PESHAWAR: Landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are posing a serious threat to the lives of innocent tribesmen who after experiencing the worst kind of sizzling heat and chilly cold weather in adjacent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts, are returning to their homes in North and South Waziristan Agencies.
Compared to North Waziristan and the rest of the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA), abandoned explosive material have been found in large quantities in Mehsud tribe dominated Ladha and Sarwaiki tehsils of South Waziristan.
Besides South Waziristan, such types of explosive material were also found from time to time in Kurram Agency, Tirah valley of Khyber Agency and border regions of both Mohmand and Kurram Agencies.
Though the Islamabad based FATA Research Centre, in its third quarter report for current calendar year claimed 44 per cent decline in terrorist activities, still it did not indicate whetehr terrorist attacks were on the decline.
The FATA Research Centre informed that there were 100 terrorist incidents registered in second quarter (April-June) of 2017, whereas, only 56 violent incidents occurred in third quarter July-September of the current year. Almost all terror acts occurring in different parts of the tribal regions were IEDs and landmine blasts.
Tribesmen from South Waziristan’s dominant Mehsud tribe have showed concern over the presence of bombs and landmines in their area. In both Ladha and Sarwaiki tehsils, around 69 IEDs and land mines explosions occurred after repatriation of tribesmen. As a result of these explosions, 18 people, including mostly children, were killed and around 60 others injured. The most recent incident of IED explosion was reported two days ago in Tyarza area of South Waziristan, which claimed the life of a teenager, namely Shah Zaib, and injured two others.
Surprisingly, after every incident of a bomb blast, the security forces who dominate operations in the tribal regions, always showed reluctance give comments about these incidents. The political agent also exonerated himself from his duty by saying that, “Investigation into the incident is being carried out and the affected family will be compensated.”
Common tribesmen, tribal elders and elected parliamentarians were also not able to comment on this issue as they have already been terrorised with “mysterious killings” of tribal elders, intellectuals, and even religious scholars.
As was witnessed in the past, landmine explosions were still a common occurrence in remote areas of Bajaur Agency. The problem became big after the resignation of Soviet Union backed Afghan President Dr Najibullah. The easy availability of landmines to tribal families have also made it an easy tool for settling scores with rivals.
Peshawar based Tribal News Network (TNN) in its September 2017 report, quoted an official of Pakistan Ted Crescent Society (PRCS), saying that more than 2,000 cases of landmine blasts were reported in FATA during the past few years. He said that majority of the victims were women and children, who were either killed or deprived of their limbs.
The report confirmed that besides militants, landmines were also being used by the tribesmen for settling land and family disputes. As a result of the military action, the militants have either left behind the explosive material or buried stocks in houses and compounds occupied by them before escaping to unknown places. On such grounds, the TNN confirmed that incidents of landmine explosions have increased after repatriation of the displaced tribesmen to their native areas. Quoting Obaid Ullah of PRCS, the TNN stated that, “Despite rigorous efforts by the government and the security forces, it seems impossible to clear the tribal belt of landmines completely.”
Most recently on September 12, a member of a tribal family was killed and five others injured when abandoned landmines went off in Danday Darpakhel of North Waziristan. The family was busy clearing their house after returning from Bannu, when the explosion occurred. As a result, the repatriation process to Danday Darpakhel was suspended by the officials concerned in reaction to the incident. Despite frequent demands, the repatriation process to Danday Darpakhel, adjacent to Miranshah-headquarter of North Waziristan, was still on halt.
Soon after ending of war and hostilities in Afghanistan in 1992, 1996 and 2001 last, in accordance to Geneva and Ottawa Conventions, a number of international organisations under the supervision of United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, initiated efforts to destroy landmines throughout Afghanistan. The process was still in progress in certain parts of the country.
Officers of security forces and civil administration had time and again claimed to have cleared almost the entire tribal region of militants and explosive materials. But common tribesmen were still facing threats to their lives due to presence of unused landmines, IEDs and other materials that remain buried in the ground.