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