PESHAWAR, March 9: Despite multiple tactical operations, the militancy-hit Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency has become a bitter pill for security forces and the civil administration to swallow or throw it up.
Apparently, this 1,000 square kilometers area, adjacent to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial capital, seems to be battlefield for the militants and the security forces, but the latter equates it with the stronghold of underworld, including drug barons, smugglers, kidnappers, militants etc.
“There are so many stakeholders and mafias including drug traffickers, militants, smugglers, absconders, kidnappers in Bara. Some elements in political administration and paramilitary forces may have also ganged up with these mafias,” said a senior security official when asked about lingering issue of militancy that plagued Bara since 2004.
Sitting behind a wide table, made of sheesham (an indigenous plant), the official spoke extensively on current situation in Fata, particularly in Bara. The off-the-record discussion arranged in a cozy office lasted for almost two hours.
He was satisfied with the situation in Bajaur, Mohmand, Kurram and Orakzai, Landi Kotal and Jamrud tehsils parts of Khyber Agency and was very confident that there was no chance of resurgence of militancy in these areas at all.
He said night curfew had been lifted from entire Bajaur about two months ago and except few families all internally displaced persons had gone back to their homes. There were no restrictions on the people’s movement and they could go anywhere they wanted, he asserted.
Mohmand Agency, one of the seven tribal districts, according to him was also fine and all the damaged posts along the porous Afghan border had been reconstructed.
“We have proper border security management in these areas and there is no chance of incursion from the other side of the border,” he claimed.
He disclosed that security forces had recovered five tons explosives from a hideout in Bajaur and militants had admitted that collection of huge size of explosives took almost three years.
The official was looking upset about situation in Bara portrayed in media particularly Alam Godar incident in January last in which locals claimed 15 civilians were killed by security forces in retaliation. The militants were using local people very tactfully against security forces to protect their interests, he said.
He said Bara was very complicated, because of its location, demography and involvement of so many players that made task more difficult.
The official took credit for busting Abdullah Azam Brigade, a militant outfit operated in Jamrud tehsil which often attacked convoys on Peshawar-Torkham Highway. He also said a school’s principal was arrested in the same area who had established manufacturing unit of improvised explosive device in the government school.
“People always blame security forces for attacks on civilians in Bara which is incorrect. When security forces plan crack down on militants, then hue and cry begins. Should the government pulls out troops and leaves Bara for these mafias,” he questioned.
“I can take all IDPs back to Bara tomorrow if local tribes accept responsibilities assigned to them under the Frontier Crimes Regulation, which is law of the area,” he replied when asked about timeframe for the return of displaced people.
He also advised the parents to stop their youngsters from joining militant groups and other criminals.
The Fata Disaster Management Authority said 65,435 families (approximately 520,000 individuals) have been displaced from Khyber Agency majority of them living off camps in Peshawar.
The official, who has vast experience about security dynamics of Fata, said the plan had been worked out to plug important routes used by militants. “Major action against militants is on the card and it will be very successful,” he said.
Additional troops have been deployed in the area and soldiers have been readjusted in 18 security posts set up in areas separating Bara from Peshawar.
He brushed aside that security forces had personal agenda to prolong stay in Fata.
“Total cleanup of Bara including Tirah Valley is not possible in near future but IDPs from Shalobar area will go back to their homes very soon,” he said.