Dispute resolution at local level spurs Bamyan security

Create: 08/10/2015 - 12:19

BAMYAN CITY (Pajhwok): Many political, group, property, social, personal and legal disputes -- claiming dozens of lives -- have been resolved in central Bamyan province, officials say.
Committees within the frameworks of the provincial council, peace body and civil society are playing an effective role in amicably settling such issues through a series of jirgas among rivals.
Civil society activists, linking progress toward dispute resolution among tribes, individuals and groups to rising public awareness, acknowledge efforts of local committees.
Courtesy the provincial peace committee, serious disputes in the Fatimsati area of Bamyan City, Wars and Shebar districts. After a resolution to the problems, residents have heaved a sigh of relief.
Different factors had contributed to the long-running cases, which triggered tribal clashes that caused hundreds of casualties. But their resolution has helped improve peace and security in different localities. 
History of Fatimsati dispute:
The incident stemmed from a feud between relatives, including Abdul Khaliq Naliq, Ghulam Sarwar Paikan, Kabir Topan, Nek Mohammad, Dur Mohammad and Haji Khalil all residents of Fatimsati village.
Irritants led them into a legal battle in 1981, opening floodgates to meddling in their affairs by certain groups. The issue soon engulfed the entire village in limits of the provincial capital.
In the initial phase of the dispute, which lasted many years, 10 people were killed and several others wounded. Intermittent firefights in coming years claimed 70 lives in Fatimsati village.
The warring parties had connections with Wahdat-i-Islami and Islamic Movement, both active in the area, whose residents had relationships with one another. Because of mutual hostilities, not political considerations, they had affiliations with different groups.
After Taliban’s ouster from power, the warring parties entered a legal battle, but local officials and residents worked to bring about a patch-up between them. Peace Committee chief Mohammad Sadeq characterised the enmity as hot and ruthless.
Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News, he recalls around 600 tribal elders, religious scholars, provincial officials, civil society workers and representatives of both sides met at a city mosque and called for them to bury the hatchet.
Sadeq adds prisoners from both sides were set free, as the warring parties promised laying down their arms for good. The Bamyan Peace Committee has always tried to place resolution of such disputes at the top of its agenda, he continues.
Ex-foes Karim Haideri and Nek Mohammad confirm their commitment to resolving their dispute and avoidance of any unpleasant situation. They have gained nothing but destruction from the prolonged enmity, acknowledge the men, who are once again living in a cordial atmosphere.
Provincial council intervention:
Former officials and provincial council played a central part in sorting out the issue. “We convinced both sides into bowing to elders’ decision and unlearning their spat,” says ex-deputy governor Mohammad Nader Fahimi.
Fortunately, they came up with a positive response to the call. But once again, men from the two sides fought again this year, using knives and sticks. Two people were injured. But the tiff ended soon after elders fined the party at fault, Fahimi maintains.
Dispute resolution:
Most disputes are dealt with by the Peace Committee, tribal elders, public-spirited individuals and the Governor’s House. Initially, elders have a shot at a negotiated settlement of rows.
Provincial council member Mahmoodi says militant commander Sarhang Wafa, having 60 supporters in Bamyan, has joined the peace process as a result of efforts by local elders. Wafa, who also surrenders 25 weapons to the government, has returned to normal life. 
The erstwhile insurgent commander faces no resistance from the authorities or rival groups. Blamed for torturing civilians, land grab, forced displacement and other cruel acts in Wars district, Wafa says he shunned the insurgency this year.
A former commander of the Hezb-i-Wahdat faction led by Wolesi Jirga member Mohammad Akbari, Wafa was aided by his gunmen in harassing Wars residents. Bamyan resident and civil society members lashed out at the then strongman during a protest rally this year.
While seeking action against him, the protestors the protestors accused the commander of beating an innocent man to death in Surkhjoi district. But Wafa denies the allegations as groundless, saying he is ready to answer them in court. He is bitter over his rivals getting government jobs.
People’s role in peace:
Bamyan Ulema Council head Mohammad Sajjad Mohseni believes residents are playing an important role in bringing peace and security to the province. Immediately after noticing even minor security incidents or suspicious materials, they inform the authorities.
“Tired of war, Bamyan residents have tasted the blessings of peace over the past 14 years. They have been trying to address issues soon after they surface,” says the renowned religious scholar.
He also refers to a protest camp set up by Bamyan lawmakers against Governor Zaher Zaheer, a development that prompted residents to call the month-long event damaging of unity among the people. As an upshot of endeavours by youth, scholars and social workers, the camp was wound up.
Parliamentarians Mohammad Akbari, Safoora Elkhani, Syed Fakoor Baheshti and Abdur Rahman Shaheedani ascribe ending their protest to consistent demands from voters.
Declining regional rows:  
The Peace Committee chief claims resolving four complicated disputes -- the Sarhang Wafa episode, Shebar feuds and the Fatimsati imbroglio. “Propitiously, most of the issues in Bamyan are resolved by people’s intervention at the village level,” the government peace negotiator says.
Haji Khuda Dad, a resident of the provincial capital, endorses his view: A number of tiffs occur over land possession and irrigation water but local elders and influential figures go flat-out to deal with these situations before they spin out of control or spawn further complications.
“When a legal battle erupts following a clash in our village, the parties approach elders, who use their vision and experience in sorting out the irritants. Both parties willingly accept their decisions.”
Public optimism:
Bamyan residents agree village-level wrangles should be resolved with intervention from religious scholars and tribal elders. Issues should not be allowed to grow more complex, opines culturist Aziz Ahmad, who reasons courts take years investigating cases. Duty-dodging and briber in judicial organs often further compound, much less resolve cases.
A female civil society worker concurs many cases go to court after bloodshed, but they tend to linger on without rhyme or reason. Reconciliation is the only and viable option to deal with such cases, Fatima says, underlining the need for jirgas involving ulema and elders.
Bamyan University teacher Mohammad Iqbal says residents of the province are living happily because of the stable security environment here. “Suppose we are living in Kabul, where we have to go through the pangs of terror on a daily basis. Moving from one place to another, you don’t know how many suicide attacks you will be faced with. But this isn’t the situation in Bamyan, where there is no security issue anywhere.”
Iqbal says Bamyan residents, including women and children who have seen the benefits of peace, are trying to improve security in the province. They do not allow anyone to create chaos in their areas. Bamyan, where security transition to Afghan forces began a couple of years ago, is generally viewed as a peaceful province.