LANDI KOTAL, Jan 31: The elders of Loe Shalman area in Landi Kotal subdivision of Khyber Agency have alleged that political administration is pressurising them to form peace committees.

However, officials of political administration have rejected these allegations.

Requesting anonymity for fear of losing official perks and privileges, some of the tribal elders told Dawn that the administration wanted the Loe Shalman residents to form village defence committees to ward off militant attacks.

According to sources, militants have considerable presence in the villages across the Kabul River in Afghan territory near Loe Shalman.

The administration, the elders said, held a number of meetings with notables of Durma Kallay, Wali Mohammad Koroona, Ghundakhel, Narai and Sheen Pokh villages of Loe Shalman to persuade them to form peace committees.

“The villagers by and large are not willing to set up such committees as most of the Loe Shalman youth are either employed in Frontier Corps or doing odd jobs in different cities of the country so they remain away from their homes most of the time,” the elders said. They added that such committees were always on the hit list of different militant groups.

“Personal security is also one of the main reasons as a number of peace activists have become victims of targeted killing by militants in different parts of Fata,” they said.

The Loe Shalman elders said that residents of the area were not very well-off and had meagre resources. They could not afford to support village defence committees, they said.

Sources said that that the administration offered the elders to relax restrictions on transportation of smuggled goods from Afghanistan to Peshawar en-route Loe Shalman. The local residents had in the past imposed a road tax on all vehicles carrying smuggled goods to Peshawar while using the Loe Shalman route.

Security forces have in recent past curtailed considerably transportation of foreign goods from Afghanistan, affecting the income of Loe Shalman residents they were getting as road tax.

However, Assistant Political Agent Khalid Mumtaz Kundi brushed aside these allegations and insisted that they only wanted the residents of Narai to go back to their area and start living in their own houses, which they vacated due to fear of militants.

“We told the local elders to return to their houses as the administration fears that these houses may be used for ‘other’ purposes,” he told Dawn.

He said that Loe Shalman elders were never pressurised by the administration for formation of lashkars.

Scores of Narai families vacated their houses few months ago and settled with their relatives in other localities. Security forces have since then established temporary checkposts in Narai village to prevent the occupation of vacant houses by unscrupulous elements.

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