A grand jirga of tribal elders from North Waziristan Agency on Friday said that they would wage jihad against America to avenge those killed in drone attacks.
A US drone attack killed at least 40 people, most of them tribal elders, in Datta Khel tehsil, North Waziristan on Thursday. Pakistan’s top leadership, including the army chief, have already condemned the attack.
Malik Jalal Sarhadi Qatkhel, head of the North Waziristan Peace Committee, told reporters at the Peshawar Press Club that the tribes would wage a jihad against the US as well as Pakistanis who are helping them carry out the Predator drone strikes. He said that they had allowed their youths to carry out suicide attacks against the Americans.
The tribal elder claimed that there were no al Qaeda or Taliban members in North Waziristan, or the rest of the tribal areas, and that children, women and the elderly were being massacred instead.
“There is no al Qaeda and Taliban presence in North Waziristan, while the Americans themselves have acknowledged that around 70 per cent of Afghanistan is under the control of militants,” Qatkhel said.
“Unlike [those] who pardoned the killer of two Pakistanis for dollars, we will take revenge for our dead and the world will see it.”
He said that they would avenge the killing “even if it takes a hundred years” and so they were announcing jihad against America and its allies in Pakistan.
He said the media had been presenting the wrong information about militants. He said reports of foreign militants dying in Predator strikes were false and mostly innocent tribesmen were being killed in such attacks.
“We have valid evidence and those who claim deaths of foreign militants in these attacks should show us or the media. The latest attack which killed tribal elders shows us this reality of tribesmen being massacred,” he said.
Other tribal elders of the jirga including Malik Faridullah Saifli Kabal Khel, Malik Daaraz Mada Khel Wazir and Nek Daraz Khan were also present on the occasion.
Meanwhile, the top US general in Afghanistan said Friday it was “hugely important” that Pakistani forces take action against militants in North Waziristan.
General David Petraeus, commander of the NATO-led force in the Afghanistan war, credited Islamabad with battling insurgents elsewhere but said the campaign needed to move to North Waziristan, where, he said, members of the al Qaeda and Haqqani networks are based.
“The fact is that it’s hugely important that there’s a campaign in northern Waziristan that is putting enormous pressure on the al Qaeda sanctuaries there,” Petraeus said at a conference in Washington.
US officials have long urged Pakistan to crack down on militants in North Waziristan but the country’s military commanders have said their forces are already stretched.
“They have lost thousands of soldiers and thousands of civilians in a very impressive counter insurgency campaign to clear Swat Valley and the other areas” in Khyber and South Waziristan, Petraeus said. WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2011.