Returning the Handshake
20 September, 2005
By Farzana Shah
The unanimous resolve of 500 Ulema of North Waziristan Agency on 28th August to extend their support to the armed forces in purging the tribal belt of the foreign elements active in destabilising the country and creating rift between the tribals and the security forces clearly indicates not only victory of the forces in winning over the tribals but also a slap in the face of those who were trying to pit them against the brave sons of the soil.
Around 500 uelma of the agency organised a grand Jirga at Gurbuz Islamic Madrassah in Shawal Datakhel area on August 28th wherein they had observed the involvement of foreigners in the de-stability of their region and also seen the hand of those very elements behind the hatred and misconception created about army in their hearts.
The Ulema Jirga is very significant as it was for the first time in the history of North Waziristan Agency that such a huge number of Ulema had organised a grand Jirga on their own; neither the government nor any intelligence agency had asked them for the assemblage. It is still more encouraging that the Jirga accorded its approval for the ongoing operation against terrorism in the mountainous region.
The Jirga also dealt a great blow to the anti-state elements, who, had earlier succeeded in sowing the seeds of hatred in the hearts of the tribesmen which had led to the failure of peace efforts initiated by the armed forces.
If we recall the 'Shakai peace agreement" and the circumstance which led to failure of this sincere effort, apart from some of our own mistakes, we can clearly see the major role played by these regional powers in the failure of the treaty.
Peace seemed to be not in their interests and they wanted continuation of the chaos and mayhem in the region which suited their agenda.
They succeeded not only in creating hurdles in the registration of the foreigners living in the agency according to agreement signed between the tribals and the army, but they also led to the killing of Naik Mohammad who was a key player of the negotiated agreement.
On April 20th 2004 the then Governor of NWFP Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah, in a meeting with a grand Jirga of tribal elders, had given a 10 day deadline for the surrender of all foreigners and their registration.
On April 24th 2004 the Peshawar Corp Commander Lieutenant General Safdar Hussain along with General Officer Commanding Maj Gen Niaz Khattak and Maj Gen Hamid Khan reached Shakai and the agreement was signed for the registration and surrender of the foreigners in the agency.
In the wake of this agreement a peaceful resolution of the problem in the tribal belt was expected as it had to be followed by the registration of the foreigners by April 30th which would have put a halt to the operation in Wana. However, unfortunately the same hidden hands hindered the peace move and ultimately led to Naik Mohammad’s killing.
Professor Ishtiaq Hussain, a former professor of psychology at Government Collage of Lahore and a senior analyst who visited the agency during last December, has revealed some interesting facts in his article which bear testimony to the fact that these were the same foreign hidden hands that led to Shakai Agreement's failure.
Professor Ishtiaq wrote in December issue of monthly Hilal that his friend in Wana had several meetings with the Peshawar Corps Commander Gen Safdar Hussain who handed over him a message written on his official writing pad, conveying sentiments of peace and harmony and inviting Naik Mohammad for peaceful settlement of the problem. Naik Mohammad, after reading the message agreed for the meeting before expiry of the deadline.
Naik Mohammad along with his companions handed over the weapons on the occasion of the singing of Shakai treaty, but the foreign elements again influenced Naik Mohammad, who, according to Prof Ishtiaq’s friend, was now enjoying luxuries showered upon him by these very elements.
Apart from this there had been reports of involvement of our war-torn neighbouring country in wooing North Waziristan Agency tribesmen for acquiring its nationality in return for material gains which clearly indicates that how this country along with our arch-rival was engaged in destabilising Pakistan.
There had been reports of meetings of a committee composed of 18 tribal elders from North Waziristan Agency, with military authorities of Afghanistan and a super power at Machadakhot near the border in Paktia province to facilitate the Ahmadzai Wazirs in acquiring Afghan National Identity Cards in order to enable them to get the benefits from Afghan Government.
There were also reports of arrests and handing over of Pakistani youth to India by the Afghan government for implication in fake cases of cross-border infiltration by to India to malign Pakistan.
In the context of all these reports the Jirga carries more importance as the Ulema's consent to the operation against the terrorists also shows that now the tribal people are aware of all those elements (read some of the most active regional powers, our next door neighbours) who for their own vested interests were pitching them against their own people.
The Jirga was addressed by the prominent religious figures including Hafiz Abdullah, Maulvi Abdul Khaliq, Maulvi Abdul Aziz, Maulvi Fazl Ghafoor, Salahuddin, Hamidullah and other tribal elders.
Almost all of them accepted that the foreign elements had been the main factor behind the wide gap between the forces and tribesmen.
They vowed to support the forces in ongoing operation against the terrorists and all those elements active against the country who also bring a bad name to the tribesmen.
Such happenings are also indicative of peaceful environment and an era of prosperity for the tribesmen in the coming days.
The participation of a large number of tribesmen and students in recently held Aman Mela and other activities arranged by the Army in Waziristan to celebrate Independence Day also proved that the tribesmen are patriotic Pakistanis who could no more be hoodwinked by the hidden hands. Besides they are convinced that security forces are there not only to protect the borders but are also committed to the development of the area.
On August 14th the Corps Commander Gen Safdar hailed the cooperation extended by the tribesmen to the army.
In a letter of appreciation addressed to the tribesmen and the troops deployed in the agency, Gen Safdar, apart from greeting them on the Independence Day, also assured them of various socio-economic uplift projects in the area.
The corps commander once again reiterated that the forces had always give preference to the negotiations and refrained from using force in the first place and will continue to do so.
In his letter he further said that the enemies of the country who were busy in creating the rift between the troops and the tribesmen had suffered a setback in wake of the recent developments wherein the tribals had extended a very welcome cooperating hand to the armed forces.
Earlier on August 7 the corps commander had expressed similar views while talking to a delegation of the Executive Committee of the Federal Union of Journalists in Peshawar.
Responding to a question about Baitullah Mehsud, Lt Gen Safdar said that he was not an enemy of the country, rather a soldier of peace.
“The misunderstanding which some elements had created between armed forces and tribals leaders have now been removed”, he said on the occasion.
After the consent of the tribal Ulema for the forces' operation in the tribal belt, now is the time for the army to reciprocate the good gesture. Army should avoid use of force and instead sitting around the negotiation table should be its first option. The proud tribals known for their traditions of chivalry will certainly reciprocate equally.