PESHAWAR - With the intervention of the grand tribal Jirga of Utmanzai elders of North Waziristan, Militants Commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur on Monday extended the ceasefire deadline until June 20 he had signed with the government of Pakistan in 2007.

Hafiz Gul Bahadur-led militants had asked the tribesmen of North Waziristan to leave their homes before June 10 to avert an expected military offensive in the area. The militants had warned to carry arms against the government as the latter had violated the non-aggression treaty signed with them in 2007.

On Friday last (May 6) 65-member Jirga of Utmanzai elders, headed by Haji Sher Muhammad Khan, the grandson of legendary freedom fighter Faqir Ipi, met Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt-Gen Khalid Rabbani in the provincial capital of the province and discussed the law and order situation of North Waziristan. The jirga was asked to oust the foreign militants and ‘bad Taliban’ from North Waziristan and work for the restoration of peace to the tribal agency.

After returning to North Waziristan, the jirga on Monday started meeting different militant commanders and tribal elders in the area. The jirga held a meeting with Shura-e-Mujahideen of Hafiz Gul Bahadur and discussed the recent developments.

“The elders of Utmanzai tribes and Shura-e-Mujahideen have held a meeting,” confirmed Ahmadullah Ahmadi, the spokesperson for Hafiz Gul Bahadur. He said, “The mujahedeen, on the request of the jirga, have extended the deadline for 10 days.”

The jirga also held a meeting with the elders of Mosakki, a subsection of Dawar tribe in Mir Ali. Mosakki tribe owns the property of Mir Ali Bazaar. Their businesses were completely destroyed during the recent shelling of security forces on the hideouts of suspected militants. “The Jirga asked the elders of Mosakki tribe to help oust the foreign and non-local militants of the area and also assured the affected tribes of compensation,” said a source in political administration on phone.

Surrounded by uncertainty and fear, the locals are pinning their hopes on the jirga of Utmanzai elders to pull them out of trouble. “Grand jirga is one of the most important and widely discussed topics amongst the locals. The tribesmen are optimistic that the jirga can restore peace to the area,” said Raham Dawar who hails from Mir Ali. “The common tribesmen are fed up with the fighting between the security forces and militants and want to live peacefully,” he said.

Since May 22 when the fighters of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) targeted the suspected hideouts of militants in Miran Shah and Mir Ali, the areas of Dawar tribesmen, locals started vacating their homes. Dawar tribesmen are accused of sheltering Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants and other non-local militants. In addition, the announcement of militants also prompted some tribesmen to leave their homes. Initially, the migration of people was high, but it decreased with the passage of time.

According to the data collected from multiple sources, around 50,000 tribesmen out of the total population of 840,000 have left North Waziristan for safer places. The exodus of people was witnessed in Miranshah and Mir Ali while life is going on as normal in rest of the eight tehsils of the tribal agency. However, fear of a military operation can be felt all around the tribal agency.

An official of the Bannu district administration said around 39,602 tribesmen had entered Khyber Pakhtunkhwa via the city. “These people include 8,196 men, 18,721 women and 12,685 children,” said the official.

Apart from Bannu, around 9,000 tribesmen have used Mir Ali-Thal route to reach Hangu, Kohat, Karak, Peshawar and other areas. Many families have also migrated to Khost in Afghanistan.

Miranshah and Mir Ali are the business hubs of North Waziristan, so unrest here usually affects the entire tribal agency. Apart from the business activities, all the important offices, educational institutions, hospitals and bus terminals are located here.

“Only Dawar tribesmen are in trouble; the Wazir-dominated areas are peaceful and clam,” said Kifayat Dawar, a businessman of Mir Ali who has shifted to Peshawar. The eight tehsils, Spinwam, Shawa, Ghulam Khan, Razmak, Datta Khel, Boya, Garyum and Shawal, are occupied by Utmanzai Wazir. Majority of Wazir tribe is living in thinly populated mountainous areas of the agency.

Jamal Khan, another local businessman, said that reasons behind the migration of locals were the shelling of PAF fighters and longstanding curfew in the area while the tribesmen did not take the warning of Hafiz Gul Bahadur seriously. Businesses in the Dawar-dominated areas of the agency stand destroyed. “Building a business is a time-consuming process. We lost our established businesses in Mir Ali Bazaar. Instead of restoring their businesses with new investments, we will set up new businesses out of the troubled area,” he said.

The writer is a freelance contributor