There seems to be commencement of another wave of clashes in Khyber agency as two groups, Mangal Bagh and Commander Toti Khan Group, have locked horns in Bazar Zakha Khel of Landi Kotil. In a recent clash both groups used automatic heavy and light weapons indiscriminately against each other which engulfed lives of dozens of people including a local commander of Lashkar-e-Islami. This deadly clash left many fighters and volunteers severely injured. It is also reported that commander Toti is supported by Commander Guncha Gul of Zakha Khel.
Taking advantage of the chaos created by the encounter many prisoners fled from the private jails of L.I. when the two sides started gun battles against each other, a source located in Malik Deen Khel tribe in Kata Koshata informed. Some local persons also said that more than fifty armed men from both sides have been killed during the intra factional gunfire in Sepah and Zakha Khel tribes near Tirrah Valley. The angry armed personals of Zakha Khel tribe under the leadership of Toti Khan Commander have also reportedly set fire to the houses of L.I. commanders Khan and Qandahar Khan in Bazaar Zakha Khel areas. They alleged that these people took side with Mangal Bagh against their own tribe of Zakha Khel, local sources said. The Zakha Khel tribe elders have also alleged that the L.I. commander “Khan” is involved in the murder of Maulana Hashim Khan who was a pious religious scholar. They further added that L.I. Ameer Mangal Bagh was not justified in kidnapping former Zakha Khel commander Ghuncha Gul Afridi, which led to the emergence of a new pro government militant group led by Toti Khan and Sheerin Khan Zakha Khel.
The Zakha Khel tribesmen have also blocked the roads leading to Tirrah Valley where the bases of L.I. are located but they are in an ode situation due to shortage of edibles etc, a local person disclosed. It was also learnt that some armed persons from Malik Deen Khel tribe in Bara have also left for Bazaar Zakha Khel to support the opposition of LI. The deserted and prominent L.I. militant commanders such as Mesri Gul, currently in the custody of forces in Peshawar, Tayib Afridi and others have joined the Zakha Khel tribe Lashker. However, these shifts in loyalties could not be ascertained from independent sources. It is feared that casualties could be multiplied if the battle continues in the area. Both warring factions have also made hostage many persons of each other including the L.I. chief son. But one thing is obvious that L.I. fighters have been pushed out of most of the areas of Zakha Khel tribe.
Now Janda Khel tribe has also agreed to form an armed peace Lashker to establish peace. Janda Khel, a sub-tribe of Malik Deeen Khel at Kata Koshta in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency, has principally agreed to form an armed Lashker of their volunteers to purge their territory of all anti-state and anti government elements in the best interests of the country and their tribe. This is the second ever pro-government tribal Lashker in Khyber Agency that has been formed following the formation of Zakha Khel tribe Lashker that was organized some three months ago.
Malikzada Hazrat Wali Janda Khel, while informing this correspondent on phone, disclosed that their tribe’s elders are united on the early formation of a peace Lashker consisting of 90 persons for the time being in order to wipe out extremists from their areas such as Kata Koshta and Chora. Malik Isa Khan and Malik Muhammad Hussain Afridi will have to lead this peace Lashker of Janda Khel tribe, Hazrat Wali informed. He also divulged that their elders had held important meetings with FC authorities and officials of political administration in this respect to move ahead for the establishment of peace and tranquility in their areas.
The designated leader of Janda Khel peace Lashker Malik Isa Khan has also confirmed the formation of Lashker to push out extremists and terrorists from their region. Our Lashker will serve notices on the alleged militants to leave the area otherwise the Janda Khel peace Lashker will begin their offensive against them, Lashker designate leader elaborated. He also said they had sought assistance of the government to strengthen their peace initiative so that they could better perform their territorial responsibility for peace.
It is pertinent to mention here that Zakha Khel tribe has set a precedent by forming a peace Lashker against the militants in the far-flung Zakha Khel Tirrah Valley to create peace and pave the way for durable development to put their backward areas on the path of sustainable development and bring prosperity to their poor people.
After getting roots and overwhelming power in the Bara sub-division of Khyber and, the Lashker-e-Islam (LI) chief Mangal Bagh and Mufti Munir Shakir sought approval of the Afridi Shoora to move towards Gagrina, the stronghold and headquarters of Zakha Khel tribe, where the Zakha Khel tribe under the leadership of Ghuncha Gul, currently in the custody of Mangal Bagh, favoured the L.I. 28 points manifesto regarding the elimination of vices and upholding the virtues and publicly pledged that Zakha Khel tribe as a whole would support the L.I. in his ostensibly religious movement. However, a local religious scholar known as Maulana Fazle Haq rejected this 28 points agenda by saying that LI chief has a covert agenda to spoil the peaceful environment of the area. Later his son, who was also a religious scholar, was shot dead by unknown armed persons in Bara, which is located under the nose of district Peshawar. Consequently the banned L.I., which is currently enjoying the covert support of government, started summoning people having opposite views to accept the L.I. agenda otherwise they will be sent to their private jails. Thus in a short period the L.I. overpowered its opposition in Landikotal besides Bara, Khyber Agency. This was the time when the L.I. commanders with the assent of Mangal Bagh tried to spread their network and influence.
In the meanwhile the L.I. commanders have filled their private illicit jails with innocent people to extract money from them to meet their expanses. This norm of abducting people for ransom proved a fruitful business for L.I. in Khyber agency, which gradually detracted the common laymen to express any sympathies with the outlawed militant group. Kidnapping is on the rise in Khyber agency where three to four such cases are daily observed. This has angered the local, fumed the media and embarrassed the political administration but so far no positive signs are visible. In totality the milieu is scary in Khyber agency due to continuous violence.
It is to be noted that Khyber Agency was an abode of peace and tranquility in the past before the 9/11 and the crime ratio of each tribal agency was pretty less than the crime ratio in the other districts of KPK and other parts of Pakistan. Before 2003 there was no militancy or insurgency in the entire Khyber Agency, but when the then Corps Commander Peshawar Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, a tribal army general, deployed army in every nook and cranny of tribal areas, the security and law and order situation became fragile. The extremist elements availed this situation and gradually swayed over the whole Khyber. So the terror related activities of Lashker-e-Islam reached extreme point and the national and international media focused on such activities and highlighted them, which compelled the government to order the forces to bring an end to the movements of L.I. in Khyber agency.
The first ever pro-government Lashker emerged from Tirrah side under the leadership of Mehboob Ul Haq, which is known as Ansar ul Islam. This Lashker was sponsored by the political administration to stop the inflow of L.I. volunteers into Tirrah Valley to restrict it to Bara sub-division of Khyber agency. This led to a series of skirmish between the two groups that resulted in the killing of hundred of their men and thousands other sustained minor and serious injuries from both sides. Now Ansar ul Islam has been fighting against the L.I. from Tirrah Maidan sides whereas the Zakha Khel tribe Lashker has cleared their own areas of L.I. men. In the meanwhile security forces have time and again pounded the suspected hideouts of L.I. in Bara and Tirrah side to dismantle its network to restore writ of the government. It was also a government policy to counter the insurgency with the help of the tribal armed Lashkers both in the Fata and the KPK. As we have seen that Adezai and Matani peace Lashkers waged their war against the TTP and the Lashker-e-Islam to stop their incursions into their respective areas around the city of Peshawar. Those pro government Lashkers and their leaders paid a high price with their lives as the TTP and LI carried out suicide attacks against them.
This is to remember that government and security forces have sponsored peace tribal Lashkers in Bajaur Agency at Salarzai and Mamoond tribes which has also lost so many of their volunteers and top leaders while fighting against the banned TTP. However, this is also a fact to mention that security forces along with the peace tribal Lashkers have been successful in Bajaur Agency to wipe out terrorists from their regions. That is why the TTP affiliated militants have taken refuge in the Kunar province of Afghanistan to make it a launching pad for attacks against the Pakistani security forces and peace Lashkers. During the intense military offensive in Bajaur more than 0.3 million people migrated from the restive Bajaur agency to reside in the settled districts of KPK. Most of them were accommodated in Jalozai and Regi Lalma refugee camp for more than one year where they passed a very miserable life. Similarly 70 thousand residents of Bara have left their area during the military offensive and were settled in Peshawar Jalozai camp where they are still living because the military operation in Bara is still going on against the Lashker-e-Islam and other militant groups. The forces have imposed curfew in Barra for the last two years due to which the locals have been suffering a lot as their schools and markets are closed since that time. The infrastructure is destroyed in the whole of Fata, which have created big problems to the local dwellers.
We still remember the fate of the tribal elders and jirga. Many of these Jirgas were hit with suicide blasts. One such incident happened in Dara Adam Khel where suicide bomber perished more than seventy tribal elders in a Jirga. That jirga of Dara Adam Khel was about to form a peace Lashker that is why the jirga could not be given any chance to finalize the Lashker against TTP in Dara Adam Khel. The Pakistan’s religious and political leadership particularly Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehreek-e-Insaf led by Imran Khan and JUI-F led by Maulana Fazal ur Rehman have occasionally criticized government for making tribal peace Lashkers in Fata and have said that these pro government peace Lashkers have been put at risk. These parties are of the view that government wants to let the Taliban and the tribal peace Lashkers fight against each other and shed each other blood so that they could be kept divided to be ruled easily to continue the so-called war on terror. The leadership of these political parties is also of the view that terrorism and extremism in Fata could be brought to end only if the government parts ways with NATO led alliance against the Muslims in Afghanistan in Fata. This is in fact very hazardous for most of the tribesmen to come forward to form an armed Lashker in Fata to work against TTP or other extremists groups. Most of the people in tribal areas don’t believe the government and security forces that they would assist them in time of need that is why they hesitate from forming any Lashkers. Majority of the tribal Maliks and elders have gone underground due to fear of militant and they can’t dare to re-appear to resist against the militants on the directives of the political administration or security forces. Security forces are also seen keen and serious now to crush the militants to restore government writ throughout the Fata to start mega development projects as the army has already begun some of the projects in South Waziristan agency to address the grievances of the tribesmen regarding their backwardness. However, it will take time to establish complete peace in the restive tribal areas and one cannot believe it to be materialized until the US led NATO forces have left Afghanistan.