Islamabad: Hundreds of tribesmen from
Pakistan`s semiautonomous regions near the Afghan border ended
a rare tribal council meeting on Saturday with a declaration calling
for the army to crush the Taliban.
The meeting, held in the northwestern city of
Peshawar, was called by an umbrella group of aid organizations
and political parties in an effort to bring together people
from the violence-battered region.
Participants called for the army to escalate its
attack against the network of Islamist militants across the
tribal regions, dismissing Pakistan`s earlier offensives as
"It should be a genuine military operation like the
Sri Lankans did against the Tamil Tigers," said Sayd Alam
Mehsud, a powerful tribal leader, referring to the brutal
military campaign that destroyed the separatist Tamil army in
They also called for more power for traditional
"If we strengthen these councils and make them more
functional, I believe it will win us half of the war," said
one participant, Salar Amjad Ali, 34. "We, the Pashtuns, live
for our culture and tradition and we die for it."
Tribal councils or `jirgas` play a central role in the
Pashtun culture that dominates the region along the
These often-lawless regions, havens for al-Qaida and
Taliban fighters, have been the scene of bloody fighting and
regular attacks by American drone aircraft as the Pakistani
and US governments try to defeat the Islamist militants.
Smaller council meetings are used in tribal areas to
decide matters ranging from local administration to criminal
While today`s meeting was not a formal jirga, it is
rare to have so many tribal leaders gather together.
A declaration at the end of the meeting called
democracy vital to rooting out terrorism, arguing that
Pakistan`s powerful military, which many see as the true power
behind the country`s elected government, should keep out of
"A sapling of terrorism cannot grow in democracy. Any
attempt to derail democracy is like letting the terrorists
walk all over us," the declaration said.