Tribal Elders Pledge Conditional Support To Pakistan Army

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Tribal elders from North and South Waziristan have expressed their readiness to fight alongside the armed forces against the militants if they are taken into confidence prior to the likely operation in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA).

Representatives of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) first met with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan at his party’s central secretariat and later held a detailed session on Saturday night at the residence of Dost Muhammad Khan Mehsud. The deliberations were followed by a sumptuous dinner.

Elders from tribes, including Wazir and Mehsud, shared complete consensus that there were militant elements, particularly in North Waziristan, who needed to be flushed out, but the military should take them on board prior to any action against them.

Those who attended the gathering included Ayub Gul Mehsud, Jehanzeb Burki, Ali Saeed Ahmad, Ali Ameer Gandapur, Qamar Zaman Burki, Taimoor Wazir, Saad Wazir and Niaz Ali Khan.

During the interaction with tribal elders, it was evident that they were concerned about the presence of militants, but were equally perturbed over the proposed military operation without any consultation with them. “If you want to win the war against the militants, first disengage yourself from the American war and afterwards hold talks with the tribal people. Without taking these people into confidence, you cannot win the war,” said Imran Khan, while talking to The News at the venue.

He said the militants would manage to win sympathies of locals by posing themselves as Mujahideen, in case the military went into North Waziristan and ignored the local people there. “What has Pakistan achieved by siding with the Americans in the anti-terrorism war?” Imran asked, adding that criminal elements were exploiting the situation. “The only way out for us is to get out of somebody else’s war,” he added.

Imran said he strongly believed that once Pakistan announced quitting the US-led war, there would be an end to Jihad and it would also isolate hardcore terrorists from those who genuinely wanted to eschew violence. He said it was possible for the army to dissociate itself from the US-led war, and it was the job of the government to take an initiative on this count.

To a question, Imran claimed everybody, including the rulers, had ‘benefited’ from the ongoing so-called war against terrorism.Khumar Khan, a former bureaucrat from Fata, said he believed that locals were opposed to criminals, but equally averse to the way the military wanted to fight against them. He said the impending operation would yield results only after the locals were taken on board.

“Russia had to go back, and now the US and its allies are preparing to leave Afghanistan in humiliation. They have the military might, but did not enjoy the support of the local population. The same approach applies to tribal areas; you cannot prevail unless and until locals are aligned with you,” he added.

Abdul Qayyum Khan, a former minister of state for Frontier Regions and a resident of South Waziristan, said the military was not in favour of another operation in Waziristan according to his understanding, but was being apparently forced to go for it. The former minister said the civilian government should also take an initiative through parliament to find a solution through talks.

Dost Muhammad, who will contest the next general elections from NA-42 (the constituency got no representation in the National Assembly in 2008 because voting could not be held there due to the poor law and order situation) said the gathering condemned the likely action in North Waziristan. He said the forum warned of dire consequences if the army launched an operation keeping the locals in the dark about it.

Dost was made the chairman of a 10-member committee that will make preparations for the PTI’s peace caravan to North Waziristan on September 23. Expenses are being arranged on a self-help basis.

About the caravan, Dost Muhammad said in addition to the wives of victims of US drone attacks, members of the European Parliament, who are opposed to the strikes, would also be a part of the caravan as well as local and foreign media persons.

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