Security

Authorities in North Waziristan pursue suspects in targeted killing

By Ashfaq Yusufzai

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A member of the North Waziristan Youth Jirga addresses a gathering in Miranshah on May 25. [Courtesy of Ashfaq Yusufzai]

MIRANSHAH, North Waziristan -- Authorities in North Waziristan District have launched an extensive manhunt for the suspects involved in the targeted killing of a senior government official.

Two masked assailants riding a motorcycle on May 24 fatally shot Zubaidullah Khan, an Islamabad-based director of the Pakistan Housing Authority, along with his uncle Malik Farmanullah and relative Niamatullah in Mir Ali.

"We have made 12 arrests in connection with the triple murder case, and a search is on to trace more suspects. We are conducting raids on suspected hideouts of terrorists. Civilians are co-operating with police," said Naseem Khan, a senior police officer based in North Waziristan, on Monday (June 1).

The Counter Terrorism Department of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police is investigating, he said.

The Pakistani army has launched operations in the area, said a security official on the condition of anonymity.

"The Pakistani army has already evicted Taliban militants from the erstwhile tribal areas as a result of Operation Zarb-e-Azb [launched] in June 2014, but still there are small pockets that we, with the help of the public, will soon clear," he added.

Targeted killings

Violence, in particular incidents of targeted killings, saw a sharp spike in North Waziristan over the last five months, Dawn reported May 27.

Thirty-one incidents of targeted killings and gun and bomb attacks on security forces have been registered in North Waziristan since January, said officials cited by Dawn.

In neighbouring South Waziristan, a former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander who had renounced militancy, Tehsil Khan, was wounded and his brother killed by gunmen May 26.

Khan and his brother were on their way to Wana from Azam Warsak when unidentified assailants opened fire, said District Police Officer Shaukat Khan, according to Dawn.

Khan was once affiliated with a militant group headed by the late Mullah Nazir and afterward became an active member of the peace committee (lashkar) that helped maintain law and order in Wana and its adjacent areas.

After renouncing militancy, Khan moved to Lahore and started a fruit business. He was visiting his hometown when the gunmen tried to kill him.

Military operations either killed or expelled most TTP leaders from the former tribal areas, said Peshawar-based security analyst Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah.

"Now, they resort to targeted killings just to tell civilians that they are still present in the area. However, the government's measures after the merger of the tribal areas with KP [in 2018] and a series of development activities... will usher in an era of prosperity," he said.

Once infrastructure is fully developed, residents will get jobs, businesses will flourish and the militancy will end, he said.

"Meanwhile, complete co-ordination among residents and security forces is needed. The public should deny sanctuary to the criminals and inform the security forces," he said.

Condemning terrorism

A youth jirga held in Mir Ali on May 25 condemned terrorism and called on the military to step up operations.

"We condemn militancy of all sorts ... killing for no reason is against the law of the land," Muhammad Shakil, 25, said at the gathering.

"The public has suffered immensely at the hands of militants for the past two decades and cannot tolerate them anymore," he said.

The only purpose of the terrorists is to frighten the public through terrorism and murder in an attempt to re-establish their former control of North Waziristan, he added.

"However, we assure the security forces of our fullest support to evict them [militants] from the area because the public doesn't want to see them again disrupting the peace," said Shakil.

Residents are no longer afraid of terrorists because they cannot carry out their sabotage openly, said Ahmad Ali, another participant.

"Targeted attacks by Taliban militants are acts of cowardice as they have been defeated and cannot fight face to face with security forces," he said.

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