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Hangu militants threaten shopkeepers selling women’s garments, cosmetics
Authorities order strict action; suspect’s brother and father arrested, police say
By Zahir Shah
HANGU – Armed militants August 6 terrorised shopkeepers selling women’s garments and cosmetics in Sangair Bazaar in Hangu District and ordered them to remove curtains and blinds from their shops or they would bomb them, shopkeepers and officials confirmed August 7.
The militants arrived on motorbikes and started shooing away shopkeepers and rebuked women shopping in the bazaar, eyewitnesses told Central Asia Online.
“The militants, carrying sticks, warned shopkeepers to remove the blinds and curtains from their shops ... saying they were promoting vulgarity behind closed doors and blinds,” Roshan, a shopkeeper, told Central Asia Online.
The militants also warned market traders not to allow women unaccompanied by men into their shops, or the militants would act against the traders.
District Police Officer Dr. Saeed Ahmed confirmed the incident took place and said police had swiftly arrested the father and brother of one suspect. They are tracking down the other suspects, he said.
No shopkeepers had complained, but police acted as soon as they heard of the incident, Saeed said, adding, “No one would be allowed to undermine the law of the land ... and those terrorising people would be dealt with sternly.”
Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Home Department issued a handout on the Hangu incident.
Militants belonging to the Mullah Nabi group August 6 at 2.30pm shattered the windows and broke the locks of cosmetics and cloth shops in Sangair if the owners refused to make extortion payments of Rs. 200,000 (US $2,100), the statement said.
The militants also “fired into the air at Lakki Banda Bypass, Thall Road and Speen Khawaray area,” the Home Department said.
“The KP home secretary has taken serious notice of the incident and observed that this seems not to be an overnight development; rather it should be seen as a pointer in withering away of the effectiveness of local police and administration in Hangu,” the department said. “The issue needs to be taken as a challenge to the writ of the state and needs to be dealt with accordingly ... to ensure that such incidents are not repeated.”
Women’s groups react
“It’s condemnable by all means, and in settled areas of KP, it’s unacceptable; the civil society castigates those who are contemplating (infringing) upon women’s rights,” Shabina Ayaz, resident director of Aurat Foundation, told Central Asia Online.
“If this trend is not stopped, it would go from one part to the other,” she added. “We had seen the militancy surging from Swat to Buner and from Buner to Dir, and this trend I fear went from Lakki to Hangu. It might go to Kohat if not stopped.”
Something similar happened in Lakki Marwat District a month ago, she said.
To fight the trend, she said, “I would say this is not only the police or the law enforcement agencies’ job to guard each and every shop. I would say there should be a close liaison with the traders’ committees, unions and the bazaar organisations to discourage those elements who are harassing the woman shoppers or stopping them from buying what they need.”