FATA’s silent majority now seems to be stirring. It has for years watched in agony the destruction of its environs. Its once peaceful valleys and ravines are now a theatre of war, with homes, fields and shops destroyed, the tribesmen’s means of livelihood disrupted, and hundreds of thousands of men, women and children turned into internal refugees. Even though seething with anger, the tribesmen had failed to act, overawed as they were by the ubiquitous Taliban’s ruthlessness and presumed invincibility. However, things seem to be changing. A report by our correspondent in Landi Kotal informs us that a tribal lashkar in Khyber Agency captured on Thursday nine militants and freed a prayer leader whom the Taliban had kidnapped. Those taking the lead in challenging the Taliban and rescuing the cleric belonged to the Malagori tribe. This is not an isolated example. In the Bara tehsil, the Kalakhel tribe has raised a lashkar and warned those giving shelter to the Taliban that they would be fined Rs5m and their homes demolished. In Bajaur, the main battle theatre, the Othmankhel and Salarzai tribes have openly come out against the militants and are taking vigorous actions permitted by tribal traditions to get rid of the terrorists. Similar trends are emerging in Dir, Buner and Shabqadar.
In 2003, too, some tribal elders had attempted to mobilise their tribesmen against the militants, but the campaign failed because it was government-inspired. This time, however, it is the tribesmen’s own effort, because they have seen havoc being wreaked on their traditional way of life by local and foreign Taliban. The government has to build on this positive development and secure the active cooperation of those among the anti-militant tribesmen who are willing to take on the Taliban and restore peace to their area. One major reason for the change in the tribesmen’s attitude is the losses the Taliban have suffered in the ongoing military operation. The operation must be carried on relentlessly, and the enemy given no respite.
During Ramazan the Taliban have blown up gas and water pipelines and destroyed electric installations to cause hardship to the people in order to arouse anti-government feelings. The authorities must, therefore, ensure the security of vital installations by enlisting the community’s cooperation. Also, to ensure against collateral damage, the people should be warned in advance of a crackdown so that the non-combatants are evacuated well in advance. (Dawn)