Operations in Waziristan

According to reports there have been heavy casualties from the recent army action in Miramshah, North Waziristan. Unconfirmed reports speak of 20 army dead and tribesmen claim that they have an equal number in custody; the tribal dead are thought to be more than 150, including women and children. The local clergy have given a call to jihad; elements from the radicalized S.Waziristan have also arrived to confront the army; Maulana Khaliq has warned the tribes that his shoora or advisory council will try any one cooperating with the administration. Obvious indication of the existence of a parallel administrative structure.

A few days ago, Karzai gave a list of Talibans, who have taken refuge in Pakistan; President Musharraf has rubbished the suggestion publicly and instead accused India for generating the list. He also stated that Indian Special Forces were operating in Afghanistan and allegedly fomenting trouble on the border. Such a public outburst has insulted Karzai and does not augur well for the future of Pak-Afghan relations. This appears to be an extremely dangerous combination of circumstances fraying Pak-Afghan relations once again. Are we not arrogant in our behaviour; can’t we express our reservations more humbly and in a diplomatic language?

If it is correct that there are elements from the Indian army operating in Afghanistan, such units would need to be supported logistically by India. This is not possible via Pakistan; obviously this is executed either through Iran or the Central Asian States, or the US. Secondly, the US Centcom controls Afghanistan. Surely, Indian operations in Afghanistan cannot take place without US approval.  The Indian contingent must therefore be operating within the larger strategic envelope in close cooperation with US.

About 80,000 Pakistani troops are deployed In Waziristan; many of them holding weak positions strung along the Durand Line, with long supply and weak back up; inviting targets for the angry and radicalized tribes. In the days to come, these out posts will be under attack by the tribes. It will result in the blooding of the border and begin a deadly confrontation.

One of two eventualities is likely to occur. Either we will be forced to invite the US forces for joint operations within our tribal areas or we will withdraw to safer locations and leave a very sensitive border to the talibans and others. Both are intolerable from the Pakistani point of view. Whether through design or omission our flawed policy has accomplished the two things that for the last 4 years the army has been trying to combat; the elimination of the radicals inWaziristan and securing the international border. We have not succeeded in either.

Therefore, is this an issue for the Tripartite Commission of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US to solve? Given the low confidence level regarding intentions of the three parties, a successful engagement in the Commission is not predicted.

This web site has repeatedly advocated that the policy in Waziristan has serious problems and unless we revise it we were heading for trouble. We are now in a situation, where we have angry tribes, a troubled border and an Afghanistan and India who are upset with Pakistan. To top it all, the US doubts our credentials in the fight against terrorism; it is now convinced that Osama is in Pakistan. This is a very worrisome situation indeed.  

President Bush’s recent visit to Pakistan has not reassured the people here at all. Excepting confirmation of faith in President Musharraf personally, Bush did not have much to say to Pakistan as compared with the much more meaningful outcomes in India. Furthermore, there was a visible quality difference in the dialogue conducted by the US with India as compared to Pakistan.

What are our options? Very little I am afraid. It is now obvious that there is military cooperation between India and the US; such cooperation will extend to Afghanistan also. It does not take much intelligence to work this one out, if what President Musharraf says is correct. If that is the case, then the more reason to buy peace in Waziristan immediately. Unfortunately, this can’t happen over night; during the last few years we have unwittingly destroyed the capacity of the political authorities. The down grading of the institutional system has been complete and will take time to re-establish even if this is so decided. However, even a weakened political system holds more promise than the best military solution under the circumstances.

            Civil society in NWFP should not be passive and must take a responsible position on this and Baluchistan. It has been quiescent out of fear not to up set the authorities. It has more at stake than the government. If the situation crumbles because of rising fatalities, the cancer of Waziristan violence will come to haunt the districts. Both the Human Right organizations and political parties should take up a sympathetic position for the tribes and Baluchistan on purely humanitarian grounds. They must begin intermediation now. If they don’t, then for sure they would lose votes and the support of the people. This is no time to sit on the fence.

            These are very troubled times and Pakistan is truly in a pincer; we must  all unite and call for an end to violence and death in Waziristan and Baluchistan and provide help and succor to those, who have lost loved ones. The Pakistani security and political institutions must appraise the situation for what it really is and not be the proverbial ostrich with its head in sand. The simultaneous insurgency in Waziristan and in Baluchistan shows an unwise management of the state and bodes ill for the future. This cannot be in any one’s interest. Pakistan is hemorrhaging; the bleeding must stop.

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