Bara tribesmen adamant in opposition to offensive

Published October 18, 2014
A JIRGA of Bara elders underway at the Khyber House in Landi Kotal, Khyber Agency. — Dawn
A JIRGA of Bara elders underway at the Khyber House in Landi Kotal, Khyber Agency. — Dawn

LANDI KOTAL: The political administration of Khyber Agency on Friday failed to persuade elders of Bara tehsil to shoulder their Collective Territorial Responsibilities during the ongoing military operation against militants in their respective areas.

The administration had convened a jirga of Bara elders at Khyber House here first to get their support for the action against militants in Khyber Agency and second to help persuade militant commanders to lay down arms and restore peace in Sipah, Malikdinkhel and Akkakhel areas.

Political agent Shahab Ali Shah told the jirga that the time to hold negotiations with militants had gone and that the military operation would continue until peace was completely restored in Bara.

“The Operation Khyber 1 is the intelligence-driven one and will end only after all its targets are achieved,” he told the jirga.

The political agent said the government won’t hesitate in expanding the scope of the military operation to entire Bara if local elders failed to cooperate with security forces.

“It is time that elders and political administration take bold decisions as we are responsible for the people of Bara and that whatever decisions we made today should be above our tribal, political and organisational affiliations,” he said.

Shahab Ali said decisions made in fear or under the influence of a particular militant group would not help resolve Bara crisis.

Most jirga members, however, said military operation should be halted immediately and that a channel of negotiations should be opened with outlawed militant groups of Bara.

They also expressed displeasure at the timing of the convening of the jirga and asked why they were asked to extend help to the government after the launch of the military operation without their consultation.

Malik Waris Khan suggested that the administration give the jirga enough time to get the consent of their respective tribesmen and hold negotiations with members of the outlawed groups to persuade them to lay down arms.

He said the convening of the jirga to seek their support in favour of military operation was a futile exercise as the administration had failed to provide the jirga with a suitable reason for beginning the ‘Operation Khyber 1’.

Jamaat-i-Islami leader Shah Faisal also criticised the administration over failure to take local elders into confidence before the start of operation.

“The five years of military operation in Bara tehsil failed to achieve desired results causing huge damage to public life and property. Only the ill-conceived policies of the government are to blame,” he said, adding that dialogue should be given a chance.

Elders Hakim Khan Zakhakhel, Bazaar Gul Afridi and Hashim Khan, too, insisted negotiations were the only way to resolve Bara crisis.

The political agent, however, rejected the jirga recommendations about holding talks with militant groups and said the jirga was not convened to authorise elders to hold talks with anti-state elements.

“You are authorised only to talk to those who surrender to security forces and accept the writ of the government,” he said.

The political agent said no harm would be done to those cooperating with the administration and security forces.

The jirga ended inconclusively as tribal elders refused to shoulder the collective responsibility.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2014

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