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Deserted by govt, tribal militias now fight the Taliban ‘for honour’ – by Naveed Hussain

Tribal militias incensed by government’s reported secretive moves to make peace with the Taliban.

Related articles: Taliban ISI Alliance

We were alerted to this article by none other than Javed Ahmed Ghamidi sahib whose following comments (at Twitter) present an excellent summary: “Talking to Taliban like conceding defeat. Will encourage & help them impose their own puritanical Islam in whole country. Our tribal elders and militia voice their opposition to taliban and want them out. Plz tell this to Imran Khan.”

Of course, it is evident that Generals Kayani and Pasha are yet in infatuation with their ‘Good Taliban’, trying to forge peace deals with the very people who are killing innocent Pakistanis of all faiths and ethnicities on a daily basis. Our salute to honourable tribal leaders and their tribes who have done so much for Pakistan regardless of the conspiracies and backstabbing by our Jihad-centric generals.

PESHAWAR: The tribal militias, armed, aided and funded by the government to fight the Taliban insurgents in the country’s volatile north-west, are incensed by the government’s reported secretive moves to make peace with the Taliban.

“How can you talk to these mercenaries who dynamited schools, bombed mosques and killed innocent civilians?” said Haji Dilawar Khan, chief of a tribal lashkar (militia), from the Adezai village, about 15 kilometres south of Peshawar.

Khan’s militia, locally known as Adezai Qaumi Lashkar, has been holding back the Taliban since it was formed three years ago, though the price for this has been heavy, both in men and material. “If dialogue is the only solution, the government should have engaged the militants much earlier and saved hundreds of lives,” Khan told The Express Tribune by phone from his village.

Pakistan has been caught up in a vicious cycle of militant violence which became more deadly following the 2007 storming of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid by army commandoes. Countless people, mostly civilians, have been killed and maimed in terror attacks since.

The tribal militias have also been facing the wrath of the Taliban for ‘siding’ with the government. Militants have killed hundreds of tribal elders and lashkar volunteers in bomb attacks and ambushes.

Earlier this month a Taliban suicide bomber targeted a funeral in the Adezai village, killing over 40 mourners. And Khan was quoted by the media as saying that his men would join the Taliban if the government did not help them.

But Khan disowns the statement. “The Taliban are our sworn enemies and they will remain so. They have killed more than 80 of our kinsmen. We will avenge all these killings. Now it’s a matter of honour for us,” said Khan, whose brother was also gunned down by militants in Karachi in 2009.

The chief of another militia also opposes talks.

“Talking to the Taliban is like conceding our defeat. This will encourage them and they will seek to impose their own ‘puritanical’ version of Islam in the whole of country,” said Mushtaq Marwat, who heads a 400-strong lashkar in the Shah Hassankhel village of Lakki Marwat district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Marwat, who had raised the lashkar in June 2010, told The Express Tribune that the Taliban have to be fought out.

“Look at Waziristan, look at Swat… The militants have always violated peace agreements,” he said referring to the 2004 and 2005 Shakai and Sararogha peace deals with militant commanders Nek Muhammad and Baitullah Mehsud and the 2008 truce with radical cleric Maulana Sufi Muhammad.

Muhammad and Mehsud were killed in US drone strikes, while Sufi is currently on trial on terrorism charges.

Marwat’s militia which patrols several villages in Lakki Marwat district, close to South Waziristan Agency, the hideout of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, has lost more than 100 men in militant attacks.

Last year, a Taliban militant had set off a massive truck bomb amid spectators watching a volleyball match in Shah Hassankhel village. Over 100 people were killed and many more injured in that attack.

Malik Anwerzeb Khan, an elder of the Salarzai lashkar in Bajaur Agency, agrees with Khan and Marwat.

“There is no point in having talks with the Taliban. It’s illogical to talk to them because they don’t have an agenda,” he told The Express Tribune by phone.

The Salarzai lashkar, which has successfully countered the militant threat in the Salarzai sub-division of Bajaur Agency, has lost close to 70 volunteers in their campaign against the militants. Despite their successes, the lashkar elders are disillusioned by the government which has ‘left them at the mercy of the Taliban.’

“We were forced into this fight. Initially, the government supported us with men and money. Police and paramilitary troops used to patrol the village streets alongside our volunteers to stave off Taliban attacks,” said Khan. “But now it has deserted us. We have been left alone for this mortal combat.”

Marwat and Malik Anwerzeb agree with Khan.

“We have requested the government umpteen times for help, but received only promises and assurances in return,” Marwat said.  Malik Anwerzeb added that the government gave a paltry monthly stipend of Rs 3,000 to each volunteer of his 600-strong lashkar.

“Other than that they have never provided us arms and ammunition or any monetary support,” he added. “The government has been feeding us on hollow promises.”

Nonetheless all these tribal elders are determined to fight it to the death.

“Now it’s a matter of Pakhtu (honour) for us,” said the Adezai lashkar chief referring to Pakhtunwali, the tribal code in which surrendering to enemy is the biggest humiliation. “In a Pakhtun society you simply cannot give in to your enemy,” said Marwat. “We will fight this war even if the government doesn’t support us.”

Raising of militias has its roots in Pakhtunwali that goes back generations and encourages vengeance.

Malik Anwerzeb said that his militia was fighting the war for their soil, for their traditions and for Pakhtunwali. “Though this war had been imposed on us, now it’s our own fight. We will take this fight to its logical end, irrespective of whether the government support has stopped or not,” he said.

Source: Express Tribune, March 27, 2011