world. Hayat said that security forces picked up his father and brother on October 23 last from their house.

Security forces, however, reject the allegations, and a Jirga of the Wazir tribe also called the video a conspiracy to defame the tribe and security forces.

Though the local media remained aloof to the footage, some international media outlets, including the CNN, aired the video. Some parliamentarians, including Mohsin Dawar, North Waziristan MNA, raised the issue in the National Assembly.

Soon, it became a national issue.

A resolution was moved in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly by Awami National Party’s Sardar Hussain Babak demanding a probe into the issue and stern action against those violating privacy.

Public outcry and international media’s enormous coverage of the issue, however, failed to move the government but a Jirga with Shajigul Afridi, former Fata parliamentary leader, was sent to Khaisoor village to probe into the matter. Senior journalist Hassan Khan who attended the Jirga says the residents of the area were under pressure.

Afridi suggested an impartial inquiry into the case and court-martial of the security personnel if found guilty.

Local security officials issued a statement that the allegations of violating the sanctity of the privacy of Hayat Khan’s family or any other tribesmen were baseless.

“Jalat Khan Wazir, father of Hayat, and his elder brother Zahidullah Wazir were picked up in the abduction case of a technician of the Mari Petroleum Company”, reads the statement, adding that young Hayat was misguided by the Youth of Waziristan’s members who put the words in the mouth of Hayat while recording his statement.

Dawar, president of the Youth of Waziristan, however, says Hayat and his family members were not influenced in the recording.

“We’ve nothing to do with the case and would never have recorded the footage if Hayat and his family were not interested,” Dawar told reporters.

The footage controversy soon became a tribal war between Dawars and Wazirs, as Hayat belongs to the Wazir tribe whereas the Youth of Waziristan is led by the Dawar tribe. This tribal line forced the Wazir tribe to take notice of the issue and hold a grand Jirga to discuss the video. The Jirga took the footage as an element of defaming Wazirs and sought a probe into it by the local administration.

They also demanded that the government release Jalat Khan, father of Hayat, for a thorough probe. The local administration accepted the demand and handed over Jalat to the Jirga of Wazirs on January 26. The Jirga met for another time where Jalat was grilled. A resident of Khaisoor village told Truth Tracker that when a participant, Eid Rehman, was beaten by Jirga members for speaking out tribal issues publically.

The very next day of the Jirga, Pukhtun women activists – Senator Bushra Gohar, Gulalai Ismail, Sana Ijaz, Jameela Gilani and Ismat Shahjehan – visited Khaisor village and expressed solidarity with Hayat’s family. They were warmly welcomed at Mirali by a big procession of Youth of Waziristan.

On their return from Khaisor, Ms Ismail said as soon as they entered the village, their mobile network signals vanished. Lack of modern day communication channels has isolated North Waziristan from the rest of the country. “Hundreds of people of Khaisor welcomed the delegation. A number of women from the neighbourhood shared their stories with us. Mother of Hayat and other women confirmed every word of Hayat.”

Though Hayat’s ordeal has gained the world’s attention, such several stories have yet to be shared with the world.

Ms Gulalai says they heard from other women that the incident of Hayat’s family is not an isolated one; many families have been through repeated outrageous attacks on their privacy.

A social activist from North Waziristan, Anwar Sadat Dawar, says the military and civil administration must address the issue.

“This will create a lot of problems not only for the people of North Waziristan but also for the security forces in the area, if the issue is not addressed,” Mr Dawar said, adding that the security forces must take drastic steps to satisfy the aggrieved residents of Khaisoor and the rest of Waziristan for peaceful coexistence in the area.

Is anyone listening to them?

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