Ghulam Akbar Marwat
The joint sit-in of Marwat and Betani tribes, starting two weeks ago in Lakki Marwat, one of the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has entered its third week.
However, due to the internet and mobile services’ closure in the area as an anti-terror measure, the sit-in has failed to gain any attention from the media and administration.
The protesters, who belong to Betni and Marwat tribes, are demanding that the government should improve the law and order situation in the region by establishing its writ.
Rafiullah Khan, one of the organizers of the sit-in, told TNN that they are demanding the provision of gas to all villages in their area, and the restoration of the Marwat Canal, an existing canal project, to irrigate thousands of acres of land.
The organizers said that Lakki Marwat is one of the most backward districts of the province. Despite the approval and release of Rs 560 million for the reconstruction of the existing 22 km road from the Indus Highway to Tajuri, the project is still incomplete due to corruption.
“All government departments, including those responsible for anti-corruption, have turned a blind eye to the issue,” Rafiullah alleged.
He said that this protest is against terrorism as well as the backwardness of the area; Betani and Marwat clans have formed an alliance for a better solution to their problems and they have been protesting for their rights for the past two weeks.
Shahidullah, another young leader participating in the sit-in, said that we want peace in the area.
“We do not blame anyone as to who has disturbed the peace or because of whom it is being disturbed, rather we are demanding the state of Pakistan to fulfill its responsibility and ensure peace and order for us,” he added.
He further informed that the sit-in has the full support of all political parties; “Ameer of Marwat Qaumi Jirga Alhaj Muhammad Aslam Khan Isak Khel, Dr. Iqbal Marwat of PTI, District Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami Azizullah Khan, District President of Awami National Party Malik Ali Sarwar Khan, well-known social personality Malik Waqar Ahmad Khan, Inamullah Khan Khwaidadkhel, Adnan Khan, Akhtar Gul Betani, Chairman Ali Khan and others have not only participated in the sit-in but also assured all kinds of cooperation.”
Shahidullah Khan further said that the law and order situation in the district is getting worse, and the government is not taking any steps to solve this problem.
The protesters are demanding the government resolve the issue, among other demands.
The protest is also against the resurgence of terrorism in the region, which has been largely ignored by the authorities.
Inamullah Khan claims that terrorists have regrouped in the area and police are being attacked almost daily.
We have four main demands, which include the restoration of government writ, i.e., the establishment of law and order, the construction of Tajuri Road, the restoration of the Marwat Canal, and the supply of gas to the entire district.
They vowed to continue the sit-in until their demands are met.
Youth Shahidullah Khan said that it’s been three weeks now, so we moved toward plan B.
“Under Plan B, our sit-in will continue in front of District Complex Tajazai. There are the offices of all district officers including the Deputy Commissioner, and DPO. People from other areas of Lakki Marwat district will also join us there.” He informed.
What are the charges, and are the demands justified?
1: Supply of Oil and Gas to Punjab
About a year and a half ago, oil and gas reserves were discovered in Lakki Marwat, the southern district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A statement issued by OGDCL said that the discovery will yield 11.8 MMcf/d of gas and 945 barrels of oil per day.
According to OGDCL, this is the first discovery in the Kawagarh Formation, the discovery of deposits will not only help in meeting the growing energy needs of the country but will also play an important role in opening up new areas for recent development exploration.
Last year in June 2022, the Head of Mari Petroleum, Faheem Haider, in a meeting with Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, gave a briefing about the reserves discovered in North Waziristan and Bannu Division.
Minister of State for Petroleum Senator Dr. Mossadegh Malik and Secretary Petroleum were also present on the occasion.
On this occasion, the Prime Minister issued instructions that these reserves should be used to relieve the people from gas shortages.
2: Initiation of Marwat Canal
The water flow in the Marwat Canal, which originates from the Baran Dam in the Bannu district, has been blocked for the past 23 years because Baran Dam is 87% filled with soil.
One hundred and eighty-seven thousand acres of land was irrigated by the Marwat canal.
3: Law and order situation
Law and order is once again a major problem in Lakki Marwat. In the last two months alone, there have been 11 attacks on the police in which four police officers were killed, five were injured and three vehicles were damaged.
Similarly, two soldiers of the army got killed, two were injured, and four civilians also died. While 20 terrorists have been killed and three have been arrested in counter-terrorism incidents.