Interior Minister Rehman Malik suggested Wednesday that the government would use force to remove the protesters if they didn’t end their demonstration but backed off the threat after he was contradicted by the president.
Elsewhere in the country, army helicopters pounded three homes in a northwestern tribal region, killing two women and two children, said local resident Sajid Khan. The attack in Khasu Khel village in the North Waziristan tribal area also wounded six people.
It’s unclear why the helicopters attacked the homes. North Waziristan is the main sanctuary for al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan.
Hundreds of villagers took the victims’ bodies to one of the main towns in North Waziristan, Mir Ali, and displayed them on the road in protest, said Khan.
Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed helicopter shelling occurred earlier in the day in Khasu Khel, but could not confirm whether the women and children were killed in the attacks. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The protest comes on the heels of two similar demonstrations in Pakistan in recent days in which citizens angry about deadly attacks — one by Islamic militants and one allegedly by security forces — displayed the bodies of the dead and demanded justice. Islamic custom dictates the dead should be buried as soon possible.
Associated Press writer Rasool Dawar contributed to this report from Peshawar, Pakistan.