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Pakistani Tribes Exchange Gunfire In Land Dispute

Pashtun Tahafuz Movement activists protesting in North Waziristan, which borders South Waziristan, to demand a cease-fire between two tribes in a separate land dispute on November 21, 2020.

A land dispute between two tribes in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal district has led to gunfire exchanges between gunmen positioned on hilltops, residents and officials told RFE/RL.

Longstanding tensions between the Zalikhel Wazir and Dotani tribes over the ownership of arid land in the Gomal Zam Dam area of South Waziristan have escalated over the past week, with the two sides firing at each other's positions. There are no reports of casualties.

Ghulam Hassan, a member of the Dotani tribe, told RFE/RL that the years-long dispute now risks turning into a full-blown armed conflict that could result in many casualties unless the Pakistani authorities step in to mediate a cease-fire and resolve the conflict.

However, the Zalikhel Wazir tribe has accused the government of inciting their Dotani rivals.

Zalikhel Wazir tribal elder Sardar Ali told RFE/RL the authorities are not interested in resolving the dispute, and alleged that Dotani tribesmen were even allowed by security officials to occupy positions in areas normally controlled by his tribe.

South Waziristan police chief Shaukat Ali told RFE/RL that authorities have tried repeatedly to bring the two sides together for talks.

The police chief said that during daytime, gunmen from both sides agree to leave their hilltop positions but return at night and start firing on each other. Ali said that as long as clashes continue in the area, security forces are unable to move in and make arrests.

Land disputes often lead to armed clashes in Pakistan's tribal areas, often resulting in casualties.

One cause for such lingering land disputes is the lack of official land records.

The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, of which South Waziristan is a district, has recently suggested measures to digitize land records, but the proposal faced opposition from local officials who say the process would be too time-consuming.

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