An interesting development in support of sustainable peace happened recently in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan, with a 'Grand Jirga' in Mingora. Traditionally, Jirgas have served as a mechanism for resolving communal and tribal conflicts in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. Jirga members are often notable and local power-holders whose decisions are respected and thus accepted by the people. Swat Valley is an administrative district in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, located 160km from Islamabad. In 2007-2008 most of the area was captured by an armed insurgency. In this time, the group Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi had banned education for girls and bombed more than 170 schools along with other government-owned buildings. In May 2009 the Pakistani government began a military offensive to regain control of the region.
In May 2010, The Grand Jirga was organised in Mingora and a declaration was produced (the declaration is printed below). The declaration was well appreciated by many. There was however some criticisms, in particular over the following point: “Arms that have been collected from local people should be returned to the gentle people”. Many people have shared serious concerns and fears that these arms will be used again in the militancy, because it is just hard to identify that who are “gentle people”. It is still up to the authorities to make any decision on this particular point of the declaration because re-distribution of weapons may lead to an armed insurgency in the region.
For more information about the Grand Jigra in Mingore, please read the following declaration of the Jirga.
Zahid Shahab Ahmed, Pakistan Local Correspondent, 18 June 2010.
Declaration of the Grand Jirga
The Swat Jirga released a 21 point Declaration during the Grand Jirga that was held in Mingora City and was attended by more than 450 members from the width and breadth of the valley. The declaration was passed unanimously.
- The Jirga reiterates and assures to continue cooperation with both Government and Army for maintenance of durable peace, rehabilitation and reconstruction in the area.
- The Jirga expresses deep concern over activities of various fake-associations on the name of Jirga under the umbrella of administration and declare it as a major threat for tranquillity in the area. Jirga requests the administration to stop supporting fake-associations, their jurisdiction and undesirable interventions in the affairs of public concerns.
- Security forces should pay their whole attention towards the elimination of terrorists from the zone to ensure restoration of the civil administrations and make them functional in real sense.
- Army/administration must not demolish private and national assets like forests, graveyards, gardens, (orchards) in the name of security reasons.
- The Jirga urged the security forces to vacate educational buildings, hostels, hujras and other buildings in order to make the local incumbents restart their respective activities in the said places.
- Arms that have been collected from local people should be returned to the gentle people.
- The Jirga also demanded a reduction in the number of un-necessary check-posts in Main-Mingora city and on Mingora-Kalam road.
- The army should be careful about the integrity and traditional values of the locals.
- The Jirga deeply deplore untimely and purposeless imposition of curfew on Saidu Sharif Road and demand not to impose un-necessary curfew in the area that paralyze life.
- The Jirga request to expedite the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation in fair and transparent manners.
- It was also evolved that the Government must write off the utility bills of previous two years and exempt the valley of Swat from taxes further more.
- The locals should be given loans on easy term and condition and their losses must be compensated.
- The Jirga appreciates the announcement of 300,000 rupees in aid for the relatives of martyred police officers by the Chief Minister, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and asks for its prompt payment. Similarly, those fallen victim to terrorism like national leaders, political activists and common people's relatives are to be granted money on the same basis.
- The Jirga urges reconstruction of Sangota Public School and rehabilitation of Paithm (Pak Austria Institute of Tourism and Hostelling Management) at the earliest.
- The Jirga asks the Government to get buildings on rent for student-getting education in tents or in open yards and their fees must be remitted.
- The Jirga also asks all functional NGOs in Swat to give priority to the locals in job-opportunities.
- The Jirga demands punishments for the arrested terrorists through court-proceedings and also stress to imprison their hidden focal members. Innocent people detained should be released and acquitted of charges.
- The Jirga requests the local religious scholars to play active role in stopping extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism insides mosques and seminaries (Madrassas). The Government and the elders of the area must keep an eye on the activities inside Madrassas and mosques.
- An inquiry commission comprising of Judges from the Supreme Court should be established in order to find out the elements responsible for destruction in Swat and to clarify that how non-local terrorists entered into the valley, who provided them with sophisticated ammunition and gave them training?
- The Jirga also stresses the need for a University in the Swat Valley. The Government must ensure the availability of sui-gas in all parts/areas of the valley to protect forests from further destruction.
- The Jirga also appeals to the Government to give a solid shape to their promise of establishing Supreme Court and High Court benches so that people have easy and cheap access to justice.
- The Jirga demands an independent Platform like Qaumi Jirga for the maintenance of durable peace.
- The Jirga appeals to the National Leaders, People Representatives and common people to unite under the shadow of the Qaumi Jirga for the Welfare and betterment of the Valley so that every positive act is appreciated and negative one is pointed out and stopped. The Jirga resolved that they would do whatever they can for the prosperity, well-being, peace, stability and bright future of the valley.