Islamabad, Pakistan – A legislator at the centre of a clash between rights activists and soldiers that left at least three activists dead in the northwest Pakistani region of North Waziristan has presented himself to authorities for arrest, according to a video statement.
Mohsin Dawar, an elected member of the national parliament and a leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), spent almost four days in hiding, telling Al Jazeera his life was in “extreme danger” due to security forces raids, before surrendering on Thursday.
“I present myself before any court of law in Pakistan for accountability, but [the military] should be presented as well,” Dawar said in a video message released before his surrender.
“We want an investigation of this incident in whatever court they are ready to accept.”
Dawar and Ali Wazir, a fellow parliamentarian and PTM figure, led a group of activists to the Khar Qamar area of North Waziristan to investigate allegations of rights abuses by the military on Sunday.
They were stopped at a security checkpoint, where they and other supporters argued with soldiers who would not let them pass, and eventually crossed two barriers, video footage showed.
Pakistan’s military said the group “assaulted” the checkpoint and that soldiers were forced to open fire, killing at least three people and wounding 10 others. At least five soldiers were also wounded, the military said in a statement.
Five more unidentified bodies were found nearby a day later, a separate military statement said.
Wazir and eight others were arrested on the spot, but Dawar escaped the scene, protected by supporters.
The account of the incident was heavily contested by both sides, with the military claiming the activists “fired” on the checkpoint and were attempting to have a “terrorist facilitator” released.
In an interview with Al Jazeera following the violence, Dawar denied attacking the security post and said his group was in the area to investigate allegations of abuse during security raids in Khar Qamar.
In the video statement released on Thursday, he said he moved from village to village in the area under the protection of local residents, finally reaching his home village of Darpa Khel about 30km away from where the incident took place.
After surrendering to authorities, Dawar was remanded to the custody of the police’s counterterrorism department for eight days by a judge in the town of Bannu, court documents showed.
Wazir and others remain in police custody, pending further investigations.
Crackdown on Pashtun rights group
Dawar and Wazir represent the PTM, a grassroots rights organisation that has since last year demanded investigations into rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the Pakistani military in its war against the Taliban in the country’s northwest tribal districts.
The PTM has three main demands: the clearance of landmines and other unexploded ordnance from the tribal districts, an end to extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the police and military in the war against the Taliban and accountability for hundreds of “missing persons” said to have been subjected to forced disappearances.
Last month, Pakistan’s military warned the group that its “time is up”, accusing it of being funded by foreign intelligence agencies.
The group has seen a widespread crackdown, with frequent arrests of its leaders and a complete media blackout of coverage of its demonstrations, which have attracted thousands of supporters in the country’s ethnic Pashtun and other areas.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan: @AsadHashim