US President Donald Trump’s announcement to withdraw half of his troops from Afghanistan has prompted the tribesmen of a region in Pakistan to seek compensation from Washington for loss of life, damage to property, and for using their land routes as lines of communication.
Several also demanded that the administration pay blood money for those killed in attacks on NATO trucks.
The comments follow US media’s reports which claimed that 7,000 troops, nearly half of those remaining in Afghanistan, could go home within months.
Tribal elders, officials, and members from the youth fraternity attended a grand jirga (tribal council) in Jamrud, the main town in the Khyber tribal district, demanding compensation from the US for the losses incurred in terms of life and property during the past 17 years of the war in Afghanistan.
An enraged Malik Dawood Shah, a tribal elder, told Arab News that the reason for them to seek compensation now was because earlier the tribal people were entangled in a host of problems — amid a mass exodus of families — due to Pakistan’s military action against insurgents and, therefore, had no time to voice their demands back then.
“We had a pile of issues to deal with during the past several years and had no time to unite or raise our voice. Now as the tribal people are settled or repatriated to their hometowns after years of displacement, we got united and now we will demand our due rights. Let’s not forget that we suffered because of the US supply to Afghanistan,” Shah said.
He added that his fellow tribesmen and elders from all seven districts, formerly known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), would launch a massive awareness campaign to unite people for the initiative, for those killed during attacks on NATO convoys or damages done to “our routes and properties”.
However, he added, if the government of Pakistan tried to create hurdles in the seeking of their legitimate rights, then the tribesmen would have “no option but to demand the same from the government of Pakistan”.
“We will go to every extent to get our due rights. Enough is enough. I am even willing to die for this cause, but I will go ahead with my demands,” he said, adding that the next meeting would be held in the Mohmand tribal district to strengthen their alliance.
“Father of our nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had promised us that FATA will be a tax-free zone and our culture, norms, and traditions will be protected. However, the government has trampled all those pledges and announced its merger with KP without taking us into confidence,” Malik Salahuddin Afridi, another tribal elder from Khyber tribal district, told Arab News.
Afridi alleged that the entire tribal belt had experienced mayhem and turmoil because of the arrival of US forces in Afghanistan and now it was the responsibility of Washington to clear the mess “it was leaving behind”.
“With the arrival of the US forces, we had an influx of militants. We had our routes and properties damaged and lost hundreds of tribesmen due to the NATO’s supply to Afghanistan. Hence, our demand for compensation is legitimate and we will press for our demands,” Afridi said.
He said that the entire tribal people would be mobilized to build pressure on the US to compensate them for their losses. “We are chalking out our future strategy. We are mulling over whether to close the main route in Khyber leading to the Torkham border or to approach the Supreme Court of Pakistan or any other option to pressure the US to compensate them,” he added.
Malik Bismillah Khan, another tribal elder, said that almost all families had lost at least one family member in the US’ war on terror.
“We firmly believe this time that all stakeholders, specifically the US, want to end the Afghan war because Washington can’t afford to keep on fighting in this conflict. Prior to leaving Afghanistan, we want Washington to compensate tribal people. Or else, we will launch a series of protests in favor of our legitimate demands,” he observed.