Ali Khel, where Sunnis and Shias were massacred by TTP-LeJ-SSP proxies – by Farhat Taj

Farha Taj’s article in Daily Times today is a challenge to those who project Pashtuns = Taliban and those who project TTP-LeJ-SSP = Sunnis. The article shows that Pakistani Shias & Sunnis, Pakhtuns & non-Pakhtuns are a victim of the ISI-LeJ-TTP mafia.

Here is a list of related posts:

Sectarian and Talibanic dimensions of the Orakzai Operation – by Asad Munir

Farhat Taj’s rebuttal to Ejaz Haider’s misleading information on Taliban

Pakistan not a safe heaven for Anti Taliban – by Farhat Taj

ISI is using tribal Shias as cannon-fodder to fight the Taliban menace

Is the military cheating Orakzais? by Farhat Taj (Sep 2010)

Taliban are not a unified group. It is an umbrella of sectarian terrorists, global jihadis and criminals.

Abandoned Patriots – by Imran Khan

Local action against Taliban: ‘Outsiders’ banned in Orakzai (October 2008)

Ali Khels: the state apathy continues — by Farhat Taj

October 10, 2011 was the third anniversary of the devastating suicide attack on a grand tribal jirga in Orakzai that killed the entire Sunni-Shia tribal leadership of the Ali Khel tribe, the biggest tribe in Orakzai. The jirga was leading an anti-Taliban lashkar (militia) against the Taliban in the Ali Khel area — Tirah in Orakzai. Faced with growing Taliban atrocities and lack of state protection despite the repeated requests to the government of Pakistan, the Ali Khels were forced to take up weapons against the Taliban.

The Taliban militants who came to the Ali Khel area around early 2008 initially committed atrocities against the Shia Ali Khels and those Sunnis who defied the Taliban’s social boycott of the Shias. In response, the minority Shia section of the tribe requested the majority Sunni section of the tribe to support them against the Taliban. The Sunni Ali Khel section, already alarmed by the growing highhandedness of the Taliban, decided to protect the Shias by removing the Taliban from their area through force following the government of Pakistan’s reluctance to take action against the Taliban.

An anti-Taliban lashkar consisting of over 2,000 Shia and Sunni Ali Khel tribesmen was created. Within weeks the lashkar burnt down Taliban centres in the Ali Khel area, killed several Taliban fighters and the remaining Taliban militants ran away like cowards. A grand Shia-Sunni Ali Khel jirga consisting of over 5,000 confident tribesmen was convened to decide the fate of the Ali Khel boys who had joined the Taliban, but now had surrendered themselves to the mercy of the jirga. In the meanwhile, a Taliban vehicle loaded with 150 kilos of explosive material rammed into the jirga gathering and instantly killed over 100 Ali Khel tribal leaders of various socio-political stature, along with tens of other tribesmen, and injured hundreds.

Through their anti-Taliban resistance the Ali Khel raised themselves above the Shia-Sunni differences that the Taliban wanted to create among them. Collectively, they rejected the notion of a Muslim order led by Sunni extremists. The Ali Khel tribe is supposed to be about 40,000. Assume that 50 percent of the population, i.e. 20,000, is female, who do not participate in public affairs like this jirga, a natural outcome of the archaic order codified and imposed by the state on the tribal population rather than something essentially gender discriminatory in the tribal culture — a misleading view that most FATA ‘experts’ would like the world to believe. Keep aside the male elderly, children and labour migrants, the remaining population out of the 20,000 male inhabitants of Orakzai, would be around 5,000, the same number of people who participated in the grand jirga that was destroyed in the suicide bombing. This implies that all those Ali Khel people whose views form public opinion in their area had supported the anti-Taliban struggle. Moreover, Ali Khel women, although not part of the public anti-Taliban initiatives, are as much anti-Taliban as their male counterparts. I have yet to see any Ali Khel woman who expresses sympathies with the Taliban or their cause. Thus the Al Khels displayed a truly popular tribal backlash against the Taliban.

The government of Pakistan provided no security to the Ali Khels even in the aftermath of the jirga tragedy despite passionate requests by the tribe, especially the security over the roads leading to the Ali Khel area to ensure that no more suicide bomber-driven vehicles laden with explosive material enter the area. The request squarely falls within the FCR law whereby the government of Pakistan is responsible for security of the roads. The request was never entertained, which made it clear beyond all doubt to the Ali Khels that the state is in collusion with the Taliban and the intelligence establishment of Pakistan, which controls FATA, would prefer the Ali Khels to be slaughtered to the last man if they continued to resist the Taliban. This broke the Ali Khel resistance against the Taliban since it was obvious that the poor tribe was no match for the collective might of the Taliban and their state handlers.

The Ali Khels, like tribesmen in the rest of FATA, are strictly supposed in the strategic depth policy to be the angry Pakistani Pakhtun who have become Taliban militants in response to the Pakistani state alliance with the US in the war on terror and the US presence in Afghanistan, thus providing the Pakistani state the plausible deniability of its double role as an enemy as well as an ally in the war n terror, i.e. it is the ‘fiercely autonomous’ tribal population rather than the state that is running the militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The tribesmen are thus not supposed to take up weapons against the Taliban, kill them and burn the Taliban centres. But the Ali Khel did just that and they had to be severely punished for that. The punishment was the destruction of the Ali Khel tribal leadership and the displacement of the entire tribe in the sham army operation that was later started in the area and to this date has not been ‘able’ to ‘clear’ the area of the Taliban.

Today the Ali Khels continue to live as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in many parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They, along with other FATA IDPs, have largely been left to the aid organisations for survival. Many of their children, who were in schools in Orakzai, stand deprived of education. They cannot even publicly mark the third anniversary of the jirga tragedy for two reasons: one, they are scattered as IDPs and two, a public marking of the tragedy might invite more suicide attacks.

To add insult to the injuries of the Ali Khels (as well as other FATA tribesmen) the political and military leadership of Pakistan decided in the recently held All-Parties Conference (APC), convened in the context of the US pressure on Pakistan on the issue of the Haqqani Taliban, “to give peace a chance by holding dialogue with our own people- the Taliban”! Without any sense of responsibility towards their people, the leaders lied to the world, especially the US, that the Taliban are ‘our own’ people while ignoring the popular resentment against the Taliban in FATA. One wonders, could the Pakistani leaders look into the eyes of the Ali Khels and say that the ‘Taliban are our own people’? But they can! They have the power to do so and the Ali Khels are overpowered people whose lives do not matter at all, especially when they have shown so much anti-Taliban resistance.

The writer is the author of Taliban and Anti-Taliban\10\15\story_15-10-2011_pg3_4

7 responses to “Ali Khel, where Sunnis and Shias were massacred by TTP-LeJ-SSP proxies – by Farhat Taj”

  1. Poor tribes at the mercy of ruthless Taliban
    Last updated on: March 10, 2011 12:42 IST
    this Ask
    Users Write a
    Comment Print this

    Tahir Ali
    The impoverished tribesmen in Pakistan’s lawless areas have borne the brunt of the government’s attempts to combat militancy, says Tahir Ali

    The Pakistan government, which receives massive monetary assistance from the United States, has repeatedly launched military operations in its tribal areas to flush out Taliban militants. The government has also formed Lashkars (militia forces comprising local tribesmen) and provided them with arms to fight Taliban militants.

    Retaliating violently against these militiamen, Taliban militants have attacked their public gatherings like jirgas (meeting of tribal elders), marriages and funerals.

    In the wake of such terror strikes, all the government does is issue a statement condemning the attack, declaring ‘no one would be allowed to disturb peace in these areas’.

    While targeting a public gathering, the ruthless Taliban militants don’t even care about the lives of the women and children present at the venue.

    Image: The site of a suicide bomb attack at a funeral on the outskirts of Peshawar

  2. NWFP lawmakers shut eyes to Lakki bombing

    Sunday, January 03, 2010
    By Khalid Kheshgi- The News

    PESHAWAR: Apathy of the NWFP Assembly members towards the car-bomb blast victims in Lakki Marwat could be gauged from the fact that Saturday’s session was adjourned without offering Fateha for the departed souls.

    The suicide attack on a volleyball match at Shah Hassankhel village in Lakki Marwat district killed over 100 people and was the second deadliest event in the Frontier after the Meena Bazaar car bombing but the lawmakers were more interested in their daily allowances than remembering the blast victims on the assembly floor.

    The evening session was adjourned till January 5 soon after recitation from the holy Quran when some opposition members pointed out lack of quorum.

    Elected from PF-76 Lakki Marwat, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Munawar Khan was the only lawmaker who wanted to raise the issue in the assembly but his request for taking permission from the Speaker wasn’t heard in the din created by those pointing lack of quorum in the session, which began at 4.15 pm and hardly lasted for five minutes.

    “It would be better if I had been given the chance to tell the truth about the Shah Hassankhel car bombing and offer Fateha for the victims. But perhaps my request was not heard,” he later told The News.

    Keeping in view the worst traffic jam in the Frontier metropolis during the Provincial Assembly session in the wake of security measures, the current session is being convened in the evening. No significant business was seen on December 31, the day when the session was convened, and was adjourned till Saturday. As constitutional requirement, the provincial assembly is short of 47 days to complete its parliamentary year.

    An MPA is entitled to claim daily allowance of Rs 1,000, besides accommodation and other allowances during the assembly session. As majority of the MPAs go to their respective constituencies on the weekend, so the assembly is hardly in session on Saturday and Sunday. Though the session was adjourned for lack of quorum on Saturday, a large number of the members had reached either the assembly building or were on their way to the assembly proceeding.

    Now the hurriedly-suspended session created confusion among the lawmakers whether or not those who were not present in the assembly would be entitled to daily allowances during the two-day gap in the session. An MPA from the treasury benches said that technically, the attendance register was closed after the speaker adjourned the session.


    Pakistan backlash after volleyball bombing kills 99
    By Lehaz Ali (AFP) – 4 hours ago

    PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities faced a furious backlash Sunday over security and medical failures after a suicide bomber killed 99 people at a volleyball match in one of the country’s worst attacks.

    Police rounded up dozens of suspects and authorities opened an investigation into poor medical care as the local hospital in the remote northwest struggled to treat casualties lying on the floor without enough medicine.

    The attacker rammed a car bomb into a crowd of men, women and children watching the tournament in Shah Hasan Khan village, a pro-government area in the district of Lakki Marwat, reducing the sporting event to carnage on Friday.

    Police said the death toll had risen to 99, with 87 wounded being treated, making it the third most deadly attack in a nearly three-year extremist campaign in the nuclear-armed Muslim country.

    “There was nowhere in the whole district to treat the injured…. The provincial health department is responsible for all this. Most of the people died on their way to other hospitals,” Mannawar Khan, a member of parliament from the district, told AFP.

    The health minister for North West Frontier Province conceded that only one doctor out of 10 at the hospital in Lakki Marwat had been on duty, conceding limited health care had “caused more human losses”.

    “After the blast, several hours passed but the other doctors didn’t come. I don’t know why they were missing. We have opened an inquiry and a committee has been constituted,” Syed Zahir Ali Shah told AFP.

    Survivors searched for body parts under the rubble of around 20 collapsed homes, as mourners visited the cemetery and wept over the freshly dug graves and the village plunged into mourning.

    There were scenes of chaos at the hospital in the town of Lakki Marwat, which said it was short of medicine and beds, overwhelmed with casualties.

    “Even now the injured are undergoing treatment on the hospital floor. Some have brought their own beds,” Doctor Usman Ali told AFP by telephone.

    Shopkeeper Riaz Khatok told AFP from the hospital: “My daughter died because of the poor facilities in the hospital. There was no bed, no medicine and not even the X-ray machine was working.

    “There was nowhere else in Lakki Marwat to take the wounded. Most of the dead died because of bleeding.”

    The local peace committee that organised the tournament and heads an anti-Taliban militia blamed the government for failing to prevent the attack.

    “The government didn’t provide us with any security. There were no security personnel or policemen at that time. Those policemen killed in the attack were here to see the match,” Mushtaq Ahmad, the committee’s head, told AFP.

    Suspicion has fallen on Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its allies in North Waziristan, where US drone attacks have increasingly targeted Al-Qaeda fighters and the Haqqani network, which is known for attacks in Afghanistan.

    For two months, Pakistani troops have pursued an offensive aimed at wiping out TTP hideouts in South Waziristan, sparking revenge attacks.

    “We have arrested 41 suspects and are interrogating them…. This village is adjacent to the Bhitni area of South Waziristan and the bomber came from that area,” district police chief Mohammad Ayub Khan told AFP.

    Suicide and bomb attacks blamed on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have killed more than 2,880 people in Pakistan since July 2007, increasingly targeting civilians and government security installations.

    Under huge US pressure to crack down on militants destabilising the border with Afghanistan, where 113,000 US and NATO troops are fighting the Taliban, Pakistan has launched a wave of offensives in its tribal belt.

    In the north, a roadside bomb killed two anti-Taliban militiamen and wounded four others in Khararri village in Bajaur, officials said.

    The bullet-ridden bodies of a man and woman were also found dumped on the outskirts of Khar with a letter saying: “All those who go against sharia will face the same fate, from Tehreek-e-Taliban.”

  3. Tribal militias are double-edged weapons
    Posted: October 2 2011

    September 30-October 06, 2011

    by Zia Ur Rehman

    Under fire for opposing the Taliban, tribal lashkars look up to the state for help. Weapons in civilian hands may solve some of the government’s problems, but may also create new ones

    least 45 people were killed in the September 15 suicide attack that targeted members of an anti-Taliban lashkar (militia) at a funeral in Jandol area of Dir district. On September 3, Taliban abducted 25 children from the Mamoond town in Bajaur Agency where the locals had made a lashkar. At least 56 people were killed and 123 injured in a suicide attack on a mosque during Friday prayers in Jamrud area of Khyber Agency on August 19. Most of those killed were members of the Kukikhel tribal lashkar. At least 20 members of anti-Taliban lashkars have been killed in various attacks in Khyber and Bajaur in the last two weeks.

    “We will target the weddings and funerals of anyone involved in pro-government activities or raising lashkars against us,” warned Sirajuddin, spokesman of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Malakand division.

    After several failed attempts to stem the rising militancy in the tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the government is encouraging tribesmen to form their own militias to fight the Taliban. Over the past few years, tribes have organised lashkars in Bajaur, Peshawar, Dir, Buner, Lakki Marwat, Khyber Agency and other areas with support from the government.

    In some parts of the region, the tribes have fought off the Taliban and now conduct armed patrols. Houses of Taliban members and supporters were burned down. The Taliban responded by deploying suicide bombers to assassinate tribal leaders and to inflict massive casualties on lashkar members during tribal jirgas (councils) or funerals. Hundreds of people have been killed in such attacks in the last few years.

    Lashkars have long been part of the Pashtun society in the tribal regions. Typically, they hunt down outlaws, address family feuds that go out of control, or even challenge the government on particular policies. Pakistan’s tribal areas are governed by the notorious Frontier Crimes Regulation- a set of rules introduced during the British Raj in 1901. The jirga makes decisions on local matters and uses lashkars to implement them.

    But the laskhars raised to fight the trained, resourceful and unapologetic Taliban are no traditional tribal militias. The increasing brutality of the Taliban, who abduct and murder the locals and burn down schools, has compelled the tribes to respond with an indigenous armed movement against them.

    “The government is benefiting from such lashkars in its fight against the Taliban in Swat, Buner, Dir and Peshawar areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” said a provincial minister who belongs to Swat. “Therefore, the government supports them.”

    But some tribal elders see things differently. They believe the government has failed to protect the tribesmen from the atrocities of the Taliban, after which the tribes raised lashkars to protect themselves.

    “We are not fond of violence or armed militias,” said Malik Siraj Khan, an elder of Salarzai lashkar in Bajaur. “We are only protecting ourselves because the state has failed to protect us.”

    Security experts believe the government’s decision to support a centuries-old tribal tradition that encourages civilians to take up arms could eventually lead to a civil war in the tribal areas.

    In March this year, a powerful anti-Taliban militia in Peshawar threatened to stop cooperating with state authorities after a deadly suicide bombing on a funeral killed 37 people.

    Dilawar Khan, head of a lashkhar in Matani area of Peshawar, has long demanded more money and weapons from the government. He says the government encouraged them to rise up against the militants, but did not give them the support they needed. “We are still relying on our own old-fashioned guns against the sophisticated weapons of Taliban and Al Qaeda,” said Khan.

    “Tribal lashkars are typically under-resourced, ill-trained and vulnerable to suicide attacks and targeted killings. They cannot fight with the trained, well-organised and better-armed militant groups with global links and agendas,” said Idrees Kamal, a leader of Aman Tehrik, a provincial civil society alliance. He said the locals were fighting the Taliban without support, salaries of benefits. The government, he said, should pay the lashkars the same compensation as police or paramilitary forces.

    “We have been witnessing a horrible backlash from the Taliban”, Kamal said. “They are bombing our lashkars, but our weddings, funerals, and jirgas, and beheading our families.”

    Political analyst fear anti-Taliban lashkars would increase violence and sow the seeds of unending tribal feuds which could in turn spiral out of control. “Organising private militias may have serious consequences for the state,” said Muhammad Qasim, a Peshawar-based journalist. “Too much power and weapons in civilian hands has risks,” he said. It can lead to warlordism, creating a new set of problems to replace those posed by the Taliban.”

    The writer is a journalist and a researcher who works on militancy and human rights. He can be contacted at

  4. 2008 Orakzai bombing
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Coordinates: 33.666°N 73.166°E
    10 October 2008 Orakzai bombing

    Location Orakzai Agency, Pakistan
    Date 10 October 2008 (UTC+5)
    Attack type Suicide car bomb
    Death(s) 110[1]
    Injured 200+
    The 10 October 2008 Orakzai bombing occurred when a suicide bomber drove and detonated a pick-up truck packed with 300 kg of explosives into a meeting of 600 people, killing 40 instantly and injuring 81, although the toll later rose to 110 as many died in hospitals. The attack occurred in a remote region where the injured could not get medical attention for several hours.
    The attack was preceded by a row between Taliban militants and local Shia tribesmen. Angry tribesmen clashed with the Taliban the day before and destroyed the homes of militants in the area. At the time of the attack, the Ali Khel tribesmen had gathered to discuss ways to evict the Taliban from the region.

    On September 28, the Taliban had asked the Ali Khel tribe, the biggest and the most influential tribe in the area, and its sub-clans to leave the region because they belonged to the minority Shia community. The tribesmen initially left, although a political agent summoned a grand jirga of all 18 tribes of the Orakzai Agency on September 30 to clear the area of the Taliban by a lashkar, or local militia. The Ali Khel tribe then returned to the area where they held a jirga on October 7 to take collective action against the Taliban along with representatives of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. On October 10, the tribesmen gathered at Khadizai village to destroy the local Taliban headquarters and homes of people sheltering the militants.[2]

  5. Over 50 killed, 100 hurt in suicide attack in Orakzai

    October 10, 2008

    KOHAT A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden vehicle at a tribal jirga in the upper Orakzai tribal region, killing more than 50 tribesmen and injuring over 100 others on Friday, the injured brought to Kohat and hospital sources said.

    Eye-witnesses and officials present at the scene, however, gave conflicting figures about the death toll and the injured. They feared that the death toll would rise as more injured were brought to the hospitals in Kohat. They said that scores of injured still lying at the blast site were yet to be shifted to hospitals.

    `The jirga was in progress when a pick-up truck ripped through it. The explosion was so severe that the vehicle was buried in the ground`, said an elder at the hospital.

    They said that the elders of Alizai tribe had gathered in Ghiljo bazaar to take a decision about the Taliban headquarters in Khadezai when a car bomber struck the jirga, wreaking havoc at the place.

    The government declared emergency in all hospitals in Hangu and Kohat districts soon after the incident, where the injured were brought.

    A doctor at Ghiljo hospital told Dawn on phone that five bodies were still lying at the hospital, while 15 wounded with minor injuries were being treated there. He said that the critically wounded people had been referred to hospitals in Kohat and Hangu.

    `Over 2000 armed tribesmen had gathered at an open place to chalk out a line of action against militants. The jirga was continuing when a mini-truck approached it and exploded`, he said.

    Sources feared that many injured people had died on their way from the scene of the blast because they could not make it to the hospital as the nearest hospital was at a distance of one and half hours journey. The seriously injured were brought to the Kohat divisional headquarters hospital after five hours.

    Sources said that 25 injured had been brought to the Kohat hospital, where two of them expired. They said that the injured people, one of them a child, were in very critical condition.

    Political Agent Orakzai Agency Kamran Zeb confirmed the suicide attack at the jirga. He said that all the 18 tribes of the Orakzai Agency had unanimously decided that they would not allow Taliban to use their land for terrorism last month.

    The Alizai tribe which was targeted on Friday had burnt the house of Maulvi Ghulam Nabi and one Kamran who were found involved in anti state activities few days back, which had angered the Taliban.

    There were more than 5000 Taliban were taking shelter in Orakzai Agency therefore the tribes formed a lashkar of 60,000 armed tribesmen to deal with them, sources said.

    Soon after signing an agreement with the government, the elders of lower Orakzai destroyed several houses, arrested more than 13 Taliban and recovered drums full with explosives and suicide vests in the Chappar area.

    Earlier, the government had sent gunship helicopters for the support of the elders who had taken action against Taliban in Ferozekhel area. These Taliban had come from Darra Adamkhel, where military operation was still continuing.

    `There is complete understanding between the government and the tribal elders of all the 18 tribes that the Taliban are the enemies of state and a threat to the norms and traditions of the tribal areas. The action against Taliban became necessary when foreigners and Taliban fleeing Bajaur Agency, Momand Agency, Darra Adamkhel, Hangu and Waziristan Agency took shelter here following permission from the tribes.`

    On May 3, a suicide bomber had ripped through a tribal jirga in Darra Adamkhel, Frontier Region of Kohat, in which 42 tribesmen had been killed.

  6. Pakistan suicide bombing kills dozens
    Attack by suicide bombers in north-west Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province injures more than 100

    reddit this
    Associated Press, Monday 6 December 2010 12.12 GMT
    Article history

    Two suspected suicide bombers killed at least 50 people at a government compound in Mohmand. Photograph: Arshad Arbab/EPA
    Two suicide bombers disguised as policemen killed 50 people today at a tribal meeting called to discuss the formation of an anti-Taliban militia in north-west Pakistan, officials said.

    The attack occurred in the main government compound in Mohmand, part of Pakistan’s tribal region. It was the latest strike against local tribesmen who have been encouraged by the government to take up arms against the Taliban.

    The explosions wounded more than 100 people, many of them critically, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

    The bombers had filled their suicide jackets with bullets, according to Amjad Ali Khan, a government official in Mohmand, who was at the compound in the town of Ghalanai when it was attacked.

    “These bullets killed everyone who was hit,” said Khan.

    Both bombers were disguised in tribal police uniforms, Khan said. One of them was caught at the gate but was able to detonate his explosives.

    One of the wounded was 45-year-old Qalandar Khan, who had visited the compound to see his imprisoned cousin.

    “There was a deafening sound and it caused a cloud of dust and smoke and a subsequent hue and cry,” said Khan, as he lay in a hospital bed in blood-soaked clothes. “There were dozens on the ground like me, bleeding and crying. I saw body parts scattered in the compound.”

    The dead and wounded included tribal elders, police, government officials and civilians. Two of the dead were local television journalists, according to Shakirullah Jan, president of the Mohmand press club.

    The Pakistani army has carried out operations in Mohmand to battle Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, but it has been unable to defeat them.

    The military has encouraged local tribesmen to form militias to oppose the militants with varying degrees of success. These groups have often been targeted in deadly attacks.

    A suicide bomber attacked a mosque in north-west Pakistan frequented by elders opposed to the Taliban in November, killing 67 people. The attack occurred in the town of Darra Adam Khel, a militant stronghold on the edge of the tribal region.

    “We are not scared of such attacks and will keep on taking these enemies of humanity to task until they disappear from society,” said Hussain.

  7. Pakistan’s Challenges in Orakzai Agency
    Jul 03, 2010
    Tayyab Ali Shah
    in pakistan’s federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Orakzai Agency has become the scene of violent clashes between security forces and Pakistani Taliban militants. In the past few years, militants have fled to Orakzai to establish safe havens in the wake of Pakistani military operations in other parts of the tribal belt. As a result, on March 23, 2010, Pakistan launched a military offensive in Orakzai and declared victory on June 1. Pakistan claims that it has killed more than 1,500 militants in the agency during the last three months.[1] Nevertheless, despite the official end of its offensive, Pakistan’s security patrols continue to be ambushed in Orakzai, and the government has responded by dispatching helicopter gunships and fighter jets to assault various areas of the territory. Military operations are ongoing today.

    In light of the continued fighting, this article provides an overview of the strategic importance of the agency, the history of its Talibanization, the different Taliban groups operating there and the current state of Pakistan Army operations in Orakzai.

    The Strategic Importance of Orakzai Agency

    Orakzai Agency, which has an estimated population of 250,000 people, is strategically important to both Pakistan’s military and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).[2] Orakzai is considered the TTP’s “second home,” as its current leader Hakimullah Mehsud rose to power in the agency. Additionally, after Pakistan’s military offensive in South Waziristan Agency in late 2009, many TTP militants relocated to Orakzai. The TTP is not the only militant group operating in Orakzai. Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Jaysh-i-Muhammad, for example, have bases and training camps in the agency, and they reportedly launched suicide bombers from Orakzai to attack targets in Punjab Province in late 2009 and early 2010.[3] Some analysts believe that Maulana Fazlullah, the former chief of the Swat Taliban, could also be hiding in Orakzai.[4] Finally, the Ghazi Force, believed to be behind most of the deadly attacks in Islamabad during the last three years—including an attack on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Marriott Hotel, the World Food Program and the recent June 9 attack near Islamabad that destroyed multiple NATO supply trucks—is also based in the agency.[5]

    Geographically, Orakzai is in a strategic position as it borders the Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency, Kohat and Hangu districts of the North-West Frontier Province, and Kurram Agency. Orakzai’s total area is 1,538 square kilometers (594 square miles).[6] The main access to Kurram, the only tribal agency with a Shi`a majority, is through Orakzai; by blocking this road, Taliban fighters have often put the Kurram Shi`a under siege.[7] Also, compared to other Taliban strongholds such as North and South Waziristan, Orakzai is closer to Peshawar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, making it an ideal launching point for fighters attacking Pakistan’s more populated and strategically significant cities. The topography of Orakzai also plays a factor, as the mountainous region between Stori Khel and Dara Adam Khel provide a natural fortress and plenty of cover for militants.[8] Orakzai, however, is the only tribal agency that does not share a border with Afghanistan.

    The Talibanization of Orakzai

    The Talibanization of Orakzai Agency can be traced to 1999, when a 30-year-old native of the agency, Aslam Farooqi, raised a Taliban lashkar (militia). Farooqi belonged to the Mamuzai tribe and was affiliated with the anti-Shi`a group Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). In the wake of the U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan in 2001, Farooqi reportedly offered the Afghan Taliban 12,000 men with arms and ammunition to fight against the U.S.-led coalition.[9] Farooqi’s men remained active in Afghanistan until the end of 2001, when they melted away as the Afghan Taliban resistance crumbled before the U.S.-led offensive.[10]

    Orakzai was relatively calm until 2004-2006, when Pakistan Army operations in South Waziristan forced many Pakistanis, as well as foreign militants, to seek refuge in the agency. Orakzai acted as a safe haven for these fighters since Pakistan’s military was not present in the area. After the formation of the TTP in 2007, a Taliban force was organized in Orakzai.[11] Hakimullah Mehsud, the current head of the TTP, moved to Orakzai and was appointed by the TTP’s leader at the time, Baitullah Mehsud, as the chief commander for the group in Orakzai, Khyber and Kurram agencies.[12]

    There have been attempts to counter Talibanization in the agency. Law and order is the responsibility of Khasadars[13] in Orakzai, due to the absence of the Frontier Corps in the agency. Khasadars, basically local security forces, are not trained or equipped to combat well-trained militants. As a result, the tribes were forced to fight against Taliban fighters on their own. When the Taliban asked the biggest tribe in Orakzai, the Ali Khel, to expel 100 Shi`a families from the area, the Ali Khel convened a tribal jirga to establish an anti-Taliban lashkar in October 2008.[14] The jirga, however, was attacked by a suicide bomber, who killed more than 82 tribal elders.[15] This one attack decimated the tribal leadership of Orakzai and paved the way for the Taliban to take control of the entire agency.[16]

    After consolidating its hold on the agency, Taliban militias announced the enforcement of Shari`a, and they established Islamic courts and complaint centers. Through mosque loudspeakers, they urged people to contact the Islamic courts to settle disputes in accordance with Islamic law. The Taliban established a parallel political administration and levied jizya (protection tax) on members of the local Sikh and Hindu communities.[17] In June 2008, six men were publicly executed after a Taliban-established court found them guilty of kidnapping.[18] In January 2010, the Taliban punished tribesmen who refused to remain in their village to support the Taliban in the fight against security forces by setting 63 houses on fire in Tori Mela.[19] Continuing with their atrocities, the Taliban chopped off the hands of three men on theft allegations in the Ghaljo area of the agency in the first week of May 2010.[20]

    Today, the most active Taliban groups operating in Orakzai are the Commander Tariq Group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, and the Ghazi Force. The Commander Tariq Group is headed by Tariq Afridi, who is based in Dara Adam Khel, and is considered the most powerful militant group in Orakzai. The Abdullah Azzam Brigade was reportedly involved in the attack on the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar and the killing of anti-Taliban religious scholar Sarfraz Naeemi in June 2009.[21] Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is a violent, sectarian group and an offshoot of the SSP.[22] The Ghazi Force is named after Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the former cleric of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) who was killed when Pakistani security forces stormed the facility in 2007. The Ghazi Force is currently led by Niaz Raheem, a former student of Lal Masjid, and is suspected of being behind many of the recent violent attacks in Islamabad and other populated areas in Pakistan.[23]

    The Commander Tariq Group is part of the TTP, while Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, the Ghazi Force and the Abdullah Azzam Brigade are closely affiliated with the TTP.[24]

    Pakistan’s Offensive in Orakzai

    On March 23, 2010, Pakistan’s military launched a major anti-Taliban operation in Orakzai called Khwakh Ba dee Sham.[25] As part of the offensive, the army blocked most of the entry and exit routes to and from Orakzai. Both sides reportedly suffered casualties, and the military claims that the dead included foreign fighters, such as Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks.[26]

    On June 1, the Pakistan Army declared that the military operation in Orakzai was finished and the objectives achieved. This announcement, however, appears more a public relations move than a military reality. Air strikes in the agency have continued through July, providing ample proof that military operations are far from over.[27] Moreover, according to residents in the area, Mamozai, Ghaljo and Shahoo are still under Taliban control. Some government officials also admitted in early June that terrorists were putting up “stiff resistance” in upper Orakzai.[28] These results are not surprising considering that Pakistan’s military deployed just 5,000 troops for only three months (March 23-June 1) to clear Taliban militants from the territory. By comparison, operations in South Waziristan and Swat were supported by more than 25,000 and 15,000 troops, respectively.[29] Nevertheless, it appears that Pakistan’s military has cleared some areas in southern Orakzai to act as a base camp from where it can continue its anti-Taliban operations.


    Despite its recent offensive, Pakistan’s government has yet to bring Orakzai under control. The security services need to approach the Orakzai campaign in a more “intelligence informed manner,” concentrating on breaking the Taliban from within. There are chances for success in this approach, as during the past two years there have been a number of occurrences where Taliban factions have fought each other over disputes in Orakzai.

    In August 2009, for example, 21 militants were killed when two Taliban groups clashed for control of the Akakhel area of upper Orakzai.[30] In April 2010, more clashes were reported, when six Taliban, including a local commander, were killed in Orakzai during infighting between two rival Taliban factions led by Mullah Toofan and Mullah Rafiq.[31] There were also reports of a Taliban commander who defected to his Ali Khel tribe over the Taliban’s poor treatment of Shi`a in Orakzai.[32] Although the senior Taliban leadership was able to prevent these infighting incidents from spreading, it does show that there are possible rifts that can be exploited with a more nuanced understanding of the Taliban factions operating in Orakzai.

    Tayyab Ali Shah is a freelance political and security analyst specializing in the Taliban and other Islamic extremists. He is a Pakistani Pashtun and has a post-graduate education in Political Science, Business Administration and Public Policy. He has extensive experience in community development, policy advocacy and political education with both Pakistani and Afghan Pashtuns. He moderates the Pakhtunkhwa Peace Forum and has written for The Jamestown Foundation, Pakistan’s Frontier Post and the Daily Times.

    [1] “At Least 25 Militants Killed in Orakzai Clash,” Dawn, July 21, 2010.

    [2] For details, see the FATA Secretariat website at

    [3] Michael Hughes, “Pakistan Turns Up Heat on Tehrik-i-Taliban in Orakzai and North Waziristan,” Afghanistan Headlines Examiner, May 25, 2010.

    [4] Rahimullah Yusufzai, “The Taliban Strike Back,” Newsline, May 20, 2010.

    [5] Kathy Gannon, “The Ghazi Force: Vengeful New Militant Group Emerges in Pakistan,” Associated Press, July 1, 2010.

    [6] For details, see the FATA Secretariat website at

    [7] Tayyab Ali Shah, “Taliban Exploit Shi’a-Sunni Divide in Pakistan’s Kurram Tribal Agency,” Terrorism Monitor 8:15 (2010); Mariam Abou Zahab, “Sectarianism in Pakistan’s Kurram Tribal Agency,” Terrorism Monitor 7:6 (2009).

    [8] Hughes.

    [9] “Orakzai Taliban Chief Extends Full Help,” Dawn, November 6, 2001.

    [10] Personal interview, Brigadier (retired) Asad Munir, former Inter-Services Intelligence official, July 2010.

    [11] Asad Munir, “Taliban & Orakzai,” The News International, June 13, 2009.

    [12] Amir Mir, “A Young Turk Takes Over TTP, Ringing Alarm Bells,” The News International, August 28, 2009.

    [13] The Khasadar are a poorly trained and organized force that is recruited and managed by the FATA Political Agent, the head of a tribal agency.

    [14] Syed Hasan Mahmood and Mushtaq Yusufzai, “Orakzai Blast Toll Rises to 82,” The News International, October 12, 2008; Farhat Taj, “Life in Orakzai,” The News International, February 11, 2009.

    [15] Mahmood and Yusufzai.

    [16] Mukhtar A. Khan, “The Role of Tribal Lashkars in Winning Pakistan’s War on Terror,” Terrorism Focus 5:40 (2008).

    [17] The Sikhs of Orakzai have lived in the agency for centuries. When the Taliban took control of Orakzai, they discriminated against the Sikhs. In April 2009, 11 houses in the Sikh community were razed for not being able to pay the Rs. 150 million ($1.9 million) jizya to the Taliban, and the Sikh community—comprising 30-35 families—had to shift from the Feroze Khel area to the nearby Merozai area in lower Orakzai. For details, see “Taliban Seize Houses, Shops of Sikhs in Orakzai,” Daily Times, April 30, 2009; “Taliban Raze Houses of Sikhs in Orakzai,” Dawn, April 30, 2009. There are also approximately 18 Hindu families in Orakzai. For details, see Munir and Mir.

    [18] Bill Roggio, “Pakistan Signs Peace Accord in Orakzai Tribal Agency,” The Long War Journal, July 19, 2008.

    [19] “Militants Burn Village in Lower Orakzai,” Dawn, January 5, 2010.

    [20] “Taliban Cut Off Hands of Three Tribesmen,” Dawn, May 6, 2010.

    [21] Bill Roggio, “Arakzai Taliban Take Credit for Mosque Suicide Attacks,” The Long War Journal, June 12, 2009.

    [22] Bill Roggio, “Taliban Torch Village in Arakzai,” The Long War Journal, January 5, 2010.

    [23] Gannon.

    [24] Ibid.; Syed Yasir Shah, “Unknown Group Claims Peshawar Hotel Bombing,” The News International, June 11, 2009.

    [25] This is a Pashtu expression meaning, “I will teach you a lesson.”

    [26] Ikram Sehgal, “Counterinsurgency Operations,” The News International, April 29, 2010.

    [27] “At Least 38 Taliban Insurgents and Four Security Personnel Were Killed,” Express Tribune, June 23, 2010; Manzoor Ali, “22 Suspected Militants Killed in Orakzai,” Express Tribune, July 12, 2010.

    [28] Iqbal Khattak, “Taliban Still Rule Half of Orakzai,” Daily Times, June 3, 2010.

    [29] Although Orakzai differs in size from South Waziristan and Swat, there are likely more militants in the agency and they appear to be in hardened positions. Therefore, it seems that the number of troops deployed in the Orakzai offensive was inadequate. For details, see “Brief: Military Operations In Orakzai Over?” Stratfor Global Intelligence, June 2, 2010.

    [30] “Hakeemullah’s Followers in Orakzai Clash; 21 Killed,” Dawn, August 12, 2009.

    [31] “Taliban Infighting Claims Six Lives in Orakzai,” Daily Times, April 2, 2010.

    [32] Taj.