UPDATE 1-Pakistani elders vow to protect vital Khyber Pass

Tue Sep 2, 2008 3:48pm IST

Election 2014

Election 2014

More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — are eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.  Full Coverage 

(Adds rebels in Baluchistan say suspend attacks)

By Ibrahim Shinwari

LANDIKOTAL, Pakistan, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Ethnic Pashtun tribal elders in Pakistan have promised to ensure security for supplies trucked through the Khyber Pass bound for foreign forces in Afghanistan, a government official said on Tuesday.

The Khyber Pass is a vital artery for supplies for U.S. and other foreign forces in landlocked Afghanistan and militants have been attacking trucks and tankers carrying military equipment and fuel.

According to transport companies, more than 20 trucks hauling containers and a dozen oil-tankers have been attacked in the region since June and some drivers have been kidnapped and killed.

Tahab Khan, a senior government official in the Khyber region, said elders had signed an agreement with authorities on Monday to ensure the safety of supplies.

"They will not only be responsible for security but also take strict action against violators," Khan told Reuters.

Elders traditionally wield power in Pashtun society although militants have killed several hundred of them since Pakistan joined the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism and tried to root out foreign al Qaeda militants and subdue their Pakistani allies.

The Khyber Pass is the one of two land routes for supplies going to Afghanistan from Pakistan and its main port of Karachi. The other border crossing is at the southwestern town of Chaman.

Security forces conducted an offensive in the Khyber region at the end of June to push militants back from the outskirts of the main northwestern city of Peshawar.

Later, the military went on the offensive in two other regions, Bajaur, which is also on the Afghan border to the north of Khyber, and the Swat Valley, in North West Frontier Province.

"ON THE RUN"

The Interior Ministry said this week more than 550 militants out of about 3,000, including foreigners, in Bajaur had been killed in the offensive and a military spokesman said the militants had been pushed out.

"They are on the run, security forces have made substantial gains," said the spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas.

A government official in Khar, the main town in Bajaur, said 10 children and two women were killed on Monday when paramilitary troops fired mortar bombs at militants.

Abbas said the incident was being investigated.

The government has suspended military operations in the northwest for the fasting month of Ramadan, which began on Monday evening, but said its forces would respond if attacked.

The fighting in the northwest has displaced about 250,000 people, most of whom are staying with friends and relatives, but many have started returning home since the government announced it was suspending military operations, government officials said.

In the gas-rich southwestern province of Baluchistan, autonomy-seeking rebels announced they were suspending their attacks to give the government time to address their grievances and stop military operations against them.

Baluch nationalist rebels, who have no links with the Islamist Taliban, have for decades been waging a low-level insurgency for autonomy and a greater share of the revenue from the province's natural resources.

They have regularly attacked gas industry infrastructure, transport links and security posts.

The coalition government led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has pledged to address grievances in Baluchistan, Pakistan's poorest province, and to hold talks with the insurgents. (Additional reporting by Mian Saeed-ur-Rehman in Bajaur and Gul Yousafzai in Quetta; Writing by Kamran Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Eyeing Role

Eyeing Role

Top economist Jagdish Bhagwati eyes role in Modi government  Full Article 

Election 2014

Election 2014

Breakingviews: Singh wasn’t king, Modi could be  Full Article 

Telecom Sector

Telecom Sector

Japan's NTT DoCoMo to exit India telecoms joint venture - sources  Full Article 

Next Nokia CEO

Next Nokia CEO

Nokia to name Rajeev Suri as next CEO on Tuesday - report  Full Article 

Conspiracy Lawsuit

Conspiracy Lawsuit

Apple, Google agree to pay over $300 million   Full Article 

Stock Split Trend

Stock Split Trend

Trend-setter Apple's stock split could bring out the copycats  Full Article 

Winning Start

Winning Start

Microsoft beats Wall Street on new CEO debut   Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage