15 years on, KP families await return of kin missing in Afghanistan
PESHAWAR (Pajhwok/NewsLens Pakistan): Bilal Bakht, 24, has recently obtained his engineering degree from a private university in Peshawar. Jubilant over his graduation, he is flooded by congratulation messages from friends and relatives. But if he is missing a congratulation message, it’s from his father, who had gone to Afghanistan to fight against US forces back in 2001 and has since been missing.
As his eyes welled up, Bakht told News Lens he was 10 years old when his father Sherin Bakht (40) accompanied Sufi Muhammad’s contingent that went to Afghanistan for jihad. “I didn’t remember but my mother has told me that my father has been out of home for bringing household items. When he came home, he asks for packing to go to Afghanistan."
“He went and never came back nor we have any information about his death or being alive,” Bakht tells News Lens who became a sign of bleak.
Like Sherin Bakht, more than 10,000 fighters went to Afghanistan under the flag of Tehrek Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi(TNSM) founded in 1992 in Maidan Tehsil of Lower Dir to implement Islamic Shariah in Malakand division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to Encyclopedia of Terrorism volume-1 TNSM become prominent when they kicked off armed uprising to implement Shariah in Malakand division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa formerly called as North West Frontier Province. Later on, according the book TNSM hold a protest demonstrations in Swat valley on September 20th 2001 against US forces invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 attacks. The speaker’s in the procession called for formation of ‘volunteer army’ to extend their support to Taliban militia in Afghanistan against US forces.
Approximately 10,000 fighters from Malakand division and tribal region Bajaur agency has joined TNSM cadre led by their chief Sufi Muhammad, daughter-in-law of current Tehrek Taliban Pakistan’s Premier Maulana Fazlullah to go to Afghanistan to fight against US force, says Encyclopedia of Terrorism.
The convoy comprising 300 vehicles has left TNSM’s headquartering at Maidan and reached Ghani pass on Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They were armed with Klawshinkow, Rocket-launchers, missiles, anti-aircraft guns, hand grenades and swords. The book quoted news reports as saying that the political administration of Bajaur agency allowed the convoy to pass through the agency jurisdiction to reach Afghanistan.
TNSM was declared outlawed in 2012 by the Government of Pakistan.
Saleem Khan hails from Lower Dir, who was part of the Muhammad’ convoy to Afghanistan and came back alive after spending 9 months in self-exile in a home of Shia family at Jalalabad province of Afghanistan told News Lens that the convoy was in contact with then the governor of Jalalabad Abdul Kabir.
“We have been received by Abdul Kabir and Taliban leadership at Jalalabad and stayed with them after arrival,” Khan said.
While explaining the situation, khan said that as they woke up in the morning round about 6am, the US forces has hit the region where they were stayed.”Most of our companions were died in that air strike while the rest were dispersed.”
According to a research paper available on the web portal of Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, a petitioner has filed writ petition for brining treason charges against Sufi Muhammad. The petitioner told court that over 5000 volunteers Jihadist were died as they were misled by Muhammad.
“Around 3000 Pakistani warriors had gone missing in Afghan Jihad against US forces in 2001,” state the paper.
The elder son Nasir Bakht of Sherin Bakht, who is among the missing persons told News Lens that they had been trying to search out his father for the last 15 years while contacting each and every office who had any affiliation with the issue but didn’t found any information about his father.
“We are still hopeful that one day my father with be among us to wish graduation to my younger brother,” Bakht said. He demanded the government of Pakistan and exterior ministry to help those whereabouts of his father.”
Dr.Ashraf Ali, former director of Fata Research Centre, a non-profitable research based organization working for the cause of promoting peace, through advocacy capacity building and objective research on the issue confronting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas have the opinion that the missing persons issue persist for the last many years and human rights advocates and government too doing little bit to address the issue.
Actually, he said, the Pakistani government never owned nor disowned those who went to Afghanistan that was around 10,000 contingent led my Sufi Muhammad, however no doubt that Pakistan government didn’t stop them to cross Afghan border to fight against US forces.
Those fighters were allowed by the Pakistani state for two reasons, said Dr,Khadim Hussain, political analyst based in Peshawar. One, he said, to have these fighters an inspiration for other inmates of the region so that they have a soft corner and favor for Taliban and secondly, to gain strategic interests.
Criticizing policy of Pakistan’s establishment at that time, Hussain said that Pervez Musharaf, the former dictator abrogated Pakistan’s constitution after military coup in 1999 ousted Nawaz Sharif’ government was heading the country as chief executive until 2002, was doing two parallel operations in the country.“On one hand Pakistan declare explicit alliance with US to fight Al-Qaeda in the country and round about 150 hardcore Al Qaeda leaders were arrested at that time, while on the same time he allowed such Jihadists in favor of Taliban to Afghanistan.”
“International and bilateral agreements with Afghanistan were contradicted by Islamabad for allowing the fighters to cross border illegally without visa and passport,”Hussain told News lens in an interview.
The ill-trained for Jihad with no logistic and financial supports, the Jihadist came there to Afghanistan where many have been died in US air strikes while the rest have been imprisoned by Afghan government, says Ali.
“Still many of them [Jihadist] are imprisoned in Afghan’s jails,” Ali, who is working on the missing persons issue for many years and had to Afghanistan many times told News lens through phone.
When asked about Pakistan’s steps to recover the missing people, Ali said from time to time groups of people were freed by the Afghanistan government as goodwill gesture to strengthen bilateral ties. “All of them had not gone there for jihad as some of them had been involved in terror activities in Afghanistan.”
On humanitarian grounds, those missing people may be searched out at detention centers both in Afghanistan and Pakistan as their families are worried about their fates, Hussain says, adding this responsibility does not rest with the government as the fighters had illegally gone to Afghanistan under the banner of a non-state organisation called TNSM.
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