ANALYSIS: Adezai and the ANP —Farhat Taj - Saturday, March 12, 2011

Source :\03\12\story_12-3-2011_pg3_4

Publicly, the ANP leaders do not admit but privately say they are under pressure from the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. Popular jirga-backed lashkars are an anomaly in the ISI scheme of things for strategic depth in Afghanistan

Once again Adezai has been brutally targeted by the Taliban and 37 people have been killed. This time they chose a funeral ceremony on March 9 for mass murder in this staunchly anti-Taliban village of about 7,000 people. Adezai, a small village in Peshawar, has a tribal jirga-backed anti-Taliban lashkar that has stiffly resisted the Taliban but has suffered many Taliban assaults.

The Adezai lashkar was organised in 2008 in the face of a complete collapse of the state’s writ in the village due to a Taliban incursion from Darra Adam Khel. The Adezai lashkar and other anti-Taliban lashkars in the neighbouring villages of Badabera and Bazid Khel are different in a sense from the anti-Taliban lashkars in FATA. Legally, politicians are banned from FATA and the area is under the control of the ISI, which has a free hand to commit whatever atrocities it likes on the people of FATA in the name of national interest. The Taliban are largely seen as an extension of the ISI in the tribal region. Tribesmen in FATA have made many anti-Taliban lashkars. These lashkars have been wrongly reported as being ‘pro-government’ lashkars by the Pakistani media, which has a strong track record of misguiding public opinion through false or distorted information about FATA. For example, can anyone in his or her sane mind call the anti-Taliban lashkar of the Salarzai tribe in Bajaur a pro-government lashkar? All complaints of the Salarzai lashkar are directed against the ISI. They see their struggle as being against the ISI rather than the Taliban who they say are puppets of the ISI.

Unlike FATA, Adezai is part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Adezai lashkar was formed in the context of the staunchly anti-Taliban ANP-led government coming into power in the province in 2008. The ANP government encouraged the formation of the anti-Taliban lashkar. This, however, does not mean that the Adezai lashkar was merely a product of the ANP’s encouragement without any local initiative. The local village community, alarmed by the growing Taliban attacks in the village, was ready to defend it. The ANP government’s support came as strong encouragement and the Adezai anti-Taliban lashkar came into being as a result of both. So, in this sense, the Adezai lashkar is pro-government. The ANP government promised material and financial support in terms of weapon, fuel and ration to the lashkar. The key idea was to defeat the Taliban through a popular jirga-backed resistance supported by the democratically elected ANP government.

The ANP government, however, has failed to fulfil its promise with the lashkars to date. The Adezai lashkar, along with other ANP-backed anti-Taliban lashkars, have been left alone to deal with the Taliban. Resultantly, all of Adezai has suffered. The Taliban have a track record of punishing entire communities that contribute volunteers to anti-Taliban lashkars. This is what they did with Adezai. The village has repeatedly been attacked by the Taliban, killing many men, women and children. Two lashkar leaders, Haji Malik and Israr Khan, have been target killed. The current leader, Dilawar Khan, has faced several life attempts. His Karachi-based elder brother has been killed by the Taliban but still, Adezai is firm in its anti-Taliban resistance. The Taliban atrocities in Adezai and its people’s determination to keep fighting is beautifully portrayed in a piece of Pashto poetry by an Adezai villager on the following YouTube link:

So why is the ANP government not delivering on its promises to the people of Adezai? Some people say this is because some important leaders of the lashkar belong to the PML-Q and this is the reason the ANP is giving a cold shoulder to the lashkar. This may be a contributing factor in the local context of party politics in Adezai, but does not explain anything in the larger security context in the Pakhtun region. Talking to Pashto radio station Mashal, a former IG police in Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Malik Naveed, said that the ANP government had no institutional framework in place to deliver on its promises to the anti-Taliban lashkars. This is the real issue. But why does the ANP government fail to make a legal framework to provide promised material support to the anti-Taliban lashkars in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?

Publicly, the ANP leaders do not admit but privately say they are under pressure from the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. Popular jirga-backed lashkars are an anomaly in the ISI scheme of things for strategic depth in Afghanistan. Through the pro-establishment media and writers they have misled the whole world to believe that the Taliban are popular among the Pakhtun. How could they tolerate popular anti-Taliban lashkars in the region? This is where the ANP turns hypostatic. Why is the party sitting in the government if it cannot deliver on the promises made to the people due to the intelligence agencies’ pressure? At least this is the perspective in Adezai.

It is thus no wonder that Bashir Bilour, the ANP provincial minister, was not welcomed in Adezai when he tried to visit the village after the deadly attack on the funeral ceremony. He was not allowed to come near the bombing scene and he returned without seeing it. Moreover, Bilour has been making irresponsible comments about the Adezai lashkar. A few days before the attack on the funeral ceremony, some 100 Taliban fighters attacked the house and hujra of Dilawar Khan, the Adezai lashkar leader. For two hours the lashkar clashed with the attacking Taliban. No help from the government arrived, but the attack was repulsed. Nobody was killed but many houses, including Dilawar Khan’s own house, were damaged by heavy firing. The next day, Dilawar Khan held a press conference and once again requested the government to support the lashkar because the poor villagers, mostly drivers and farmers, do not have the resources to continue fighting the Taliban without the state’s help. In response, Bilour told the media men that the Adezai lashkar was ineffective against the Taliban. This obviously annoyed the villagers in Adezai.

The ANP should be ashamed of such statements. The party has proved, so far, that it lacks the courage to stand up against the anti-Pakhtun agenda of the military establishment. The least the party can do is desist from giving irresponsible statements that hurt people who repeatedly suffer human and material losses due to the Taliban. The ANP’s lack of political courage is a contributing factor in these atrocities. At least this is the view in Adezai.

The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban

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