Mohmand was given the status of a tribal agency in 1951. The main tribes situated in the area are Mohmand (Baizai, Khwaizai, Halimzai, and Tarak Zai), Safi and Uthman khel. The agency is divided into Upper and Lower division, and eight tehsils. It is bounded by Afghanistan in the west, Malakand Agency, Charsadda and Peshawar in the east, Bajaur in the north and Khyber in the south.
Only 30 per cent of the area was administratively accessible till 1973 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government conceived a strategy of opening up inaccessible areas through development.
Through this policy, more than 50 per cent of the area was opened. It may be noted that during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, tribes did not allow the army or the civil administration to enter the border areas of Baizai and Khwaizai.
In 2002/2003, the army, Frontier Corps (FC) and the political administration opened all the inaccessible areas of the agency up to the Afghan border. FC and Khasadar posts were established at suitable places.
In July 2007, more than 200 militants stormed the shrine of Haji Turangzai in Lakaro area. They named the adjacent mosque ‘Lal Masjid’ to show their resentment against the army operation conducted in Islamabad. One Umar Khalid, who reportedly had an affiliation with Harkatul Mujahideen, led this group. Inspired by the Taliban movement in other agencies, especially neighbouring Bajaur, the Taliban tried to force people to pledge to obey Islamic law. They threatened barbers against shaving their beards and banned music as well as the schooling of girls. To this end they destroyed a number of schools.
An Ahle Hadith leader known as Shah Sahib led another group of militants, comprising several hundred fighters, active in the agency, since 2006. On July 19, 2008, the Umar Khalid group attacked the training centre of the Shah group, killing many, including Shah Sahib. More than 100 were kidnapped. The group was evicted from the area. Members of the group are presently part of tribal lashkars fighting the Taliban.
Security forces launched an operation in the area in 2009. Local tribesmen raised lashkars in support of the FC. In September 2009, the FC claimed it had secured 80 per cent of the area of the agency. Since the entire area was not secured, terrorists regrouped in the Baizai area bordering Kunar. Some Taliban from Bajaur and other areas also joined them. The Mohmand Taliban are also involved in terrorist activities in Charsadda and Peshawar. There is a need to launch another operation in Mohmand to eliminate the strongholds of terrorists in Khwazai and Baizai areas. Targeted operations, based on reliable intelligence, may also be conducted in the Maidan area of Dir and Mamoond in Bajaur, to apprehend the remnants of terrorists still operating in these areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2010.
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