Pajhwok Afghan News, February 19, 2007

Violent protest claims two lives in Herat

"The government is trying to take the bread out of our family's mouth by banning us from the city"

Ahmad Qureshi

HERAT CITY: A police officer and a civilian were killed in a violent protest demonstration staged by auto-rickshaw owners in the western city of Herat against local authorities Monday morning.

The tri-wheeler owners were protesting against the local administration for barring them from the city. The protesters, numbering around 200, turned violent when they were stopped by police from entering the office of the provincial governor.

Organizers of the protest demonstration wanted to hold negotiations with the officials, but they were stopped by police from entering the premises for security reasons.

In order to force their way into the governor's office, the protesters scuffled with the policemen, and later, the two sides exchanged fire resulting in death of a police officer and a demonstrator. Fourteen more people, including four policemen, suffered injuries.

Witnesses said the protesters also pelted stones at the governor's office and chanted angry slogans against the local administration. The local authorities had barred auto-rickshaws from inside Herat City to avoid frequent traffic jams and air and noise pollution.

Officials say the tri-wheelers were responsible for traffic chaos in the city. For this purpose, the owners had been asked to ply special routes instead of coming into the main market.

However, the auto-rickshaw owners blame the authorities for using delaying tactics in issuance of permits to them. Mohammad Qasim, one of the protesters, said he had submitted 400 applications forms over the previous three months, but failed to get the permit.

He alleged the government was trying to take the bread out of their family's mouth by banning them from the city. Senior officials, including the deputy governor and provincial police chief refused to comment, when approached by journalists.

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