Are they foreign agents…? Then, so must be the so called “shayukh-ul-Islam” who have sowed the very deep seeds of sectarian hatred and puritanism in our understanding and perspectives on Islam.
Life in Orakzai
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Orakzai is the only agency in FATA that has no border with Afghanistan. It touches Khyber agency in the north, Darra Adam Khel in the east, Hangu and Kohat in the south and Kurrum in the west. Orakzai is occupied by the Taliban from Waziristan, Darra Adam Khel and Khyber agencies. Some local tribesmen have also joined the Taliban from the other agencies. Many of the locals who joined the Taliban used to be petty thieves and drug pushers, I was informed by the Orakzai tribesmen. The Taliban have imposed an alien ideology and way of life on the people. ‘We are living in hell and the rest of Pakistan does not even know or doesn’t care’, said one of them.
The activities of the Taliban in Orakzai have two interesting aspects. One, tribal affiliations under the code of Pakhtunwali have by and large countered sectarian differences that the fiercely anti-Shia Taliban want to exploit. In an area called Dobari for example, there are about 100 Shia families surrounded by the Sunni majority. Under Pakhtunwali, the majority community had taken upon itself to protect the 100 families, whom the Taliban wanted to banish from the area. The Sunni tribesmen, however, rejected the Taliban’s banishment and decided instead to remove the Taliban from the area by raising a tribal lashkar. The Ali Khel is the largest tribe in Orakzai and the leaders of the tribe then held a grand jirga to work out the details of a strategy to take on the Taliban. The grand jirga was scheduled for Oct 10 of last year and as it was being held it was attacked by a suicide bomber. Forty tribesmen were killed on the spot and the death toll climbed to over 100 over the next few days since many of those who had initially been injured later died in hospital.
In effect, the tribe’s main leadership was decimated and this paved the way for the Taliban to take control of the agency. However, despite this the Taliban were not able to succeed in dividing the Ali Khels along Shia-Sunni lines. Instead, in the intense rivalry between the Ali Khels and the Taliban, a Taliban commander who belonged to the Ali Khel tribe defected and joined his tribe. This angered the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan which put head money on the man.
The people of Orakzai say that the government and the military should have done more to help the tribe, especially when it had decided to take on the Taliban by raising its own lashkar. They say that had that help been forthcoming the situation perhaps would be different to what it is today – where the government’s writ is confined only to the agency’s headquarters and the Taliban control most of the rest of Orakzai. Every day, people are kidnapped, killed, beheaded or publicly insulted by the Taliban, who like in other parts of FATA, have also set up their own so-called ‘sharia’ courts. In recent weeks, a mentally ill man was even beheaded by the Taliban – he was a Shia and had mistakenly entered an area which the Taliban had banned for all Shia tribesmen.
So what is the way forward? Well, for starters, the Taliban are not a unified group. It is an umbrella of sectarian terrorists, global jihadis and even criminals, and their differences can be exploited by the intelligence agencies. And there are many proofs of such differences. In the Ferozkhel area recently, two groups of the Taliban fought each other and there were several casualties. The dispute was over whether or not to return a Shia boy who had been kidnapped by them to his family in exchange for one of their (the Taliban’s) colleagues.
The people feel that they have been left to fend for themselves. And they have taken matters into their own hands. Some weeks ago, three such volunteers intercepted a suicide bomber but could not stop him from triggering his explosives and as a result all three died. Also, of late, a Taliban court in the agency summoned 60 businessmen from the majority community – their alleged crime being that they were involved in business with tribesmen from the minority sect! (The News)
The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. Email: bergen34@ yahoo.com