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Militants targeted peace efforts in 2011 across Pakistan, Afghanistan
Killings show al-Qaeda, Taliban have little interest in peace, analysts say
By Zia Ur Rehman
PESHAWAR – In 2011 Taliban militants killed influential figures involved in peace-seeking efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which observers say indicates that the Taliban are not interested in peace.
Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), was arguably the most notable peace activist killed in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber entered Rabbani’s Kabul house on September 20 and detonated a bomb in his turban.
The assassination of Rabbani, a former Afghan president, was a conspiracy to spoil the peace process, analysts say.
“Indeed, establishing the HPC was one of the Afghan government’s most substantial attempts to (reduce) the long-lasting unrest and terrorist acts across the country,” said Shamshad, a Kunar tribal elder and HPC supporter.
Several militant groups are operating in the country outside the control of the Taliban’s central leadership, Abbas Daiyar, a Kabul-based political analyst, told Central Asia Online.
“The assassination of Rabbani could have been done by rogue elements within the ranks of Taliban who are against the peace talks and have close relations with al-Qaeda,” he theorised.
Reasons behind the killings
The Taliban launched its assassination campaign against peace activists partly because the militant group has been losing sway, one political analyst said.
“The Taliban lost several of its commanders in recent raids carried out by Afghan security forces, with the assistance of local tribal elders, and this has crippled the Taliban’s ability to engage the security forces,” said Akram Gul, a political analyst teaching at Nangarhar University near Jalalabad.
Efforts by influential tribal and political figures prompted a number of militants to become government supporters, too, he said. Such developments frightened the Taliban militants and emboldened tribal elders but contributed to the retaliatory killings, Gul surmised.
Other Afghan killings
Rabbani was but one of many Afghan peace activists killed in 2011. Some of the others include:
Ahmed Wali Karzai, half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was killed July 12 by one of his security guards who was connected with Taliban militants, media reported. Ahmed Karzai was chairman of the Kandahar Council and had survived a number of assassination attempts.
Abdul Mutaleb Baig, a parliamentarian and former provincial police chief from Takhar Province, and 20 other people were killed December 25 when a suicide bomber attacked a funeral ceremony in Taloqan city.
Haji Malik Zarin, a close ally of President Karzai, was killed April 13 in a suicide attack after a meeting of local elders in Asmar District in Kunar Province. Zarin, chief of the Mashwani tribe, was working on a strategy to bring peace to the area, Malik Shamshad, a local tribal elder, told Central Asia Online.
Terrorists targeted scores of lower-level figures, said Malik Gulab, a Kandahar elder.
Khan Muhammad Mujahid, provincial police chief, was killed April 15 in Kandahar.
Abdul Wali Khan, a member of the Kandahar development council, was killed October 12 in a blast in the Zhai District. Terrorists likely targeted him because of his anti-Taliban stance and his efforts to broker peace in the region, the then-provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayubi said.
Security officials, whom Daiyar said were killed because of their work for peace, included Gen. Dawood Dawood, police chief for northern Afghanistan (May 28); Shah Jahan Nuri, police chief of Takhar Abdul (May 28); and Abdul Rehman Sayedkheli, police chief of Kunduz Province (March 10).
Deaths in Pakistan
In 2011, an unspecified number of Pakistani tribal elders and peace activists fell victim to a TTP assassination campaign that has virtually destroyed the traditional tribal jirga system in the affected areas, political analysts said.
Tribesmen, frustrated with increasing brutality by militants and supported by the government, have increased armed resistance against the militants since 2008, said Malik Shah Zaib, an active member of the local Salarzai peace committee in Bajaur. Many were killed for their activism.
“In spite of these losses, our morale is high and we will continue to fight the extremists,” he told Central Asia Online.
Although no official statistics on tribal elders’ casualties are available, at least 89 such attacks – 32 in KP and 57 in FATA – were reported, according to the Pakistan Security Report 2011, prepared by Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank.
But the number of such attacks is likely higher as many cases go unreported for lack of media access, tribal elders said. Militants killed tribal elders in public places and their houses, during jirgas, and while they were praying in mosques and at funerals, elders said.
Working for peace a dangerous cause
The Pakistani government supported the formation of local lashkar peace committees against the Taliban. The Peshawar Corps Commander, Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, said October 19 that these lashkars have helped maintain peace in the tribal regions, Express Tribune reported.
But many who were working to bring peace to KP and the tribal areas were killed, said Idrees Kamal, convener of Aman Tehreek, a civil society alliance in KP. “The main rationale behind the killings of such elders is to foil peace efforts,” he said.
Zarteef Afridi, a peace activist and co-ordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Khyber Agency, became the latest victim when he was killed December 8.
Malik Afsar Khan, an elder of the Chamarkand area of Bajaur tribal agency, and his son Sher Alam, who were killed when Taliban militants from Afghanistan attacked a check post in the Nawa Pass area of Chamarkand August 17. Khan helped form a local peace committee, Chamarkand political activist Shoaib Ahmed said.
Malik Muhammad Salam Khan, 60 and head of Mohmand Agency’s peace committee, who was killed in a January 13 attack outside a mosque in the Tablighee Markaz area of Peshawar.
The Kukikhel tribe, noted for opposing the militancy, suffered as a whole when at least 56 of its members were killed and 123 injured in a suicide attack on a mosque during Friday prayers in the Jamrud area of Khyber Agency August 19.