tribesmen pray for a fallen colleague
Biggest Quandary: The Ongoing Waziristan Resistance
By Muhammad Shehzad
November 15: The biggest quandary at present in Pakistan is not
Musharraf's uniform but the ongoing military operation in South
Waziristan against al-Qaeda suspects and their supporters.
knows what is actually going on in South Waziristan - journalists'
entry into the region is banned. On October 15, a fact-finding
group of seven Parliamentarians from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal
(MMA, an alliance of six pro-Taliban religious parties) was stopped
from entering the tribal region at Jandola (near Tank, about 290
kilometers from Peshawar) citing a law that bans political activities
in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA]. The only source
of information is Director General Inter Services Public Relations
[ISPR] Major General Shaukat Sultan, whose information is contested
by the opposition and the media in public, and by the diplomatic
community in private.
first military operation in FATA was launched on October 2, 2003,
at Angor Ada. The first operation in Wana was launched on January
8, 2004; the second on February 24, 2004; the third between March
18-30, 2004; that was followed by a series of operations from
June 11 to the present date. According to the official sources,
the October 2 operation, in which eight suspects were killed and
18 were captured alive, was the most successful.
the military never presented the 'foreign' militants before us!'
complains Rahimullah Yusufzai, the British Broadcasting Corporation
(BBC) analyst on Afghan affairs.
jihadists, independent journalists, and opposition Parliamentarians
have been challenging the military's viewpoint - i.e., that the
operations had been initiated to flush out foreign terrorists
hiding in the tribal areas - asserting that there were no foreign
terrorists in South Waziristan, and if there are any, the Government
should present them before the public.
asserts, "The military might have arrested or killed the
foreign terrorists, but it is hesitant to present them before
the media. In fact, it arranged our meeting with a 14-year old
Tajik terrorist. The military is afraid to make such things public
because in that case the US could mount pressure on Pakistan.
The US is against the military's talking to the militants. It
wants the military to use force'.
is an outrageous lie if someone claims that there are no foreign
terrorists in South Waziristan," Sultan counters, "It
is absolutely true that the foreign militants have been arrested
and we have not presented them before the public in the larger
military has been fighting the 'invisible' enemies in South Waziristan
for more than a year without much success. Often times, it gives
an impression that it has failed. Some analysts believe that a
section of the Army is pro-militant, but both Sultan and Yusufzai
dismiss such notions. Yusufzai argues: "If you are thinking
why Abdullah Mehsud has not been arrested, then the answer is,
he is familiar with the terrain. He has local support. He comes
from the same tribe. He can flee to North Waziristan or Afghanistan.
I am dead sure that there is no support to him from any section
of the military. Mehsud has killed the Chinese. It is a very serious
thing. No Pakistani Government can afford to annoy China. So,
rule it out that military could support him. Mehsud enjoys a lot
of support from his own people that has really made the task difficult
for the military."
concedes several hitches in the operations. "The militants
are mixed up with the civilians. The military cannot target them
in such a situation. Certain people, to further their vested interests,
portray the killings of the militants as the killings of civilians.
They glorify militants as 'heroes.'"
Government is upset with publications such as Nawa-i-Waqt,
Ummat, Jasarat, Friday Special, Takbeer, Nida-i-Millat, Islam,
which portray the militants as heroes. These publications act
as 'unofficial' mouthpieces of the jihadists, and see the hand
of India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Mossad and the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) behind the events in South Waziristan.
[Nov 3] has written that the US, India and Israel are the real
masterminds of the incidents in South Waziristan, and that they
want the tribal people to rise up against the Army. India, the
article claimed, is supplying weapons to the tribal people and
the US is very cleverly dividing the two united groups of mujahideen,
i.e., the Pakistani Army and the civilian mujahideen [tribal people].
Special [Oct 7, Zafar Mahmood Sheikh] views the lifting of
the economic blockade on South Waziristan as a humiliating defeat
for the Army. "The relief has been announced to silence the
voices of such people who had been protesting the military crackdown
in Wana. In fact, the killing in Wana was masterminded by Musharraf
on the orders of Bush. The latter wanted it for his election campaign
and Musharraf wanted it to protect his uniform."
Army is repeating 1971 in Wana. God forbid, Wana may not prove
to be another Bangladesh. Bangla Bandhu was first declared as
traitor and this time the tribes of Waziristan have been declared
terrorists... Wana will prove to be the last nail in the country's
coffin if better sense did not prevail on Musharraf. He should
stop arranging official visits to Wana and allow independent journalists
access to the area. Only then the people of Pakistan will know
about the atrocities of Pak army in South Waziristan."
patiently with such views, Sultan claims, "There is no ban
on journalists' entry in South Waziristan." However, he insists
that journalists should not "expect that ISPR would provide
you vehicles or helicopters for your travel."
is, nevertheless, a growing perception that the military operations
are creating a sense of hatred among the tribal people against
the Armed Forces. On Saturday night (November 13), at an Iftaar
dinner in Rawalpindi, a local MMA leader Hanif Abbasi, told this
writer, "The Pak Army is committing state terrorism in South
Waziristan, exactly the way the Indian Army is doing the same
in Kashmir. It is targeting innocent civilians."
echoes the growing concern: "The military operations have
displaced thousands of people in South Waziristan. But the Army
does not want it to be reported. The Pashtuns are severely independent
people. They never forgive their enemies. The coming generations
of the tribal people will be full of hate against the Army and
they will take revenge."
Ishtiaq, a professor of Islamic Studies, adds: "The military
can never win this battle. It might be able to contain them [the
tribal people] temporarily but it will lose ultimately. The tribals
never forgive and they never forget. The present generation of
the tribal people has grown up during the Afghan jihad. They can
forget their religious duties but they can never forget their
Sometimes, injustice committed against the great grandfather is
avenged by the great grandson!" Ishtiaq also sees a conspiracy
in the Wana Operations: "The Pak Army has been pitched against
the tribal people under a plot. The West knows that the tribal
people are highly motivated and ideological. They have the capability
to defend the country. They are the right-hand of the Army. The
West wants to cut off this right hand."
out at the Government, Mohammad Usman Qazi, a civil society activist
adds: "All the terrorists and criminals have been arrested
from Rawalpindi, Lahore, and Karachi. None of them was arrested
from South Waziristan. Could the military launch air attacks on
these cities? Could the military stop their water and food supplies?
The military has done so in South Waziristan because it treats
it as an 'occupied area'. South Waziristan is part of Afghanistan.
The military crackdown is sharpening the sense of alienation of
the tribal people. The blood of the Pashtun has always been very
cheap in Pakistan."
such feelings strongly, General Sultan asserts, "The operation
has been deeply appreciated by the local people. They want to
get rid of the terrorists. There is no sense of hatred against
the Army among the local people."
diplomat in Islamabad endorses Sultan's views, "The Government
has found that some recently arrested terrorists in Karachi had
links with what's going on in South Waziristan. The domestic violence
in Pakistan has strong links with international terrorism masterminded
by the al-Qaeda. The US is very happy with Pakistan's performance
on terrorism and fully supports Musharraf in this effort."
diplomat also remarked that there was little chance of a repeat
of 1971 in the present circumstances. "There is no evidence
of a 1971-like situation in Pakistan. The terrorism has not spread
out of South Waziristan-not even to other agencies of the tribal
areas. It is limited to South Waziristan.'
is, nevertheless, a unanimous view among civil society activists
and organizations, that only a political solution, rather than
present efforts at military domination, can help resolve the situation
in South Waziristan. Yusufzai argues: "There is no military
solution to any political dispute. The Army committed atrocities
against Balochistan for more than 30 years, but the same problems
are re-emerging in the province. As long as the US forces will
remain present in Afghanistan and the country will face political
instability, the situation in South Waziristan is not going to
change. The military launches fresh offensive in South Waziristan
under the US pressure. Whenever, Karzai would make some noise,
Armitage or Khalilzad will twist Pakistan's Army and the result
is another military operation."
adds: "Jirga is the only solution to this dispute. Recently,
the military has forged another agreement... that the tribal people
will not be asked to present the foreign militants before the
authorities. They will only ensure that the militants do not create
any law and order situation for Pakistan. This could have been
accepted in the Shakai agreement. But God knows what happened
that the Corps Commander Peshawar, Lieutenant General Safdar,
announced that Nek Mohammad would present the militants before
the authorities. Nek Mohammad denied this and he was killed."
Qazi also argues for a political solution: "The military
is not trained to resolve conflicts... We need civilian leadership,
not military dictators to resolve conflicts like 1971 or South
Waziristan. And the military should not forget that the tribals
are not timid like unarmed Bengalis. They are armed to teeth and
nails (sic). Fighting them is not an easy task. They have already
killed more than 200 soldiers and they are quite capable to further
observers add that the Pakistan Army is not trained to fight the
insurgency, but to fight a conventional war, and that too, only
with India. This, however, leads them to underline the need to
enhance the capacities of the Army.
Sultan insists that events in South Waziristan need to be seen
in the context of global injustice. "As long as the issues
like Kashmir and Palestine will not be resolved, global peace
is impossible. Global injustice is the root-cause of terrorism
that is badly affecting Pakistan."
before any solution can be arrived at in South Waziristan - and
such a solution would need to be political - two of Pakistan's
major problems would need to be addressed: the first is that the
military dictatorship refuses to accept its mistakes or to learn
from them. It continues to regard the Army as the panacea for
all problems. The second is that the military regime is under
US control. The latter wants the Army to solve the problem only
through the exercise of force, rather than through efforts of
conflict resolution. In combination, this can only mean that the
prospects of peace in the country remain bleak.
writer is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist