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Peace committees both victims and culprits, say officials.

Byline: Naimat Khan

PESHAWAR/KARACHI -- Although initially at frontline against terrorists in Swat, different agencies of federally administrated tribal areas and settled parts around Peshawar, the peace committees or Amn Lashkars are fast proving themselves counterproductive, officials say.

The peace committees are now both victim of violence and a source of violence, the later characteristic witnessing dominance a security source told The Frontier Post.

Last week, On July 18, a peace committee member and former member provincial assembly of Awami National Party, Muhammad Shoaib, was killed in Swabi. On the same day, Taliban militants killed seven people, including a peace committee member, as they were on their way to Sheringal area from Dogdara in Upper Dir. Last year on August 21, 2015, Taliban had killed, Rahman Wali, a member of Doog Darra Amn Lashkar in the same area.

In addition, dozens of members associated with peace committees formed at village or town level in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas have been killed in recent years. According to a report, at least 147 pro-government tribal elders have been killed and 69 others wounded in 100 incidents of violence in tribal areas of Pakistan from May 29, 2005 to November 3 2015.

According to police and security sources around 40 peace committee members have been gunned down in Swat in the last five years.

However, if they are being victims, in most cases the committee members are also actively involved in violence, locals say. In one such case, a man accompanied by women and children of his family was dragged to the main Matani Bazaar. I, like other shopkeepers, came out of my shop. But no one could dare question them, a shopkeeper told The Frontier Post. According to him the victim had borrowed money from someone and was unable to pay back so police assigned the case to committee.

According to a security source, from notorious recovery officers to dictatorial judges at Jirga they the committee members are all. According to a local elder, Haji Imran Afridi, the Budh Bair police station would daily refer cases to the committee, which had enough power to enforce its well upon anyone, whether victim or culprit. The Adezai peace committee, headed by a former contract killer Dilawar Khan, and the Budh Bair committee, led by Fahim Khan, was found involved in land grabbing and extortion, Afirdi told this scribe.

In most case, the committees forms of criminals and people with bad reputations have turned against the people and members of such committees were involved in different crimes, including land grabbing, target killing, contract killing, and extortion and selling drugs, local say. Most criminals after being inducted into the anti-Taliban or pro-government peace committees and Lashkars received legal cover and were provided money, arms and vehicles by the government, another elder said.

When they crossed all limits and started worst oppression of the locals, those at the helms of affairs realized they should be checked before they turn into another Taliban force, a security official said.

Not all committee members have fell prey to Taliban and other militant groups, said a security official based in Peshawar. When some of those crossed the limits a afai Mohim (cleansing drive) had to be kicked off both in order so that people may get rid of them and others would be warned, he said.

Taliban militants killed a number of members of peace committees but security officials say that they have also arrested individuals associated with these bodies for their involvement in criminal and illegal activities.

Several family members of the former goons-turned-committee leaders entered into political arena by contesting local bodies polls. The brother of an anti-militant lashkar chief contested local bodies polls from the platform of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, a local resident said, informing that the party provincial chief, Amir Muqam himself attended his corner meetings.

Experts believe that the strategy of states to fight against terrorists through private militias, whether raising ISIS in Iraq or recruiting private groups in Pakistan, has always been counterproductive.

Asfandyar Mir, a Chicago based scholar and counter militancy expert says; The state sponsored peace lashkars or lightly armed committees have been fairly common. Mir reminds that Baitullah Mehsud was member of one such committee established to counter Abdullah Mehsud back in 2004.

The initial idea of forming peace committees was excellent, but the problems started when members of the peace committees started getting close and comfortable with some of those terrorist elements, said Khalid Muhammad Islamabad based analyst hailing from Swat, who argues that the peace committees have not been handled well at all. Muslim Khan, the TTP Swat spokesman, was hiding in his home in Qamber area of Swat, he adds. Sardar Ahmed Yousafzai, a Swat based political analyst, also believes peace committee have been counterproductive just because all peace committee member are targeted.
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Publication:Frontier Post (Peshawar, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 28, 2016
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