Articles by Amir Mir

50 Amr Bil Maroof militants join Daish


Hardly a week after renouncing violence and agreeing to cooperate with the political administration of Khyber Agency in the ongoing military operation, dozens of the fighters of a militant group, Amar Bil Maroof wa Nahi Anil Munkir (Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue), have revolted against their leadership to join hands with the Pakistan chapter of the Islamic State or Daish, hence further strengthening it.

It was on January 10, 2015 that following an intense fight between the Pakistani security forces and the militants belonging to different groups that a Bara-based banned group, Amr Bil Maroof wa Nahi Anil Munkir, announced renouncing violence and cooperating with the political administration of the Khyber agency to establish the writ of the state. The leaders of the group which was banned by the Musharraf government in 2003, had announced their decision at a grand Jirga of Bar Qambar Khel tribe, attended by MNA Nasir Khan Afridi, officials of the political administration and two ex-members of the National Assembly, Abdul Latif Afridi and Hameedullah Jan Afridi. More than 3,000 tribesmen of Sheikhmal Khel, Wandgary and Dray Plaar clans of Bar Qambar Khel took part in the gathering.

The jirga was the first of its king since 2006. The leaders of the banned group assured the administration of winding up all private jails being run by its men besides removing its flags from atop houses and adhering to a complete ceasefire. The jirga unanimously decided not to protect anti-state elements and wanted men in their area and assured that such elements would immediately be handed over to political administration. The jirga resolved to impose a fine of 20 million rupees and torch the houses of all those found guilty of violating its decisions or those who were found involved in terrorism. The jirga also called upon the administration to arrange safe and honourable return of all those Qambar Khel families which were either expelled or had moved out of Bara on their own out for fear of the militant group.

Before concluding the jirga, the Assistant Political Agent of Bara, Muhammad Nasir, declared that the writ of his administration had been restored in most parts of Bara and no one would be allowed to run a parallel administration by establishing private jails or conducting armed patrolling. He added that Amr Bil Maroof group would be merged into the 150-member Bar Qambar Khel Sareshtha (liaison committee) and its weapons would be surrendered to the government. However, hardly a week later, on January 17, at least 50 hardcore militants of the Amr Bil Maroof group, led by Commanders Haya Khan and Waheed Khan, have revolted against the ceasefire and deal with the local political administration and joined the Pakistan chapter of the Islamic State (IS) led by Hafiz Saeed Khan.

The renegade militants belonging to Amr Bil Maroof group made the announcement at the Tirah valley of Khyber agency which is going through a massive security operation, since mid-October 2014. Hundreds of militants have surrendered to civil and military authorities during the operation code named Khyber-One, whose second stage with the name of Khyber-Two has also been launched to target all militant groups to secure the strategically important Khyber agency where dispersed Taliban militants have found new haven after abandoning North Waziristan in the wake of Operation Zarb-e-Azab. The entry of 250-plus foreign fighters [including the Arabs, Tajiks and Uzbeks] into the Tirah Valley has further complicated the situation, especially after the Jamaatul Ahraar [led by Commander Omar Khalid Khurasani] announced its support to the Lashakr-e-Islam [of Commander Mangal Bagh] in fighting against the Pakistani security forces in the Tirah Valley.

The remote Tirah Valley has key strategic significance for the Pakistani militant groups. The Valley is a mountainous region of the Khyber Agency, bordering the Orakzai and Kurram Agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), and provides easy access to Afghanistan. On the other side, it leads to the plains of Bara, which connect the Agency to the outskirts of Peshawar. Tirah Valley gives access to the settled areas beyond Fata and even threatens Peshawar. Khyber Agency also links several Agencies to each other, serving as a north-south route within Fata. It is also important as a conduit linking the Khyber Agency to the neighbouring Orakzai Agency and Afghanistan. The region has long been fought over by a mix of militant organisations, including the Tehrik-e-Taliban, Lashkar-e-Islam founded by Mangal Bagh, Amr Bil Maroof founded by Haji Namdar and Tawheed-e-Islam.

While Mangal Bagh is still alive and his private army is fighting against the Pakistani security forces in the Khyber Agency, the founder of Amr Bil Maroof, Haji Namdar was shot dead by a group of the TTP attackers led by Hakeemullah Mehsud, on August 13, 2008. The reason for TTP’s rivalry with Haji Namdar was the strategic utility of the Khyber Agency’s location and the control which made its control important for both the groups. The TTP, which at the time of Namdar’s murder was led by Baitullah Mehsud, had sought control of the main land route to Afghanistan and the Central Asian states, which goes through the Khyber Pass and is a vital supply route to the Nato troops in Afghanistan.

The TTP leadership had sought control of this route from Namdar and Mangal Bagh to gain political and economic leverage. While Namdar was killed, Mangal neither gave control of the Agency to TTP nor merged his Lashkar-e-Islam with the TTP. However, in the wake of the launching of the Operation Khyber One and Operation Khyber Two by Pakistan Army in Khyber agency, there are reports that the fighters of Mangal Bagh, Jamaatul Ahraar and Tehrik-e-Taliban are putting up a joint fight to maintain control of the strategically important area.

The Islamic State had announced the organisational structure of its Pakistan chapter only last week, led by Hafiz Saeed Khan, who comes from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and belongs to the Mamozai area of the Orakzai Agency. Before discarding the TTP umbrella in mid-October 2014, Saeed was ameer of the Orakzai Agency chapter of the Pakistani Taliban. The commander of the US forces in Afghanistan General John Campbell subsequently warned next day that the Islamic State is making recruitment in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the group had the potential to spread its message in both the states.

“The Taliban have their allegiance to Mullah Omar and a different ideology than that of the IS. But potentially, there are people who are disgruntled with the Taliban, they haven’t seen Mullah Omar in years, or they want to go a different way. Those disgruntled with the Taliban leadership could be vulnerable to the IS message, and so we’re looking at it very hard”, General Campbell added. On the other hand, Daish recently sent out a book in Urdu language through emails to Pakistanis, especially journalists, in a bid to reach out to maximum number of people in Pakistan to propagate their agenda. The book in the PDF format is the first of its kind of literature in Urdu which in detail sheds light on the IS, its history, motives behind formation and its policy.


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