Mohmand attack

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the twin suicide attack on the administrative offices of Mohmand Agency at Ghalanai, as a warning to all those who work against them. This is a clear indicator that the target was the peace jirga being held at the political agent’s office. The death toll’s crossing 40, which includes two journalists of private news channels, 12 government officials and two tribal elders, may have caused satisfaction among the perpetrators of this attack, but it has shaken the confidence of the people in the ability of government to provide them security. The presence of a large number of tribesmen at the office of the political agent, including peace committee members, was an open invitation for the Taliban to attack.

According to news reports, peace committee members of Alizai and Safi tribes had gathered at the office of political agent to discuss their strategy against militancy. This is not the first occasion that peace committee members have been targeted. Wherever local people have formed alliances to resist the activities of the Taliban, they have earned the ire of the militants, who struck with a vengeance. One might remember the deadly attack on Shah Hasan Khel village of Lakki Marwat district on January 1, where the death toll was more than 100. The crime of this village was that it had ousted the Taliban by forming a peace committee. Regrettably, while the military and paramilitary forces encourage the locals to form peace committees and lashkars, hardly any support or security is provided to the members of these bodies. Although the situation has started to improve after the military offensives in Swat and South Waziristan, both sides are still struggling to secure their spheres of influence.

The rise of the Pakistani Taliban has been concurrent with an incremental deterioration of law and order and a systematic decapitation of tribal maliks — who served as a crucial link between the tribes and the political administration — since 2004, when the army first launched a military offensive against the tribal areas for harbouring al Qaeda. The army initially suffered a humiliating defeat, and with the rising power of the local Taliban, the writ of the office of political agent was gradually limited to the premises of his office in conflict-ridden Agencies, particularly South Waziristan. This pattern was replicated elsewhere, as the Taliban’s influence grew and spread in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and beyond, leading to the expansion of the war theatre and displacement of a large number of people from the tribal Agencies. After military operations in Swat and South Waziristan, people seeking peace have been encouraged to provide for their own security by raising volunteer forces called lashkars. These lashkars and the political agent’s office are seen as the antithesis of what the Taliban stand for. Hence the pattern of attacks on these targets.

Surprisingly, the militants’ intelligence network and coordination is way better than that of the government. Despite knowing fully well that government offices and peace meetings are potential targets, law enforcement agencies have failed to protect either. This also indicates the strong possibility of the presence of Taliban sympathisers within the ranks of the security forces, who provide accurate information on which the militants act. In addition to an internal purge, stringent security measures need to be taken to protect potential targets to the extent humanly possible. Without securing peace and maintaining the writ of the state in all Agencies, the government cannot hope to defeat the hydra of militancy, which will raise its head wherever it will find its opponent weak – Dailytimes