Tribal Militia / Lashkars (Pakistan)

Country: Pakistan
Details of Formation: Tribal militias are based on government agreements with local tribes. The government encourages and sometimes coerces tribes to fight against insurgents. They are formed with the military’s direct support. The first evidence of them being pro-government dates from December 2001. New tribal militias are formed every now and then.
Details of Termination: The tribal militia structure was still active at the end of 2014. The Adezai tribal militia dissolved in 2012, but other tribes continued to be active.
Purpose: Initially, tribal militias were supposed to control the border to Afghanistan. Over time, their main purpose evolved into finding illegal immigrants, often Taliban, and fight foreign militants. One local tribal militia’s purpose was to fight all anti-state and anti-government elements. The tribal militias are sometimes considered a success by the Pakistani government and sometimes as failing to identify the foreigners, while US officials point to failures to curb Taliban crossborder attacks. The tribal militia are present in rural areas where federal police is absent.
Organisation: The tribal militias were linked to the army, but formed on request by the governor. The army threatened them with collective punishment should the tribe not be successful with identifying illegal foreigners. The military provides them with cover and assistance during operations. Sometimes the government provides medical facilities and moral support. The tribal militias are led by the tribal elders and the khans, which are powerful local landlords and politicians. In the Swat valley tribal militias are have links to senior ANP (Awami National Party) leader Afzal Khan Lala and district nazim (chief) Jamal Abdul Nasir. A tribal militia is usually tied to a specific tribe and then subdivided into groups of 20-40 fighters to patrol the streets.
Weapons and Training: Until 2008, the lashkars were armed with their own weapons and ammunition. The military did not want them to become an offensive force and would not give them heavy weapons. Later in 2008, the Pakistani military began to arm tribal militias with Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifles and other small arms which were purchased in a visit to China by the Pakistani President. The tribal militia also had Kalashnikovs, pitchforks and sticks. The security forces give arms and training not on a systematic, but only on a case-by-case basis.
Size: We have no estimates about the total number of tribal militia members. Individual tribal militias consisted of 300-5,000 members. One source says there were hundreds of lashkar units.
Reason for Membership: In 2008, Pakistan’s army encouraged tribal elders to create lashkars, offering them rations, arms ammunition and payment. Lashkar chiefs said they agreed to form PGMs because Taliban’s actions threatened their clan’s local influence and they considered the Taliban a threat to the nation. Other tribal leaders say they were coerced to form lashkars: The Pakistani army threatened to bomb their villages if they did not fight the Taliban. Members of the tribal militias are usually referred to as volunteers.
Treatment of Civilians: The tribal militias claim to protect civilians (themselves) because the government is unable to do so. According to Amnesty International (2010) they committed numerous abuses, but there are no details on the nature of these abuses.
Other Information: Afzal Khan Lala, a politician and tribal khan insists in calling the tribal militias “village defence committee”. Later, tribal militias were renamed as peace committees.
References: Amnesty International. 2010. “Killings of anti-Taleban politicians in Pakistan signal further
Abuses. “ 26 April.

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD