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Militancy Harms Families In Pakistan's Tribal Area

Anthony Maw

Tayyeb Afridi is a Pakistani journalist from the Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan. He visited KUT on a US Pakistan Journalism Exchange through the International Center for Journalists.

Two outlawed groups have been fighting each other for years in the Khyber Agency, a tribal area of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan. The Khyber Agency is also known as the gateway to Central Asia. The militant groups areLashkar-e-Islam(Army of Islam) and Ansar-ul-Islam (Brother of Islam).

Pakistan security forces intervened in the fighting in 2008 when they launched operations in a subdivision of the Khyber Agency called Bara. The operation against these outlawed militant organizations was codenamed "Sirat-e-Mustaqeem" (The Righteous Path).

The operation continued into 2009 and intensified. That’s when the Lashkar-e-Islam, which previously banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in their territory, allowed TTP in Bara subdivision.  

TTP’s mission was  to fight first against Pakistan security forces for aiding the United States in its so-called War on Terror, that began with the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

The Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam fled to the mountains and engaged in war so intense that they began slaughtering each other. No Islamic scholar has issued a fatwa (religious edict) related to this case, except Maulana Hassan Jan. Maulana publically reject the movement of both militant groups and said they have nothing to do with Islam. He was killed soon after this comment.

After his death, no one in Northwest Pakistan has dared to try to calm the dispute. It has only expanded with the passage of time. Now, every family in the Khyber Agency has had a relative killed by one or another militant group.

For example, the Afridi tribe living in Khyber Agency has two homes. One is in Bara and the other is in Tirah Valley. In summer, one brother used to go to Tirah Valley while the other brother used to arrive in Bara in winter.

But after the establishment of militant groups, the two brothers find themselves in opposite theological groups. One found himself in Lashkar-e-Islam, based in Bara. The other found himself in Ansar-ul-Islam, based in Tirah Valley. The families stopped visiting each other and started killing each other.

In this way for the last seven years, war is engulfing thePakhtun people in general and the Afridis in particular.  Everyday mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are mourning their beloved ones.

Pakhtun society is male-dominated. Women don’t have say in the life of male partner. The women have to accept whatever decision a man makes, regard of his religious affiliation, even if it could cost him his life. If she resisted, she would be told that her job is to give birth, nurture children, keep the house clean and cook food. She has no further role.  Therefore, women are paying for the decisions taken by such men. They have been made widows, orphans and ill-fated mothers when men are killed.

One among those women was my friend Nasrullah Afridi's wife.  Nasrullah was 40 years old, and he didn’t surrender to threats of these militant groups, despite repeated requests from his wife.

She pleaded many times. He replied that he could leave her, but he couldn’t leave journalism.

And that’s exactly what happened to him. He left his wife for journalism when he was killed by a car bomb.

She has been in mourning since May 10, 2011, wishing her husband should have gone to America with me on Journalism Exchange Program and prevent this from happening.

She sent me a message through my wife to help collect her husband’s radio interviews, discussions on national and international radio, because she wants to keep his voice alive, this time only for herself.

My another journalist friend told me that his eyes were opened that how family suffers, especially in Pakhtun society where some women have to spend their entire lives with only memories.

Tayyeb Afridi worked for four years as the Station Manager for Radio Khyber, a government-licensed station located in the Khyber Agency in Northwest Pakistan. He previously worked as a reporter for the English daily newspaper, “The Statesman” for one year.

While he was in Austin, he wrote about the changes that social media could bring to his region. Now back in Pakistan, Tayyeb looks how creation of a regional radio network would affect the region of a country where broadcasting is dominated by the national government while Islamic militants fight back with pirate radio.

Tayyeb Afridi is a journalist from the Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan, a region that borders Afghanistan. He visited KUT in May 2011 on a US Pakistan Journalism Exchange through the International Center for Journalists.