Return of the Militants in Bajaur Agency (FATA)

Bajaur - return of the militant
The News, June 04, 2009
A Pakistani

Bajaur Agency is home to TTP-allied militant commanders like Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, Said Muhammad alias Maulvi Umar, Jan Wali alias Sheena, Inayatur Rehman and Wali Rehman. Bajaur also happens to be the linking ground between the Baitullah-led tribal militants and Fazlullah-led Swat militants. Militants started their activities in Bajaur in 2005 and by the summer of 2008 they were in control of almost the entire agency.

The army launched a full-fledged military operation in the agency in August 2008. In support of the army, the tribesmen formed armed lashkars in Salarzai, Barang and Utmankhel tehsils. By March 2009 Utmankhel and Barang tehsils were completely cleared of militants.

Most parts of Salarzai tehsil (except Mandal), Khar tehsil (except the Tangi/Gang area) and Nawagai tehsil (except Charmang) were also cleared. The army was planning a final assault on Mamund tehsil, Charmang and Tangi/Gang areas and the tribesmen were expecting the army to crush the militants once and for all. However, seeing imminent defeat, the militants used their most successful battle tactic so far -- calling a unilateral ceasefire. To the disappointment of the tribesmen, the army fell into the militant's trap and a so-called peace accord was signed and the operation was halted.

This came as a blessing for the militants who regrouped and inducted fresh recruits into their ranks. Three months on and the militants are back in full swing. Proof of this comes from the following recent developments: militants have established checkpoints in Umaray, Damadola, Seway, Badan and Kamar areas of Mamund tehsil and almost all areas of Charmang. They are also conducting snap checking of vehicles in the Tangi/Gang and Mandal areas. Armed militants patrol all these areas and even the areas of Sheikh Baba, Babar Shah, Shago and Lashora in the agency headquarters of Khar. FM radio stations run by militants are still airing propaganda against Pakistan and the army. They are also issuing threatening decrees against the people who sided with the army in the operation. The militants have declared CNICs as un-Islamic and have threatened to kill women who apply for CNICs. Kidnappings and beheadings have again started in the agency and the Salarzai lashkar's headquarters in Pashat has been attacked several times by the militants.

Malik Munir of Mamund lashkar, Malik Kamal Khan of Salarzai lashkar and many elders of Mandal lashkar have been target-killed in Khar. Ears of four members of the peace committee in Khar village were chopped off by the militants. During the most recent polio campaign -- which took place just a week ago -- the militants severely beat up polio teams in Tangi, Maminzo, Babar Shah and Faja areas of Khar, all within one kilometre of the local FC headquarters. Armed militants beat up people at the Post Office in Khar Bazaar because they applied for the government assistance under the BISP scheme. The Post Office is a stone's throw from the heavily guarded office of the Commander Bajaur Levies. Seeing this situation, ordinary tribesmen are losing confidence in the government and security forces. They want a final, decisive action against the militants in Mamund, Charmang, Mandal and Tangi/Gang areas before it is too late. They wonder if the situation can be controlled with a bullet today why go for a magazine a few months later.

The writer is a native of Bajaur who works in Islamabad.

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