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By M. Ibrahim
KHYBER AGENCY – The February 2 decapitation of a 70-year-old baker in Landi Kotal, Khyber Agency, by the Taliban has terrorised the local population and aroused universal condemnation from tribal society and rights activists.
The Taliban accused the man of being a spy in an attempt to justify his murder.
“Waris Khan had always lived a clean life and confined himself to a limited number of friends,” Qadeer Jan, a close friend of the murdered baker, told Central Asia Online, while refusing to comment on militant behaviour on grounds of personal safety.
Taliban terror is the main reason local residents will not comment on such matters, said local elder Hasam ud Din.
“We are simply terrorised and are extremely worried about our own safety,” he said, adding he and other tribal elders have limited their contact with officials and security personnel for fear of being called spies.
Former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) security secretary Brig. (Ret.) Mehmood Shah agreed.
“Such brutal killings (on charges of spying) are more aimed ... at terrorising the tribal population,” he told Central Asia Online.
‘Executions’ are murder
Most such killings are groundless, he said. “By and large, they (the Taliban) intimidate tribesmen not to speak against them and keep them under terror,” he added.
The Taliban’s “executions” have no legal backing, said Karim Mehsud, former president of the FATA Lawyers Forum.
Pakistani law prescribes capital punishment for spying, Mehsud said. “But assisting government officials or security forces is no crime, and executing anyone on these charges is totally against the law.”
“Every civilised citizen of Pakistan is under a moral and legal obligation to serve the country ... such behaviour ... cannot be called spying,” he said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan opposes all forms of killing of innocent human beings, said rights activist Kamran Arif.
“It’s a simple murder without a fair trial,” he said. “Taliban courts have no legal justification, and it’s completely illegal and inhuman.”
FATA yearns for rule of law
Arif expressed regret that so far the government has not extended the country’s regular laws to FATA.
“Article 247 of the constitution provides a separate mechanism of administration for FATA, and no act of parliament could be implemented in FATA unless the president desires it,” he said, adding that it was high time Islamabad altered FATA’s administrative system to suit tribal aspirations.
The Taliban’s assertion to enforce Islam is based on lies that no practicing Muslim can trust, Allama Noor ul Haq Qadri told Central Asia Online.
Qadri is a tribal religious scholar and Member National Assembly from Khyber Agency.
“They are involved in the killing of innocent people and ... confessed to the crimes they had committed against those who raised their voices against such inhuman and un-Islamic acts,” he said.
Qadri has bitter personal experience in the matter. Three years ago, militants killed his brother, nephew, uncle and brother-in-law, after which he had to move his family to Islamabad.
“The religion of Islam clearly orders the execution of such enemies of humanity,” he said, insisting militants have committed countless acts of subversion and anti-state activities.
“They kill innocent people on the basis of a mere doubt, which is not acceptable in Islam,” he argued. “They are criminal in the eyes of our religion ... .all their acts are un-Islamic and have no religious or moral justification.”
Political parties outraged
The incident also incurred the wrath of the activists of different political parties operating in tribal areas.
Such killings are meant to terrorise rather than to enforce justice, since mostly tribesmen of unblemished character have been killed, said Abdur Rahim, the FATA leader of the Awami National Party.
“A personal vendetta ... could be a factor ... but in most cases militants carry out such executions to stifle criticism,” he said.
His party has a clear-cut policy against terrorism and wants the menace uprooted from tribal society, he said. “Killing innocent people on charges of spying ... should be condemned in the strongest possible words,” he said.
Said Wali Shah, the FATA co-ordinator for the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), also condemned such incidents in tribal areas and demanded an end to them.
“We believe it is a systematic genocide of the people of FATA and was aimed at subduing them,” he said.
The victims don’t get a fair trial, argued social activist and teacher Farid Khan.
“Never have militants explained in their charges what specific crimes the victims had committed,” he said.
“Whatever the motives for such gruesome acts by militants, they leave marks of terror on the minds of ordinary tribesmen,” he said, adding some of his terrified pupils had asked him about the baker’s beheading.
Militants want to suppress voices of reason in FATA, contended another social activist, Zar Ali Khan.
“Such acts are more aimed at obstructing peace and development in tribal areas,” he said, adding human rights seldom enjoy respect in FATA.