PESHAWAR: Finally, the elders of Utmanzai tribe of North Waziristan Agency have been tasked to take the bull by the horns within 15 days. The helpless non-combatant residents have to eliminate hardcore foreign fighters from the area.
A mission which could not be fully accomplished by over one division army, thousands of paramilitary troops of the Frontier Corps and big spy network in over eight years has now been handed over to civilians to take on these well-trained fighters. Even US drones could not deter these foreign and local militants.
In other words, the state passed the buck to the people of Utmanzai tribe who have badly suffered physically, mentally, socially and economically because of the eight years long volatile situation in the area.
Provision of security to its citizens is the prime responsibility of the state and the government, but taking advantage of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan and Corps Commander Lt-Gen Khalid Rabbani gave the task to the tribesmen.
Govt needs to initiate joint action against undesired elements
If the tribesmen alone can do this job within two weeks then why the government wasted time and resources on talks and agreements with the Taliban. Instability and uncertainty prevailed in North Waziristan Agency since the government entered into a peace deal with Commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Utmanzai tribe in 2006.
The six-point agreement could not produce the desired results though the government and Gul Bahadur stuck to this “sacred document.” Civilians, soldiers and officers have been killed in acts of sabotage despite peace agreements and talks with the militants.
One of the main points of the peace agreement was that outsiders would not be allowed to stay in North Waziristan and despite that the area remained a safe haven for foreigners and their influx into Waziristan continued unabated.
Miramshah, its administrative headquarters, and Mirali have turned into a “multi-cultural society” due to presence of Arabs, Uzbeks, Chechens, Turkish, Afghans, Chinese, Europeans, Punjabis, etc and it was the most accessible area for outsiders. The government’s writ eroded while the political administration has no control even in Miramshah Bazaar.
Much water has flown under the bridge and peace talks between the government and Taliban committees have reached the logical end. Self-declared ‘Father of the Taliban’ Maulana Samiul Haq and his lieutenant Maulana Yousaf Shah seem to have given up efforts to put talks back on the track.
Now the ball has been thrown in the court of Utmanzai elders. The government has used tribes in the rest of tribal agencies to subdue militants. Lashkars were raised and volunteers obtained arms and ammunition.
This strategy was first time put in place in South Waziristan Agency in 2004 and people destroyed hideouts of militants.
Elders who had supported the government and security forces paid a heavy price. Former Senator and federal minister Faridullah Khan was the first to fell victim for supporting Shakai Agreement in 2005.
Hundreds of elders and volunteers of the peace committees from South Waziristan up to Bajaur Agency have been killed in targeted action and improvised explosive devices’ blasts.
Their houses came under attacks and families were forced to leave their areas, but not a single culprit has been arrested so far.
When peace talks between the government and TTP stalled, chief of Waziristan Malik Qadir Khan was gunned down near Miramshah. Speaking at a joint jirga held recently in Governor’s House, he had strongly opposed mechanism of the peace talks with TTP and demanded to engage local elders instead of bureaucrats.
Jingoists conveyed a stern message to people not to indulge themselves in this game otherwise they would bear consequences like Malik Qadir.
A tribal journalist said that over 40 elders have already been killed in North Waziristan Agency. Tribal people are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Media reports about 15-day deadline spread like a jungle fire in the area. People are fleeing Waziristan. Miramshah and Mirali have been deserted. Residents say that militants, including foreigners, have vacated area ahead of the deadline. There are unconfirmed reports that foreigners have either moved across the Afghan border or to Syria.
Instead of delegating the responsibility of flushing out militants from North Waziristan to the tribal people, the government needs to initiate a joint action against the undesired elements challenging its writ.
The government should exploit the differences among the militants and replicate the strategy which was adopted in Ahmadzai Wazir area of South Waziristan in 2007. The security forces had backed Maulvi Nazir group against foreigners and other local troublemakers in Wana. Large-scale displacement and collateral damage could be avoided through this strategy.