PESHAWAR: As clouds of an impending army action hover over North Waziristan, the civil leadership and a military commander conveyed a clear message to tribal elders here on Friday to flush out miscreants, including foreign militants, from the volatile area within 15 days.

A jirga of the Utmanzai tribe held separate meetings with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan and Corps Commander Lt Gen Khalid Rabbani. Haji Sher Muhammad led the delegation.

The tone of a handout issued from the Governor’s Secretariat was mild, but sources in the jirga said that elders had been given 15 days to flush out foreigners and other militants.

During their meeting with the corps commander, the elders pledged that they would support the security forces in North Waziristan and would play their role for peace.

According to the sources, the elders were told that they had failed to fulfil their territorial and collective responsibilities.

“The same message was conveyed to the elders at both meetings and they were asked to expel miscreants from the area,” the sources said.

The elders first met Lt Gen Rabbani and then called on the governor.

“The bottom line of the meetings was that the Utmanzai tribe should get rid of foreign militants, otherwise the government would have no other option but to take action,” they said.

Tribal elders have formed the jirga to request the government to put off the impending military action in North Waziristan.

The Utmanzai tribe and Shura Mujahideen North Waziristan leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur had signed a six-point peace agreement with the government in 2006. Under the deal, tribes were bound to expel outsiders, including foreigners, from the area. The tribes were also made responsible for providing security to government installations, security forces and officials.

On the other hand, the government had to remove troops from checkpoints and pay compensation to the local people for the loss of life and property suffered by them.

The agreement was revisited in 2007, but it did not work and security personnel and installations were frequently attacked.

Hafiz Bahadur had asked tribesmen a few days ago to move their families to areas adjacent to the Afghan border within 10 days. He also advised his supporters to focus on North Waziristan instead of Afghanistan.

The handout said the governor had told the jirga that peace and stability in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas was a prerequisite for development of the country.

He stressed that rehabilitation of displaced people was not possible without restoration of peace and tranquillity in Fata. “Peace is the top priority of the government and every possible step will be taken to bring the people of Fata into the mainstream.”

The governor urged the elders to do their bit for unity, peace and stability in Fata. Restoration of peace in Fata would be the biggest remedy to terrorism and extremism, he added.

The elders apprised the governor of the problems and difficulties the people of the area had been facing.

According to an ISPR release, Lt Gen Rabbani said North Waziristan would be cleansed of all terrorists with the support of the tribal people because they had disrupted law and order in the entire tribal agency.

“The army will stand by the tribes to restore the writ of state and rehabilitate and rebuild the agency as was done in Swat and the rest of Fata,” the corps commander added.

The jirga pledged support to the army and held out an assurance that they would stand shoulder to shoulder with the security forces.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2014

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