— File Photo.
LANDI KOTAL, May 28: The Bara-based banned militant group, Lashkar-i-Islam, has made obligatory the offering of five-time prayers, keeping a beard and wearing a cap for men and veil (burqa) for women in the areas under its control.
Declaring the new fatwa (edict) on behalf of LI chief Mangal Bagh, the local commanders at Baaz Garha – a town of around 300 families located 15 kilometres west of Bara Bazaar – told an assembly of around 200 terrified residents that anyone violating any of these restrictions would be fined Rs1,000.
Sources said that the residents, mostly of Kamarkhel tribes, were assembled at the centre of the village after announcements through loadspeakers of local mosques. The were also ‘ordered’ to send at least one volunteer from each family into the LI ranks, sources said and added that they had been warned that a monthly fine of Rs1,000 would be collected from families who failed to send volunteers to the LI.
Written pamphlets were pasted at prominent places and distributed among the residents of the area to make new restrictions public.
Baaz Garha, a rugged terrain of mountains, is considered a stronghold of the LI and a number of its commanders hail from the same locality. The sources said that most of the LI commanders and volunteers had taken refuge in parts of Tirah after security forces’ operations in the area.
Baaz Garha had in the recent past witnessed bloody clashes between the security forces and LI activists. The hilltops overlooking the Baaz Garha town are mostly occupied by security forces, but the LI still has considerable presence and influence in the area.
The sources said that scores of LI activists, mostly belonging to the area, had descended from their hideouts in Tirah and now been trying to reassert their control in Baaz Garha.
The political administration has long abandoned the region, leaving the residents at the mercy of either security forces or the militants.
It was learnt that with the imposition of a radical agenda by the LI, a number of Kamarkhel families had started moving out of their area, leaving behind their belongings.
The sources said that the LI activists had torched the houses of four elders of Kamarkhel tribe in Takhtaki area of Tirah, who had formed a peace committee before the banned outfit took control of the area in February this year. The peace activists included Azmat Khan, Baghcha Gul, Mautabar Khan and Momin Khan whose families had long vacated their houses.
Local sources said that the LI had destroyed and looted around 40 houses of their opponents in Takhtaki during the last three months. The entire population of Takhtaki has fled the area after the militants’ onslaught.
Meanwhile, residents of Sheen Qamar, a border town near Baaz Garha, have demanded of the security forces to arrange for an additional convoys to take the residents stranded at the Levies centre in Jamrud to their homes.
Mujahid Afridi, a resident of Sheen Qamar, told this scribe via cell phone that he along with some 30 men had been waiting at the Levies centre for the last one week for the convoy to take them home.
He said that most of them were daily wage earners and wanted to take home essential daily-use items after earning some money in Peshawar where they worked as labourers. He said that the edibles they wanted to take home had perished due to days of waiting, while they had spent most of their hard earned money at the Levies centre.
Saadullah Khan, another resident of Sheen Qamar, demanded of the security forces to increase the number of convoys as it took them weeks to travel to their village and then come to Jamrud or Peshawar for earning livelihood.