Peshawar, July 5 : In a bid to allow the Afridi tribesmen to meet Lashkar-e-Islam chief Mangal Bagh for holding peace talks, the Pakistan government has suspended its security operation against suspected militants and criminals in the Khyber Agency for 36 hours till Saturday morning.
Due to relaxation in the operation, Bara Bazaar opened yesterday, and several cars were observed on the roads for the first time since the operation was launched on June 28. Authorities also relaxed the curfew from 8 am to 5 pm. Local residents used this time to purchase essential commodities, said local trader Daud Khan Afridi.
"The operation has been suspended until Saturday morning on the request of the tribal jirga and we have relaxed the curfew in Bara to facilitate locals," the Daily Times quoted Khyber Agency Chief Administrator Tariq Hayat Khan as saying.
He said that Afridi elders had approached him on Thursday and offered to conduct negotiations with Mangal Bagh to help restore peace in the area.
Khan said that the government had provided the jirga members with a list of demands for Bagh, adding that these included surrender of all weapons along with a guarantee that Bagh would not challenge the state's writ.
"The jirga was not sent by the government. The Afridi tribesmen initiated it on their own as they were worried that the security operation could continue indefinitely until all the set goals had been achieved," he added.
The 18-member Afridi jirga left for Tirah Valley on Thursday to conduct negotiations with Mangal Bagh, tribal sources said. It returned on Friday evening, chief tribal negotiator Haji Amal Gul told Daily Times. "There has been progress (in talks) but we cannot share with media," he said and added that the jirga would brief Khan on the talks with Bagh today.
However, Khan said: "If our goals can be achieved through peaceful means, we will certainly pursue them. But, rest assured, we will continue the operation as long as our demands are not met."
He said that security forces had destroyed 16 militant compounds during the past six days of the operation, adding that they had also identified 14 other such compounds. He said the remaining centres would also be destroyed if the jirga failed to convince Bagh to surrender to the government.