ISLAMABAD - Staying dormant for over a year, the military-backed tribal militias have got revived in parts of the militancy-infected Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to combat militancy with 'community participation' approach, it is learnt.
Renamed as peace committees, the tribal militias are to be scaled up phase-wise with the involvement of the local communities comprising the ethnic tribes against the homegrown militants as well as those targeting the security forces from across the border.
Initially, nine peace committees, six in Kurram and three in Khyber Agency have been formed with the military's direct support, according to an informed intelligence source. In separate conversations with this scribe, Mutahir Zeb Khan, Riaz Mehsud and Abdul Jabbar Shah, the Political Agents of Khyber, Kurram and Bajaur Agencies, confirmed the peace committees revival.
"The peace committees are made functional in two agencies (Khyber and Kurram). This would be followed in Bajaur Agency at a later stage," Bajaur Agency's PA Jabbar Shah said.
In addition, according to the intelligence source, the effective response put up by security forces against the militants in Maidan (Khyber Agency) became possible due to close coordination between the local tribesmen and the military authorities. "The peace committees have played a vital role in this regard. These committees are comprised of local tribal influential who were instrumental in identifying the militants hideouts in Friday operation," he said. Some 40 militants were reportedly killed in clashes with the security forces in Maidan on Friday as the military secured the upper areas of the remote village. In Khyber Agency, the intelligence official said, the peace committees' formation is mainly aimed at countering two militant groups, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Ansar-ul-Islam.
"This is being done using the local population's help through community participation approach."
Led by Ikramullah Jan Afridi, Amin Zada Afridi and Tariq Gul Afridi, the Khyber Agency peace committees are currently working on wooing back the support of those of their co-tribesmen who have joined hands with Afghan militants. Dozens of Afridi tribe members last week had crossed the border to enter into Afghanistan's Nangarhar province and sought protection of the local militant groups against what they alleged were the 'injustices' meted out at them in Pakistani part of the border. The Khyber Agency's PA sounded hopeful about their return. "Our brothers are seriously misled and misguided. We hope they'll be back soon," Mutahir Zeb Khan told The Nation saying that the efforts were on in this regard.
He said that the military and government officials had assured the peace committees' members' foolproof security and safety to their lives and properties. "The locals had certain reservations considering the fatal attacks waged on the members of pro-government tribal militias in the past. We've addressed their reservations. God willing, the committees would be spread to different parts across FATA in the coming times," he said.
In Kurram Agency, the six peace committees are respectively led by Ghulam Said Chamkani, Hayat Khan Chamkani, Hafizullah, Haji Saeed, Anwar Khan and Gulab Gulbahar Khan.
The Kurram Agency PA Riaz Mehsud said, the peace committees' formation has been prioritised in the Kurram and Khyber Agencies considering the 'nature of urgency' in these areas.
"You have to understand the nature of urgency. These two agencies have lately been worst infected by the militancy. It's because of the effective coordination between military and civilian security apparatuses and the local population that the militants from these areas have either been crushed or repulsed," he said.
Ghulam Khan Chamkani linked the peace committees' success to the continuous support and protection from the military and government. "The peace committees could pose a befitting response to the militants provided that they are not ditched like past," he said adding that the tribal militia leaders were targeted in the past that created feared in the local population.
"There was no let-up in the killings of our men. These kinds of fears come out of our genuine concerns. They need to be taken care of," he said while talking to this correspondent by phone.
Previously known as peace lashkars, the military-backed tribal militias were strengthened in FATA to tackle the cross-border attacks from Afghan side, in summer 2011. However, in the wake of deadly attacks on the peace lashkar members, these militias gradually started vanishing during the last year with several lashkar leaders, mostly the tribal chieftains, slain in militants-waged suicide and hit-and-run attempts.