In Kapisa, 60-year-old dispute resolved on amicable note

Create: 08/10/2015 - 11:30

MAHMOOD RAQI (Pajhwok): Two rival commanders in the Kohband district of central Kapisa province have buried the hatchet after 60 years of enmity, becoming friends and putting an end to clashes that have caused dozens of casualties, a top security official says.  
Elders, influential figures and sitting provincial police chief made hectic efforts to ensure reconciliation between the commanders’ families living in Durnami area. The enmity ended after leaving 60 people dead and causing civilians in the area many casualties. 
Additionally, dozens of families had left homes due to frequent clashes between the two sides. Local authorities say the enmity erupted nearly 60 years ago. During jihad against the Soviet occupation forces, a member of one family was appointed as a commander of the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA).
Likewise, a member of the other family was chosen as a commander of the Jamiat-i-Islami Afghanistan (JIA). Each side created dozens of armed groups that often clashed in the remote area and the enmity intensified during the Hamid Karzai administration.
Zabit and Wakeel, the commanders, took to trenches and traded heavy and light weapons fire. For a decade and half, both government and area inhabitants failed to resolve the feud. Residents of Kohband, where agriculture is non-existent, eke out a living by quarrying. But the feud forced hundreds of households shifted to other parts of the province and Kabul.
Civilian displacement
Kohband residents recall frequent clashes between the commanders during the Karzai era, but the hostilities intensified toward the end of his government. Resident Haji Gul Agha says: “People could not travel from one area to another, fearing they could be mistaken for enemies…”
He adds: “When the two sides traded fire day and night, stray bullets often hit civilian houses. Apart from the combatants, innocent ordinary people also suffered casualties.” The area remained tense, with dwellers staying confined to their houses more often than not.
Another resident, Sher Aqa says: “We repeatedly raised our voice against this vulnerability through media. The government finally appointed a delegation (to end the feud) but a patch-up between the commanders looked impossible. We had lost faith in the government.”
He continues: “Despite the presence of army and police in Kapisa, the two sides often used heavy weapons. Their trenches were all too visible, but the authorities including security personnel refuse to take measures against the commanders.”
Senior provincial officials allegedly aided one side or the other, preventing the security forces from raiding the trenches. Sher Aqa. “But during the Ashraf Ghani government, the Kohband fighting ended. We are happy to note the oath of both commanders to cease fire. People will hopefully heave a sigh of relief.”
By the same token, another resident claims the clashes in Durnami area had created health hazards. Mualem Zarif says clashes between the commanders had forced the closure of health clinics in the district, where development projects could not be implemented.  
Efforts by security officials
Security forces’ inaction remained a source of concern in the area, where the situation remained explosive for 14 years. Former deputy police chief Ibadullah Talwar says: “The problem dragged on for a long time when residents continued narrated their ordeal. Whenever we wanted to take action, we ran into several problems. We even wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior.” 
The ex-police officer says they had promised acting on the ministry’s advice because certain people had started questioning the inordinate delay in a police operation. The reason was that some powerful circles aided the antagonists. “The ministry assured us of taking coordinated measures for a joint operation.”
Abdul Karim Faiq, the new provincial police chief, told Pajhwok Afghan News the insurgents were not much active in the district, where the situation had worsened because of irresponsible gunmen. He says reconstruction projects could not be executed in Kohband due to clashes between supporters of Zabit Wakil and Gul Nazeem. 
A jirga comprised of representatives from defence and interior ministries, National Directorate of Security and presidential advisor Asadullah Wafa was formed to resolve the dispute between the gunmen. Faiq says the men were reconciled after the jirga sought assurances from both sides.
“Immediately after taking charge, I prioritised resolving this issue. “Eventually, Kapisa elders, religious scholars, MPs, provincial council members, ex-jihadi commanders, security officials, Asadullah Wafa and other friends sorted it out,” the police chief maintains.
Following the patch-up, illegal gunmen cannot be seen in the area, whose security has considerably improved with the return of government officials. Similar efforts will be undertaken in other parts of the province, according to Faiq, who believes jirgas will help stabilise Kapisa.
Governor Gen. Mehrabuddin Sapi confirms dozens of civilians and supporters of the commanders had lost lives in firefights. He says the dispute was 60-year-old, but the determination of his office used all resources at its disposal to end the dispute.
After the dispute
Kohband residents verify the return of some of the displaced families to the area, with a number of fighters having started working to make a living. Schools and health centred have reopened, resolving people’s problems, they say, adding gunfire has become a thing of the past.
One resident Shoaib, voicing pleasure over the settlement, says: “They (commanders) had security posts in all areas. Fighting between them trouble the commoners.”
Attaullah, another resident, says insecurity did not allow the conduct of last year’s presidential and provincial elections in the area. Many people had abandoned their homes, agriculture and orchards, moving to other parts of the province.
Hussain Sanji, the provincial council chairman, also says the government has resumed violence-stalled activities in Kapisa. “In the presence of people and government officials, we secured commitments from both sides to cease fighting. Security has improved and people have returned to normal lives.”
Student Shahpur comments: “At the moment, I’m so happy. Previously, no one could be seen there, as both parties mistook them for foes. Now schools, clinics and bazaars have opened again. People are working at the foot of hills seem to be new returnees.”