Bajaur tribesmen pledge to help eradicate militancy

By Muhammad Shakil

Tribal elders participate in a jirga in Bajaur Agency June 3, during which they pledged to support the government in eliminating terrorism. [Courtesy of Muhammad Shakil]

Tribal elders participate in a jirga in Bajaur Agency June 3, during which they pledged to support the government in eliminating terrorism. [Courtesy of Muhammad Shakil]

KHAR, Pakistan -- Bajaur Agency tribal elders have declared their unconditional support for the government's efforts to eliminate militancy and establish peace.

During a jirga meeting in June, tribal elders in Khar, headquarters of Bajaur Agency, agreed to co-operate in a joint action against militants and anti-state elements. They also pledged their unflinching support for security forces in the war against terror.

Tribesmen have endured hardships in the war against terror with unprecedented courage and they support the efforts of security forces to wipe out the militants, said Ijaz Mohmand, president of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Lawyers Forum. Mohmand attended the jirga.

"The patriotism of the tribal people in Pakistan is beyond any doubt and the reality can be substantiated by the matchless and countless sacrifices of tribal people for the sake of maintaining peace," he told Central Asia Online.

"We tribal patriots extend full support to security forces in their war against extremism and, despite our innumerable difficulties, we will not desist from making sacrifices for the noble cause of maintaining peace," he said.

An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 tribe members were displaced in recent years when troops stepped up operations against militants in the Pakistani-Afghan border zone, said Iqbal Afridi, president of the FATA Siyasi Ittehad (FSI) political alliance. Like Mohmand, he attended the jirga.

"Despite all the staggering miseries tribesmen have faced, they are ready to withstand these hardships to achieve the objective of peace," he told Central Asia Online.

"Maintaining peace and security in the country and for its people was deemed a responsibility by tribesmen who support the security forces in clearing the country of militants," he said. "They accepted displacement wholeheartedly and braved sufferings in the camps during operations that convulsed whole tribal areas."

Tribal people are ready to fight and defend their areas, which serve as a commercial hub for Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian states, Iqbal Afridi said.

"Our survival depends on peace in our native areas and tribesmen -- irrespective of their affiliations -- will not hesitate to make sacrifices to clear their areas of anti-state elements," he said.

Facilitating employment for tribal youth will reduce the militants' ability to bribe youth into joining the insurgency, he said.

"The pace of development in FATA is sluggish, and tribal people are still far behind in having fundamental rights enjoyed by citizens of settled areas," he said. "The establishment of peace and serenity would be catalysed if tribesmen were ensured their due rights like people in other parts of the country."

Tribal support for the jirga

In the June 3 jirga, elders agreed to form an alliance, with all tribes represented, with the mandate to take pre-emptive actions to foil the plans of militants and extremists, Malik Ayaz Khan, a tribal elder from Bajaur Agency, said.

The coalition will frustrate militants and help authorities maintain peace and establish rule of law in tribal areas, he said.

"The jirga of Bajaur elders also agreed to support the security forces' endeavours to exterminate militancy and to prove our loyalty to and love of the motherland," Khan told Central Asia Online.

Tribesmen oppose subversive activities of any kind because the resulting chaos and uncertainty not only undermine the social infrastructure of tribal areas but also shatter the economy, he said.

"We are confident that the endurance, resilience and courage exhibited by tribal people will ultimately pave the way for establishing lasting peace in tribal areas," he said.

"Previously we had no other option other than to withstand the hardship, but the mindset has evolved," he said. "The whole tribal belt is ready to support the government's war against oppression and brutality."

Bajaur residents June 14 in Khar held a rally to re-affirm their promise to stand shoulder to shoulder with security forces and to prevent terrorist acts.

"We appreciate the role, efforts and sacrifices of security forces and support their incessant endeavours towards maintaining peace and establishing the rule of law in Bajaur," said Malik Haji Ibad-ur-Rehman, a tribal elder of Bajaur.

"Tribesmen of Bajaur want development in their area and are ready to resist anti-state forces to ensure a better future for coming generations," he told Central Asia Online.

"Militancy has brought destruction to our areas and forced people to live in fear, depriving children from education and leaving them with no other option but to become terrorists or act as their facilitators," he said. "We support security forces for the future of our children and for the survival of our people."

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