Tribal elders tell US only talks can end militancy
By Javed Afridi, The News, March 27, 2008
PESHAWAR: Elders of the Khyber Tribal Agency on Wednesday urged the US administration to stop seeking military solution to militancy in the tribal areas and suggested adopting traditional means of Jirga to end the resistance. A group of 11 tribal elders led by Malik Darya Khan met US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher in Landikotal Cantonment. They told the US officials that the centuries-old Jirga system was still effective in the tribal territory, which provided remedy for every trouble, including the scourge of terrorism.
The meeting was held in a highly guarded environment and mediapersons were denied access to the venue. Later, talking to The News by phone, Malik Darya Khan said the top US officials were apprised of tribesmen apprehensions about, what he termed as, mishandling of the affairs in the tribal region. "There is a difference between terrorism and reaction to what a community considered injustice," he said.
He said that while the former was condemnable in all its forms and manifestations, the latter could only be resolved through dialogue. "The developments taking place for the last many years are by no means acts of terrorism but a reaction to what the tribesmen considered disproportionate to their customs and traditions," he said.
The tribal elder said tribesmen were peace-loving and responsible people and knew their limitation, but at the same time, they had every right to defend their ideologies and traditional norms, especially when they were not hurting anyone.
"We told the US officials that the people of Fata had valiantly defended their borders during the decade-long invasion of Afghanistan by the defunct USSR and the same would be done, come what may, in the future as well," he resolved.
The elder said that the last time, the US deputy secretary of state paid a visit to Landikotal, there was a dictatorial rule in the country and an individual was calling the shots. "Now, we have a representative parliament installed, it is a good omen for this area that the officials visited us," he said.
The tribal leader said now the Parliament with the consultation of the local representative Jirga would decide the future line of action and seek US help for the same. Another tribal elder and former federal minister Malik Waris Khan, who termed the meeting informal and incidental, said the US deputy secretary of state was told that the issue of terrorism in the tribal areas remained unresolved because the same was being handled by people not familiar with the norms and traditions of the local people.
Waris said the issue could best be resolved by involving the local tribal elders in the negotiation process. He, however, said that the same could only succeed if the future Jirga was independent to take and implement its decisions.
He said that all the tribal elders present on the occasion stressed the need for US help in economic uplift of the tribal areas, which they believed would have a direct effect on the law and order situation in the area. The former minister said the US officials pledged to take every possible step in this regard and vowed to work for poverty alleviation in Fata.
Earlier, Negroponte and Boucher also met Commandant Frontier Corps (FC) Col Qaisar Alam and discussed with him matters of mutual interests. Afghan officials were also present in the meeting. According to reports, border security and smooth supply of goods intended for allied forces stationed in Afghanistan was discussed in the meeting.
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