Two reports: The first one by BBC Urdu’s Abdul Haye Kakar, in which he reports that the extremists destroyed a control room built in the Kohat Tunnel, and on the walls graffiti read: ‘Long Live Sipah-i-Sahaba’ and ‘Long Live Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.’
In the second analysis, Adnan Adil notes that militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiaba (kashmiri jihadi group), Jaish-e-Muhammad (Kashmiri-oriented jihadi group) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (anti-Shia sectarian militant organization), are very active around Peshawar and Kohat district, especially in areas close to the Kohat-Rawalpindi Highway.
Dara Adam Khel – a long battle ahead
Notwithstanding the immediate calm restored in Pakistan’s arms bazaar, it is likely to remain a battleground between the extremists and Pakistani armed forces. The region has a history and there is more to it what meets the eyes.
___ by Adnan Adil
Dara Adam Khel, the abode of Afridi Pathans and arms bazaar of Pakistan, has calmed down on Monday after three days of clashes between Taliban-al-Qaeda militants and the Pakistan Army. The militants have retreated from key positions around the Kohat Tunnel which they had occupied six days ago closing the Indus highway for transport.
Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the other day the army was in control of the area, adding that the tunnel would be opened to traffic in the next two to three days. An Islamabad bomb disposal squad visited the Kohat Tunnel and declared it safe for use.
However, the army spokesman admitted said the ammunition trucks seized by the militants had not been recovered yet. He said security personnel had been instructed to avoid targeting suspected Taliban positions located close to civilian populations. The local people say hardcore militants were now leaving Dara Adam Khel, Swat and Waziristan for Bajaur.
Notwithstanding the immediate calm restored, Darra Adam Khel is likely to remain a battleground between the extremists or so-called al-Qaeda-Taliban activists and Pakistan’s armed forces. The region has a history and there is more to it what meets the eyes.
Dara Adam Khel, has been the hub of Taliban activities for last one year. The local militants used to call them Islami Taliban as against Tehreek-i-Taliban (the movement of Taliban) led by Baitullah Mehsood.
Dara is situated between Peshawar and Kohat and the sub-clan Adam Khel belonging to Afridi tribe lives in this region. More than 3500 expert arms manufacturer work in the arms’ manufacturing factories in the area. There are five large arms factories and more than 2500 shops that sell weapons. More than 10,000 people in the area are associated with the arms’ businesses in Darra.
Since 2005, Darra became centre of militants’ activities. Harkatul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayiaba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the ‘Muslim United Army International’ and the local Taliban were operating from there.
In last one year, however, the militants (al-Qaeda-Taliban) stepped up their operations in the region and have been attacking shops selling CDs, barbers that would shave beards. They would send warning letters to get the girls’ schools shut down and established their own courts to dispense justice.
A few months ago, the militants had taken action against an alleged criminal gang that resulted in the death of 27 people. The heavily armed Taliban could be seen roaming their jeeps all over the area.
The militants had set up around several training camps in the area where foreign militants were imparting training to members of local Taliban. In Dara, basic military training is imparted, and they send potential suicide bombers to South Waziristan for a further advanced training.
The militants were using Dara Adam Khel as their staging ground to carry out attacks and explosions elsewhere in the country such as Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar. They were closely connected with the Waziristan’s militants who would frequently visit the area.
Dara’s Taliban are known for being staunchly anti-Shia. Locals say in Darra Adam Khel, there is a complete ban on the sale of weapons to Shia people. In recent days, when there was sectarian tension in the Kurram Agency, Dara’s Taliban killed three people on the suspicion of being Shia. BBC correspondent Abdul Hayee Hakar visiting Kohat tunnel at the time of Taliban’s occupation of it said in his eyewitness report that Taliban had destroyed a control room built there and on the walls graffiti read: ‘Long Live Sipah-i-Sahaba’ and ‘Long Live Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.’
Militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiaba (kashmiri jihadi group), Jaish-e-Muhammad (Kashmiri-oriented jihadi group) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (anti-Shia sectarian militant organization), are very active around Peshawar and Kohat district, especially in areas close to the Kohat-Rawalpindi Highway.
The leaders of Taliban of Dara, including Mufti Ilyas, Khalid Khan and Tariq Khan, are said to have close connections with anti-Shia militant organisation, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. Qari Zafar, the head of the Lashkar, is residing in South Waziristan these days.
But the government remained silent spectator to all these happenings in Dara Adam Khel until last week when the militants abducted four military vehicles carrying arms and ammunitions.
In fact, Dara Adam Khel is just a part of the territory controlled by the Tehreek-i-Taliban led by Baitullah Mehsud in Pakistan’s north-western region. Because of Mehsud’s personal allegiance, Afghanistan’s former ruler Mullah Muhammad Umar leads the Taliban on both sides of the Durand Line.
For centuries, Darra Adam Khel has been a major source of supplying arms to Pakistan’s settled areas; there are organized networks that supply weapons to the people in other parts of the country for a handsome price. This arms market has been one major reason of spreading violence in the country. In the 1980s, the Afghan mujahideen used to buy weapons from this bazaar. At that time, the government had patronized the arms manufacturers to improve their technology to fight war against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
Despite government’s tall claims to cleanse the country of illegal arms and ammunition, it has never tried to stop this illegal business thriving in Dara Adam Khel. Now when the Taliban took over this region and used it to attack the military, the forces came into action.
What is significant is how long they remain active and what is the nature of this engagement. If after a brief crackdown, the forces pull out in short term, it could prove catastrophic. Only a long-term operation and intervention in Dara Adam Khel to shut down the arms’ business and provide local people alternative means of living may yield positive results.