France official: Gunman had no ties to al Qaeda

France official: Gunman had no ties to al Qaeda

French special intervention police officers prepare to leave the area in Toulouse, France Thursday, March 22, 2012 where Mohamed Merah (insert) died after jumping from his window, gun in hand, in a fierce shootout with police. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

 

(CBS/AP) PARIS – French authorities have no evidence that al Qaeda commissioned a French gunman to go on a killing spree that left seven people dead, or that he had any contact with terrorist groups, a senior French official said Friday.

 

The official, who is close to the investigation into the attacks by 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, said there is no sign he had “trained or been in contact with organized groups or jihadists.”

 

Merah was killed in a gunfight with police Thursday after a 32-hour standoff with police. Prosecutors said he filmed himself carrying out three attacks since March 11, killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three French paratroopers with close-range shots to the head.

 

He had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and prosecutors said he had claimed contacts with al Qaeda and to have trained in the Pakistan militant stronghold of Waziristan.

 

He had been on a U.S. no-fly list since 2010.

 

The official said Merah might have made the claim because al Qaeda is a well-known “brand.” The official said authorities have “absolutely no element allowing us to believe that he was commissioned by al Qaeda to carry out these attacks.”

 

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

 

A little-known jihadist group claimed responsibility for the killings, but the official said the claim appeared opportunistic and that authorities think Merah had never heard of the group.

Drug Legalization Debate Gaining Momentum in Central America

Colombia news - Americas Summit

Drug Legalization Debate Gaining Momentum in Central America

On March 9, Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa, acting as the  Central American Integration System (SICA) president and at the request of its members, invited Colombia and Mexico to join the next meeting of SICA in Guatemala on March 24.  Both presidents Santos and Calderon accepted the invitation. The meeting will focus on the recent proposal by Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina to legalize drugs.

Lobo Soza declared: ”President Calderón, President Santos, and the leaders of the Central American isthmus have agreed that the manner in which we are [dealing with drug trafficking] is not the solution because we continue to lose human lives.”

Although the debate has been brewing for a while, the first expression of regional discontent came on December 6th, 2011, with the publication of a declaration calling for the exploration of “regulatory or market oriented options”, signed by 10 heads of states of the Central-American and Caribbean region members of the Tuxtla System for Dialogue.

The current debate was launched by Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina, a former general elected on a law and order platform. Perez Molina surprised everyone a few days after taking office in January 14th, 2012 when he declared the war on drugs a failure and asked for an open debate to explore alternatives, including legalization. Following discussions with Colombian President Santos, President Perez Molina further declared on February 11th his intention to present his proposal for drug legalization at the April 14-15 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. He sent his Vice-President Roxana Baldetti on a tour to promote his proposal to regional leader on February 29th.

The move was greeted by a quick rebuke from the US government, who dispatched Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to the region on February 28th, one day ahead of Roxana Baldetti’s own tour. Napolitano was followed by US vice-president Joe Biden, who visited Mexico to reiterate US commitment to the War on Drugs, before heading to the March 6 meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) hosted by president Porfirio Lobo Sosa in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Considering President Lobo Sosa initial opposition to legalization, this latest move represents an interesting development. In his declaration, President Lobo Sosa affirmed  “This very important proposal is something that we need to assess and manage in a positive way so that, if the discussion is successful, we can offer to the world a better solution, if we are able to find it, to the terrible problem of narco-trafficking.”

This latest development reaffirms the determination of Latin American countries to the legalization debate and seems to indicate a willingness to accelerate the process in preparation for the Summit of the Americas on April 14-15. While the March 6 SICA meeting, undoubtedly hold off by Biden presence at the meeting, didn’t produce much more than an intent to open the debate, we can expect concrete proposals at the March 24th meeting. President Perez Molina announced that workgroups are actively preparing the details of his proposal.

There are good reasons to suspect that Colombian president Santos has been involved with the Perez Molina initiative from the very start, as alluded to by Perez Molina himself. The fact that President Santos is now coming out more openly is significant. Colombia is considered the best US ally in the War on Drugs, and is often touted as a success story and a model by the US anti-drug apparatus. The Colombian themselves have a more measured appreciation. While there has been undeniable progress since the peak of narco-violence in the 1990s, Santos himself acknowledges that the problem is contained at best. Colombia is still the main cocaine producer in the world and while the mega-cartels of the past may have been destroyed, it has opened the gates to the Mexican cartels and has resulted in an explosion of mini-cartels. The loss of its Colombian ally would be a major blow to the US anti-drug strategy, a blow that could prove fatal if Mexico was to join the legalization camp.

It is too early to say where the Perez Molina initiative will lead to, and what its true objectives may be. It may be a ploy to increase pressure on the US government to allocate more resources to the region, as has been argued. On the other hand, if any lesson can be drawn from the Colombian and Mexican experience, it is quite obvious that their war-like strategy came at a very high human cost for these countries. Central American countries have borne the brunt of narco-violence for the past three decades and as this violence keeps increasing, they seem to be genuinely ready to call it quits and to be looking for more realistic and workable alternatives. These already impoverished countries do not have the resources to deploy a US style prohibitionist system, and it would be folly for them to even attempt to. They are plagued by systemic corruption, youth unemployment, poor education and gang violence. Their gang problem itself is largely the result of the US policy of deportation of illegal immigrants with criminal records to their native countries. As the US prison system is a notorious training ground for criminals, where inmates are far more dangerous when they get out than they were when they got in, the US has been sending droves of hardened criminals south of their border, with catastrophic consequences for the receiving countries. This, added to the constant flow of weapons flooding the region because of the US impotence at regulating its own gun industry, is adding to the profound discontent in the region, which is tired to take the blame and pay the price for an issue that they rightly perceive as being imposed onto them.

In any case, it would be well advised for all the drug policy reform activists the world over to come resolutely in support of the Perez Molina initiative and to contribute as much as possible to the debate going on in Latin America.

I have argued for quite some time, most notably in my recently published “World War-D”, that Latin America is the only part of the world where drug policy reform can emerge. We might be witnessing this emergence and might be on the verge of a major paradigm shift in drug policy.

This, folks, is history in the making. Be part of it! To that effect, I invite you to sign and promote the Perez Molina petition: http://signon.org/sign/support-guatemalan-president

Saudis Intend To Put Iran Out of Business

[The Saudis are playing a high stakes game, intended to help destroy the Iranian economy.  Leasing/purchasing these 11 Very Large Crude Carriers enables the  Saudis to both greatly increase Aramco’s crude oil sales and to undercut international oil prices, so that Iran will feel the bite of international sanctions.  If these tankers are used to ease fuel inflation in the US, then Obama will get a large boost in the polls when those tankers arrive in the US at the end of March of early April.  If gas suddenly goes down and the corners of Obama’s mouth go up in a perpetual grin, then we will understand why, but will any of it really matter in the end?  

This is what Prince Turki al-Faisal had in mind when he recently threatened to go after Iran by flooding the oil market–   

“Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it’s there that more could be done to squeeze the current government….To put this into perspective, Saudi Arabia has so much [spare] production capacity — nearly 4 million barrels per day — that we could almost instantly replace all of Iran’s oil production.”  

The Saudis plan to put Iran out of business, so that their Sunni revolutionaries have a better chance to finally undo the Shia challenges to Wahabbi rule over all the Muslims in the entire world.  In the long run, they actually plan total domination of all Middle Eastern oil and gas, as evidenced by today’s news that China oil and gas giant Sinopec partner with Aramco to build the world’s largest gas refinery at Yanbu, on the Red Sea.  This monster will produce 400,000 barrels a day, starting in 2014, the year that Saudi Arabia takes control of nearly all of the Middle East, thanks to good old Uncle Sam, but will that come soon enough to save the American economy?]     

    

 Saudis Prompt Oil Price Intervention By Huge Tanker Charters

International Business Times

The U.S. may be edging closer to energy independence, but in the oil markets and its prices, Saudi Arabia is king.

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil company, has recently chartered 11 very large crude carriers (VLCCs).  Each transports as many as two million barrels of oil.

They were chartered earlier in March with one goal in mind: to dump their cargo with U.S.refiners, and help bring energy prices down by increasing the supply of oil, reported the Financial Times.

In so doing, they ensure that sanctions against Iran do their job, said Marvin Zonis, professor emeritus at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, who’s followed Iran more than 40 years.

Zonis said Iran’s saber rattling about closing the Strait of Hormuz had prompted traders to inflate the price of oil, which helps offset oil sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program by lining Tehran’s coffers with more cash.

Squeezing Iran 

A barrel of oil sold for $105.51 on the New York Mercantile Exchange  on Thursday — about 33 percent above the October low.

The more oil prices ease, the more Iran will be squeezed, Zonis said.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister Ali Naimi commented oil prices are unjustifiably high and that his country would boost its production by 25 percent if necessary.

It’s part of a multi-pronged attempt to reel in and cool energy prices which have triggered fears of a slowdown in the world economy.

Oil prices acorss the globe dropped by more than $1 on Tuesday following assurances Saudi production will offset Iranian declines in production.

Tankers Give More Controls

By chartering the tankers, Saudi Aramco essentially increased by 50 percent the total number Saudi Arabia owns or controls.

The CIA reports the country had 22 petroleum tankers out of a fleet of 74 cargo ships in 2010.

Last year, the country chartered only one VLCC to the U.S., the Financial Times reported.

With Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer and exporter of oil, Saudi Aramco’s venture into oil transport will only cement the country’s influence on oil prices.

“It is hard to exaggerate the control on oil markets that Saudi Arabia has already,” Zonis said. “It is the largest single influence on the oil market.”

The professor said chartering the tankers only further proves Saudi Arabia’s dominance.

The reason is that with proven reserves of 266.7 billion barrels, the Arab kingdom could be the world’s biggest oil producer for many more years.

“It certainly confirms that you don’t want to mess with Saudi Arabia,” Zonis said

The tankers will make their way into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of March or the first week of April, after sailing for 40 days.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

Is This The Beginning Of The End For The Petrodollar?

Saudi Arabia And China Team Up To Build A Gigantic New Oil Refinery 


 The largest oil exporter in the Middle East has teamed up with the second largest consumer of oil in the world (China) to build a gigantic new oil refinery and the mainstream media in the United States has barely even noticed it.  This mammoth new refinery is scheduled to be fully operational in the Red Sea port city of Yanbu by 2014.  Over the past several years, China has sought to aggressively expand trade with Saudi Arabia, and China now actually imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States does.  In February, China imported 1.39 million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia.  That was 39 percent higher than last February.  So why is this important?  Well, back in 1973 the United States and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil sold by Saudi Arabia would be denominated in U.S. dollars.  This petrodollar system was adopted by almost the entire world and it has had great benefits for the U.S. economy.  But if China becomes Saudi Arabia’s most important trading partner, then why should Saudi Arabia continue to only sell oil in U.S. dollars?  And if the petrodollar system collapses, what is that going to mean for the U.S. economy?

Those are very important questions, and they will be addressed later on in this article.  First of all, let’s take a closer look at the agreement reached between Saudi Arabia and China recently.

The following is how the deal was described in a recent China Daily article….

In what Riyadh calls “the largest expansion by any oil company in the world”, Sinopec’s deal on Saturday with Saudi oil giant Aramco will allow a major oil refinery to become operational in the Red Sea port of Yanbu by 2014.

The $8.5 billion joint venture, which covers an area of about 5.2 million square meters, is already under construction. It will process 400,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day. Aramco will hold a 62.5 percent stake in the plant while Sinopec will own the remaining 37.5 percent.

At a time when the U.S. is actually losing refining capacity, this is a stunning development.

Yet the U.S. press has been largely silent about this.

Very curious.

But China is not just doing deals with Saudi Arabia.  China has also been striking deals with several other important oil producing nations.  The following comes from a recent article by Gregg Laskoski….

China’s investment in oil infrastructure and refining capacity is unparalleled. And more importantly, it executes a consistent strategy of developing world-class refining facilities in partnership with OPEC suppliers. Such relationships mean economic leverage that could soon subordinate U.S. relations with the same countries.

Egypt is building its largest refinery ever with investment from China.

Shortly after the partnership with Egypt was announced, China signed a $23 billion agreement with Nigeria to construct three gasoline refineries and a fuel complex in Nigeria.

Essentially, China is running circles around the United States when it comes to locking up strategic oil supplies worldwide.

And all of these developments could have tremendous implications for the future of the petrodollar system.

If you are not familiar with the petrodollar system, it really is not that complicated.  Basically, almost all of the oil in the world is traded in U.S. dollars.  The origin of the petrodollar system was detailed in a recent article by Jerry Robinson….

In 1973, a deal was struck between Saudi Arabia and the United States in which every barrel of oil purchased from the Saudis would be denominated in U.S. dollars. Under this new arrangement, any country that sought to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia would be required to first exchange their own national currency for U.S. dollars. In exchange for Saudi Arabia’s willingness to denominate their oil sales exclusively in U.S. dollars, the United States offered weapons and protection of their oil fields from neighboring nations, including Israel.

By 1975, all of the OPEC nations had agreed to price their own oil supplies exclusively in U.S. dollars in exchange for weapons and military protection. 

This petrodollar system, or more simply known as an “oil for dollars” system, created an immediate artificial demand for U.S. dollars around the globe. And of course, as global oil demand increased, so did the demand for U.S. dollars.

Once you understand the petrodollar system, it becomes much easier to understand why our politicians treat Saudi leaders with kid gloves.  The U.S. government does not want to see anything happen that would jeopardize the status quo.

A recent article by Marin Katusa described some more of the benefits that the petrodollar system has had for the U.S. economy….

The “petrodollar” system was a brilliant political and economic move. It forced the world’s oil money to flow through the US Federal Reserve, creating ever-growing international demand for both US dollars and US debt, while essentially letting the US pretty much own the world’s oil for free, since oil’s value is denominated in a currency that America controls and prints. The petrodollar system spread beyond oil: the majority of international trade is done in US dollars. That means that from Russia to China, Brazil to South Korea, every country aims to maximize the US-dollar surplus garnered from its export trade to buy oil.

The US has reaped many rewards. As oil usage increased in the 1980s, demand for the US dollar rose with it, lifting the US economy to new heights. But even without economic success at home the US dollar would have soared, because the petrodollar system created consistent international demand for US dollars, which in turn gained in value. A strong US dollar allowed Americans to buy imported goods at a massive discount – the petrodollar system essentially creating a subsidy for US consumers at the expense of the rest of the world. Here, finally, the US hit on a downside: The availability of cheap imports hit the US manufacturing industry hard, and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs remains one of the biggest challenges in resurrecting the US economy today.

So what happens if the petrodollar system collapses?

Well, for one thing the value of the U.S. dollar would plummet big time.

U.S. consumers would suddenly find that all of those “cheap imported goods” would rise in price dramatically as would the price of gasoline.

If you think the price of gas is high now, you just wait until the petrodollar system collapses.

In addition, there would be much less of a demand for U.S. government debtsince countries would not have so many excess U.S. dollars lying around.

So needless to say, the U.S. government really needs the petrodollar system to continue.

But in the end, it is Saudi Arabia that is holding the cards.

If Saudi Arabia chooses to sell oil in a currency other than the U.S. dollar, most of the rest of the oil producing countries in the Middle East would surely do the same rather quickly.

And we have already seen countries in other parts of the world start to move away from using the U.S. dollar in global trade.

For example, Russia and China have agreed to now use their own national currencies when trading with each other rather than the U.S. dollar.

That got virtually no attention in the U.S. media, but it really was a big deal when it was announced.

A recent article by Graham Summers summarized some of the other moves away from the U.S. dollar in international trade that we have seen recently….

Indeed, officials from China, India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa (the latest addition to the BRIC acronym, now to be called BRICS) recently met in southern China to discuss expanding the use of their own currencies in foreign trade (yet another move away from the US Dollar).

To recap:

  • China and Russia have removed the US Dollar from their trade
  • China is rushing its trade agreement with Brazil
  • China, Russia, Brazil, India, and now South Africa are moving to trade more in their own currencies (not the US Dollar)
  • Saudi Arabia is moving to formalize trade with China and Russia
  • Singapore is moving to trade yuan

The trend here is obvious. The US Dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency is ending. The process will take time to unfold. But the Dollar will be finished as reserve currency within the next five years.

Yes, the days of the U.S. dollar being the primary reserve currency of the world are definitely numbered.

It will not happen overnight, but as the U.S. economy continues to get weaker it is inevitable that the rest of the world will continue to question why the U.S. dollar should automatically have such a dominant position in international trade.

Over the next few years, keep a close eye on Saudi Arabia.

When Saudi Arabia announces a move away from the petrodollar system, that will be a major trigger event for the global financial system and it will be a really, really bad sign for the U.S. economy.

The level of prosperity that we are enjoying today would not be possible without the petrodollar system.  Once the petrodollar system collapses, a lot of our underlying economic vulnerabilities will be exposed and it will not be pretty.

Tough times are on the horizon.  It is imperative that we all get informed and that we all get prepared.

Michael Snyder is the editor of The Economic Collapse Blog

Just When India Needs Iran’s Help, It Sides With the Other Guys

On the wrong side of history

ATUL ANEJA

The Hindu

In trying to strike a balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia, India seems to have lost the plot on Syria.

In casting its vote on Syria with the West and the Arab League at the United Nations Security Council, India may have lost a rare opportunity to impart solid political content to the Brazil-Russia-China-India-South Africa (BRICS) grouping, which has so far focussed on economic issues.

Two key countries belonging to BRICS — China and Russia — vetoed the West-backed resolution, which did not explicitly call for the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, to quit. However, it implicitly did demand the President’s departure as it backed the position adopted by the Arab League, which had earlier called for Mr. Assad’s exit. In the Arab League’s perception, the President needed to make way for Syria’s Vice-President with a national unity government overseeing the political transition.

Libya’s experience weighed heavily in determining the Russian and Chinese positions on Syria. Both countries publicly acknowledged that they had been misled by the West on Libya. The western powers and some of their key Arab allies had, instead of protecting civilians through the establishment of no-fly zones, the stated intention of the resolution, manoeuvred it to institute a regime change. In the end, the Security Council Resolution 1973, on which Russia, China and India had abstained, paved the way for the grisly killing of the former Libyan leader, Muammar Qadhafi.

Divergent ideologies

The debate over Syria has also demonstrated the clash of two divergent and competing ideological positions. The West is undermining the principle of national sovereignty, with the implicit backing of the doctrine of the Right 2 Protect (R2P), which allows international military intervention in a sovereign nation when the State, in the perception of the “international community,” endangers the lives of its citizens on a large scale.

Rejecting “humanitarian interventions,” China and Russia, on the contrary, have staunchly defended and invoked the principle of sovereignty, which they say the U.N. must uphold in formulating its stance towards Syria. This has been the core of their position, from which they have not budged so far, despite their recent attempts to evolve a position around which an international consensus can evolve.

The heated debates on Syria in the U.N. cannot be seen in isolation. They mask a clash of great intensity, of competing geopolitical agendas, which are being played out at several levels. For Russia and China, the insistence on regime change in Syria is part of a long narrative scripted mainly by the United States, to overwhelmingly establish its cascading control over the rest of the world in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. This has taken the form of western backed colour-coded revolutions, as in the case of Ukraine and Georgia, or use of varying degrees of force, some of it covert, as seen in the case of former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Lebanon and in Libya, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. China is of the view, that in the end, Beijing could become a target of the so-called “pro-democracy,” regime change subversion and must therefore stand up to the West, as it has done on Syria, to stem the tide, even at the cost of losing some tactical ground.

Tactical versus strategic

India seems to have lost a trick by voting on tactical rather than strategic considerations with the West and the Arab League on Syria. There is an argument that India’s vote was the result of a great balancing act it undertook between Iran and Saudi Arabia — the two countries locked in a bitter and escalating Cold War in West Asia. In trying to balance its interests between Iran and the pro-West Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, India sided with Iran, and despite enormous pressure from the Americans and the Gulf countries, refused to enforce oil sanctions against Tehran, which were being imposed outside the U.N. framework.

Flawed presumption

Having done so, it appeared to have gone with Saudi Arabia by voting with the West and the Arab League on Syria, apparently to protect its legitimate and growing interests with the petro-monarchies — the source of billions of dollars of remittances, a lucrative source of investment, and the anchor of India’s energy security. There is also an argument that Saudi Arabia has become important as a factor in influencing Pakistan, and is therefore important to India on grounds of national security.

Finally, it is being said that by voting with the West and the pro-West Arab regimes, India has positioned itself on the “right side of history,” in the post-Cold War era — a superficial and deeply flawed presumption at a time when the locus of global economic power has already shifted East, and it may not be long before emerging powers discover that they are capable of asserting themselves, ever more strongly, on the global political stage.

It is in trying to find a tactical balance to protect its interests in the region, in a framework largely bereft of a larger strategic vision that India seems to have lost the plot on Syria. Viewed from a strategic perspective, the Indian establishment appears to have under-appreciated the importance of Iran, Syria’s core ally, to India’s larger national interests. Not only is Iran indispensable as the gateway for protecting India’s interests in Afghanistan as well as for reasons of energy security, it is also the key for developing India’s ties with Iraq in the post-Saddam era.

After the demise of the former Iraqi President, who was India’s reliable partner, and the impending exit of American forces from the country, Iran has emerged as the biggest gainer and potentially the chief power broker that can facilitate India’s re-entry into Iraq — a country with a vast untapped oil wealth that is bound to feature ever more prominently in India and China’s energy security matrix in the future.

But by voting against the Syrian regime, India adopted a position that was plainly hostile to Iran, for Damascus is the lynchpin for projecting Iranian influence in the Levant. It is also more than likely that if a “regime change” is accomplished in Syria, with Israeli pressure already substantial on the American establishment, the Islamic Republic may soon find itself fighting for its political survival. Such an existential threat may force Tehran to review its position on the nuclear issue and impart a so far unproven militaristic dimension to its atomic programme. In plain language, “regime change” in Syria may push an isolated Iran to develop the atomic bomb and permanently change the regional balance of power — a situation that does not suit India’s larger interests in West Asia.

The argument that India’s vote on Syria was necessary to protect India’s deepening interests in the arena of human resource, trade and energy in this vast oil bearing zone is specious, to say the least. There is no doubt that India has heavy stakes in the Gulf, which is the source of billions of dollars of remittances from Indians who work there, as well as on account of burgeoning trade. But this relationship has evolved out of economic necessity, and is reflective of a mutually advantageous win-win situation. India’s vote at the U.N. is hardly going to threaten this deep-rooted relationship with the Gulf countries, especially at a time when the pragmatic Arabs have realised that the presence of disciplined Indians lies at the core of their economic development.

Heavy price

There is no doubt that India needs to continue building its ties with the Gulf countries in all major spheres of engagement. However, it does not mean that New Delhi, an outsider to the region, should pay a heavy price for protecting its interests by joining, however inadvertently, the Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran centred around Syria, which is a purely regional affair.

Finally, the developments in Syria give India an opportunity to bond on the political plain with Russia and China, and carry with it Brazil, which might have voted against the Syrian regime at the U.N. not entirely out of conviction. Fresh avenues are opening India’s way, not only for undertaking a course correction on Syria, but for imparting a prominent political dimension to BRICS. The upcoming BRICS summit that India is hosting may emerge as the first major occasion for New Delhi to make a fresh start.

Peshawar Elders Decline To Do the Government’s Job for Them

Tackling militancy: Plans for grand peace militia run aground

Elders see peace militias as soft targets for militant groups. PHOTO: EPA/FILE

PESHAWAR: Proposals to set up a grand peace militia to tackle consistent militant attacks on the outskirts of Peshawar failed after locals expressed strong reservations, The Express Tribunelearnt on Thursday.

Elders of 10 villages bordering the confluence of Khyber Agency, Frontier Regions Peshawar and Kohat gathered at the Provincial Assembly’s conference hall to convince the locals to form a grand alliance against militants from various factions, who recently stepped up their attacks. An elder, who was privy to the meeting, told The Express Tribune that a consensus could not be reached because seven out of the 10 villages opposed the idea of a grand peace lashkar.

“The Adezai Lashkar and other such militias in the area are creating a lot of problems. Instead of fighting militancy, they were a threat themselves and harassing people in the area,” he said on the condition of anonymity. The elder added that the meeting was originally scheduled for March 11 — the day when a suicide bomber ripped through a funeral procession in Badhaber — but it was held later on March 20.

“The main reason for the jirga was to discuss development projects for the area, including the provision of natural gas and resolving the power crisis,” stated another elder. But upon their arrival the agenda was altered and the formation of a grand militia was also included.

Deputy Speaker Khushdil Khan, who was the target of the suicide attack, presided over the meeting. He told this scribe that the idea was discussed in the meeting, but because of the differences in opinion, the idea was scrapped. “We already have lashkars in place but because someone put up the idea of a grand alliance, we pursued it,” he claimed.

Sources said the local elders had stated that law and order was not their responsibility. Instead, it was the responsibility of the local police to ensure the protection of lives and property. The elders of Mattani, Adezai, Sherakera, Azakhel, Maryamzai and Surizai showed strong reservations on grounds that the peace lashkars were a favourable target for militants. An elder reiterated that the militants also targeted mosques and funerals. “How do you expect we will be protected against well-armed, trained and motivated militants?”

There were at least six groups of militants ranging from the offshoots of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan to Bara-based Lashkar-e-Islam that were engaged in terrorist activities and kidnappings for ransom in the region.

Published in The Express Tribune