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Footprints: Dispatches from North Waziristan- Article in DAWN by Sailab Mehsud

by Sailab Mehsud

Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1117751/

IT has not gone unnoticed that ever since Operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched, details emerging about the operation are completely one-sided. Few details are appearing from the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and those trapped in the area. The ISPR has been constantly issuing press releases making various claims, such as killing scores of militants, on a daily basis. But my clandestine trips to Mirali and Miramshah and the ordinary people that I met in Bannu show a different picture.

I met 65-year-old Zahir Shah from Miramshah in Bannu who was with his family in a truck. He had one of the most heart-rending stories to narrate about his difficult journey. “It feels like the Day of Judgment. I may seem alive to you but inside I am dead. No warnings were given about the impending operation. The bomb attacks started suddenly and I had to leave two of my sick children behind. I handed them over to Shawwal Scouts belonging to the Afridi tribe requesting them to bury my children should they die.”

Shah’s version appears to have some basis because some local journalists and I had managed to slip into Dattakhel, a village west of Miramshah in North Waziristan Agency, and were present on June 15 when a curfew was imposed unexpectedly and the operation was launched without a proper announcement. The aman jirga and the tribal maliks had been meeting officials for nearly a month to delay the operation. However, this did not happen.

According to Shah and other IDPs, Miramshah Bazaar, a source of livelihood for many, has been completely destroyed. “Air strikes have killed many civilians including women and children and hardly any terrorists. Ordinary civilians have also been shot at sight,” claimed Shah. Though Shah said this with authority, his claim — like those of the military — cannot be independently verified.

I was in Mirali nearly 20 days ago. There I saw a house reduced to rubble and I could smell decomposing human flesh. A bystander claimed that the house was bombarded at 1:30am in which 24 members of a family were killed. A girl of about seven to eight years of age survived. Noor Behram, a journalist friend, also undertook an arduous 26-hour journey from Miramshah to Bannu with his family when the operation began unannounced. “There was no way to get out. Roads were closed. We walked all the way to the Sadgai checkpoint on the Bannu-Miramshah Road. My wife and children traversed hidden paths; climbed mountainous tracks all day and night to somehow reach the checkpoint, which is a mere 25-minute drive by car from Miramshah. But it took us 26 hours to reach the checkpoint.”

Behram also spoke about the ordeal he and the other IDPs have faced at the hands of security forces during registration. First is the seemingly never-ending wait with thousands of men, women, children, senior citizens and invalids waiting for their turn. Then, everyone goes through a body search, their CNICs are checked, they are cross-questioned and are handed chits which basically say that they are not Taliban and are going to Bannu.

And there are numerous such tales. Mohammad Saiyyid said that air strikes nearly flattened his house. “I was picking bits of rubble when my wife screamed at me and said leave all this, let’s take whatever remains of our essential belongings, grab the children and get out of here. We thought we were the only ones but when I turned to look at my house for the last time I saw a sea of people behind me with their belongings and their families. We went uphill and covered a path of many kilometres. Women in our households observe strict purdah, to see them like this in the open…,” Saiyyid couldn’t speak further.

After hearing everyone’s stories, I cannot help but recall Operation Rah-i-Nijaat launched in 2009 in South Waziristan. At the time, the army claimed that within two months the operation would end. It has been five years and the operation is ongoing. Thousands of Mehsuds were displaced and are now living a difficult life in Tank, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan with some of them subsisting on leftover rotis. The Taliban are present in South Waziristan where they are engaged in an insurgency against the state.

A Taliban commander Gilamand Mehsud called me up and admitted that their men have been killed and injured but not in the hundreds as claimed by the army. “So far nine men have been killed and five injured,” asserted Mehsud.

However, my sources tell me that four days ago, six bodies were found lying in Mirali Bazaar and by their appearance they seem to be Taliban. So far neither the army nor the Taliban have claimed them.

—As narrated to Maleeha Hamid Siddiqui

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NWA Jirga members boycott PM’s function: The News

Mushtaq Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: The North Waziristan tribal jirga on Friday refused meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and boycotted his official function in Bannu after they were not allowed to speak and inform the premier about sufferings of the uprooted families.

 

“We refused to meet the prime minister and attend his official function in Bannu as the government and military officials had asked us to attend the gathering, enjoy the lunch but don’t open our mouth in front of the prime minister,” Sher Mohammad Wazir, head of North Waziristan tribal jirga, told The News on telephone from Bannu.

 

Sher Mohammad Wazir said some government officials had earlier assured them that someone from the jirga would be given a chance to speak and talk about the hardships of the internally displaced persons from North Waziristan.

 

“However, when elders of our jirga were preparing to draft demands and raise the deplorable condition of the uprooted families in Bannu and other places, senior government officials backtracked of their commitment,” the tribal elder complained.

 

Sher Mohammad Wazir, grandson of known freedom fighter Mirza Ali Khan alias Faqir of Epi, alleged that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was kept in dark about the whole situation in North Waziristan and the plight of IDPs.

 

Another prominent member of the jirga, Hafiz Noorullah Shah said that the government later brought some ordinary tribesmen from among the IDPs and put turbans on their heads and presented them as tribal elders to the prime minister when members of the tribal jirga decided to boycott the official function.

 

“Senior government and military officials had approached us to attend the function and enjoy the lunch but said we would not be allowed to speak. We were anxiously waiting for the prime minister to come so we could inform him about the real situation on ground and then the inhuman treatment meted out with the displaced tribespeople. But they didn’t allow us to talk and we refused to boycott his function,” Hafiz Noorullah Shah said.

 

He said no one from 40-mmeber NWA tribal jirga attended the prime minister function in Bannu. “Government and military officials wanted us to stay away from the prime minister as they knew we would inform him about the real situation on ground. We also wanted inform the prime minister that all local and foreign troublemakers had left North Waziristan before the launch of military operation there. Therefore, we wanted to demand him to direct military authorities not to destroy our houses and markets,” tribal elder Sher Mohammad Wazir complained.

 

He complained that several houses and markets owned by local tribesmen had been blown up in Miranshah and Mir Ali despite the fact that people had fled the area.“Only innocent people are being suffered in this operation and that’s our main concern but no body is listening to us,” jirga head complained.

 

He said that after a meeting with governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and corps commander Peshawar, who gave them a deadline of June 20, the jirga went to Waziristan and held fruitful talks with the North Waziristan Taliban shura and all them agreed to expel local and foreign militants from the tribal region.

 

“We have successfully expelled half of the foreign militants and were going to oust the remaining when the military operation was launched. We wanted to complain the prime minister but were not given a chance,” Sher Mohammad Wazir complained.

 

He said the IDPs are being treated like animals but no one taking its notice.After the prime minister left for Islamabad, Sher Mohammad Wazir said senior government officials came to them and wanted them to end their protest.

 

“We told them that you people are treating us like animals. We made it clear on them that we don’t need your Rs20, 000 cash but don’t destroy our houses and buildings in Waziristan,” the tribal elder said.

 

He said they demanded of the government to give one-week relaxation in curfew in Waziristan so that people could bring out their precious goods they had left in home.A top government official when contacted in Bannu confirmed that some of the jirga members had boycotted the PM’s function but a few others were seen participating in the gathering.

 

“In the morning, the came to the office of commissioner Bannu and then went to the residence of Senator Faridullah Khan for a meeting. They couldn’t develop consensus whether they should boycott or attend the PM’s meeting after they were stopped from speaking. Later some of the elders decided to attend the function and others boycotted it,” the official said and wished not to be named.

 

Progressives in Pakistan demand an immediate end to military operation in FATA

June 27, 2014 10 comments

It is good to know that at least few progressives have stood up against the military operations in FATA. We often see many fake liberals and progressives in Pakistan, who actually are sectarian and social class fascists, support this fake war on terror. It is one of the rare moments that a group educated people with some sense of justice left in them stood up against tyranny.

I would have loved to see them criticizing military’s policy of using sectarianism itself through the likes of Zaid Hamid, Faisal Raza Abidi, Sunni Ittehad Council etc to forward the war agenda or to see some blame wrongly going against capitalism but in fact it is ‘corporatism’ which should have been targeted. However, it is a great thing to know that not all progressives and liberals are fake in Pakistan.

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We, the undersigned, demand an immediate end to the ongoing military operation in the North Waziristan region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). We expect this, the sixth military operation in FATA within the last decade, to follow the pattern set by the previous “decisive” operations which resulted in death and suffering for the people of FATA.

The current operation in North Waziristan is nothing but a sham that will only increase the suffering of the people of FATA. Those declaring “full support” for the military operation choose to ignore history (and the present) at their own peril.

While we condemn religious extremism and militancy in the strongest terms, we do not believe that the problem of religious militancy in Pakistan can be addressed through military means nor by an exclusive focus on FATA as a harbour of militancy. Our demands are as follows:

1. An immediate and unconditional halt to the ongoing military operation in NorthWaziristan and other parts of Tribal Areas.

2. We demand that the people of FATA have the right to decide what to do with the problem of militancy in their area. This process must include working-classes, peasants, women and minorities in FATA – with complete accountability, full access to independent media and without any coercion from the security establishment or militant groups.

3. Public disclosure of the names, details and any alleged militant linkages of those killed in the ongoing operation.

4. Immediate abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and steps to integrate FATA into mainstream Pakistan by providing guarantee of fundamental rights including rights of political association and the national penal code.

For complete demands and list of people who signed the documents, please visit:

http://progpak.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/stop-the-military-operation-in-fata/

I am especially glad to see the names of teachers in the list who are showing support for some good cause.

This Ramadan, don’t forget IDPs while giving Zakat

The holy month of Ramadan is coming and it is coming at a time when we already have an estimate of more than 2 million (Internally displaced persons) IDPs due to earthquake, floods and various military operations. Now the latest military operation, Zarb e Azb has added around .45 to .6 million new IDPs. I have been criticizing this operation and the way military establishment and their puppets in politics are destroying the country but the real damage is done to the civilians who have to leave their homes and lose their properties, lives of their loved ones and their localities for migration towards other areas. Sind and Punjab governments, despite being the supporters of this war have banned the entry of these IDPs in their provinces as if they are some lesser citizens of this country or they belong to a lesser race. PMLN allied Baluchistan government has also shown no sympathy towards these IDPs. Its only Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) is the only government which is taking care of these refugees. We were not able to stop war but we can reduce the pains of those who are suffering because of the bad actions of our rulers and policy makers. Below are some of the charities who are doing some good work to take care of these refugees:
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http://www.imrankhanfoundation.org/

Another good one and with presence in the area is Al-Khidmat Foundation:

http://www.al-khidmatfoundation.org

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If you know some more charities working on the ground then please feel free to share them in the comments.

According to ISPR, Pakistan army has also setup some camps like USA does in Afghanistan after destroying villages. My suggestion is not to give donations to them as they will use that for publicity stunts which are then used for more bombings. What logic is this that first you bomb them and kick them out of their houses and then bribe them to win their loyalties by giving them a fraction of dollar payments you received from your masters in the form of coalition support funds?

Pakistan Army formally announced operation in NWA. Pakistan going for a complete failure.

Pakistan army or in reality occupied mercenary armed forces have succeeded in derailing the peace process through aerial bombings resulting in mindless revenge attacks from TTP and IMU groups sitting Afghanistan.

Army has named these operations as “Zarb e Azb” to give their mercenary actions some religious cover. Troop worshipers, sectarian and social class fascists have welcomed this decision. It seems anti-war lobbies failed in their efforts for peace and now destruction imminent.

For me the real worry is non-combatants especially kids who will die on both sides (tribal and so called settled areas side) as collateral damage.

May Allah protect the innocent ones and punish the enemies of peace who are bombing kids from both sides.

Imran Khan condemned US efforts to purchase the services of the Pakistan government to carry out a military operation in NWA

Glad to see that Imran Khan and PTI have taken some time out of their recent rhetoric against Geo. I hope more will come from them against this war especially in KPK and national assemblies.

Here is a press release from PTI on the issue:

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Chairman Imran Khan’s Press Statement (12th June, 2014)

PTI Chairman, Imran Khan, today condemned US efforts to purchase the services of the Pakistan government to carry out a military operation in NWA. By linking military aid and CSF payments directly to an operation in NWA the US is using bribery for the PMLN government while seeking to discredit the Pakistan army.

Khan pointed out that conducting such a military operation when most of the groups in NWA want talks is suicidal as it would result in the following:

- 7 lakh people will be displaced.

- Those groups who have delinked from the TTP and want dialogue will be turned against Pakistan and would lead to a uniting of militant forces again.

- When the main groups in NWA are supportive of peace through dialogue, then the US-desired operation is clearly intended to turn these people against Pakistan.

The Chairman, on behalf of PTI, put forward the following demands:

The government must reject this US move and inform the national political leadership of the status of the dialogue mandated by the APC.

The government must ensure that those seeking dialogue are separated from those continuing to carry out acts of terror and to isolate the latter so action can be taken against them.

The Chairman reminded the nation and the government that suicide attacks in KPK had fallen to 12 from 25 the previous year, since PTI government took over and dialogue started.

Khan also reminded that the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2013-2014 stated that the country sustained $6.7 billion losses in the outgoing fiscal year, which were $3.3 billion or 33% less than the losses sustained during the preceding year. This was a direct result of the drastic reduction in drone attacks and the commencement of dialogue.
Khan emphasised that Pakistan’s state and government cannot continue to play the role of mercenaries for an US agenda. If a military operation is to be conducted, the government must first explain what happened to the dialogue. It must also ensure that all civilians are evacuated from the area of the operation.

Finally and most critically it must separate the groups wanting dialogue from the hardened terrorists and act against the latter while protecting the former.

Troop worshipers and Martial Law

Mad troop worshipers say we need martial law to improve things. A kind reminder for them:

a) This war mess is a gift from Musharraf martial law.

b) The initial mistake of jumping into cold war was made by military and Ayub’s martial law regime and the same policy was followed by Yahya, Bhutto (A civilian martial law administrator appointed by army and trained by General Ayub) and Gen Zia.

c) 90s, despite corruption and mismanagement was much safer and better.

d) Many national institutions like SUPARCO,NESCOM, NLC (the collapsed bridge fame) etc are under direct or indirect control of army. In most countries such institutions are run by civilians. SUPARCO is a failed organization when it comes to research and development in real space sciences and astronomy. Most of the time they do some missile work and some work with Chinese companies. The reason is simple that instead of being led by top level scientists it is being run by former or serving khakis with no brain.

e) Even the biggest city of Pakistan i.e. Karachi is directly or indirectly under administrative control of occupied armed forces in the form of DHAs, military cantonments and civil cantonment areas who have to pay extortion not only to local political and land mafias but also to military mafias (in the form of absurd charges and taxes) who milk money from civil cantonment areas, put restrictions on civilian liberties and don’t do shit to improve things there.

f) Not only that, army is doing everything from running marriage halls, banks, factories and it has occupied a great deal of land and other economic resources of this country.

g) Army ,ISI and MI waste resources on spying journalists, judges and creating puppets in media (like Zaid Hamid) and politics or shutting down channels like Geo.

It shouldn’t be hard to see why we continuously see intelligence and security failures or why we are still stuck in this war on terror mess? The prime security institution was never designed to be a defender of people or constitution, it was designed by British to work as proxy rulers. Cantonment areas are a reminder of such mindset. It will be interesting to see how much area of Newyork, Shanghai, Mumbai, London or even #Moscow is controlled by army like the so called Pakistan army and air force control or occupy Karachi.

SHC orders removal of Musharraf’s name from ECL: Musharraf Gang and recent events

According to media reports, Sind High Court (SHC) has instructed the government to remove the name of former dictator General (R) Pervez Musharraf from the exit control list (ECL).

So, all the mess Musharraf gang created is finally paying off. Pakistan is still in ruins from his policies and will plunge into more chaos but then who cares?

Finally, ‪‎PMLN‬ surrendered as expected and didn’t prosecute the cases seriously with full intent. This is NRO2 and nothing else which was expected from political parties like ‪PPP‬ and PMLN who made deals with Occupied Armed Forces and their foreign masters to come into power.

The disappointment is more from ‪PTI‬ and ‪‎Imran Khan‬ who danced to the tune of establishment and helped them create a distraction in the form of ‪‎Geo‬.
Now, forget any kind of justice for missing persons too and they will be left for facing baton charges on the streets. No one will blame army as it is a grave sin and blasphemy to criticize an army which is at war (self-imported).

Some interesting things to note from recent events:

Military establishment especially Musharraf gang is doing everything they can to create the right kind of chaos to make grounds for his safe exit. I have been saying that they will burn the whole country, even if they have to, to protect dictator and his team, to continue his war policies and to get away from cases like missing persons case.

So far they are able to get the desired outcome from most of the things :

a) By doing Hamid Mir episode they were able to get the angry response from Geo which resulted in its shut down.

b) They used the distraction from Geo issue to do aerial strikes which triggered revenge attacks in Karachi and other places so now dialogues option is pretty much gone. It means TTP reacted as the establishment expected them to do so.

c) They were even able to marginalize anti-war parties by distracting them using issues like #Geo and that stupid issue of Shaista Lodhi show. Even PTI and Imran Khan fell for that.

d) Nawaz Sharif has no chance of stopping the establishment as he has also made deals with them to grab power. rigging in 2013 Elections of Pakistan was not possible without establishment support.

The only player which dodged the bullet is MQM and despite serious hatred for their politics and tactics, I must say they played well for their own sake.

There was a serious plan to replace Altaf Hussain and install a new leader like Ishrat ul Ibad or bring back Mustafa Kamal or even #Musharraf as Altaf was not allowing even Musharraf to share political base of Karachi which establishment needs for Musharraf.

They tried to use the recent Altaf Hussain arrest situation but the show of ground mafia power by MQM made them to change their minds as they want to replace Altaf but not at the cost of losing ground support of MQM for this war and other policies.

MQM is still with Musharraf but not at the cost of Altaf and its Musharraf who will be looking at MQM for support not the other way around as attempted by the establishment.

I hate bhair bakri (sheeple) attitude of many Muhajirs in Karachi when it comes to following Altaf or surrendering their freedom in front of him by force but it seems these are the only things which helped MQM survived the hijacking attempt by establishment and now establishment still needs MQM for this war, Musharraf and other issues.

Karachi Airport and Taftan Border attacks on Shia Zaireen

June 9, 2014 2 comments

First of all, I strongly condemn attacks on Shia Zaireens at Taftan border and attack on Karachi Airport by some militants. Now we should try to find the root causes of the mess we are in.

Instead of trying to come out of the mess, many people in Pakistan start chanting for more war and more mess when incidents like Taftan Attack or Karachi Airport attack happen. Its like asking for more fire when your house is burning.

Last time when Pakistan Army and Air force jet bombed its own civilian populations, I pointed out that those who are supporting these jet bombings shouldn’t forget about their support for more mess when some suicide attack or some other terrorist activity will follow up these bombings. Whether its a reaction of those jet bombings or some third party is merely using the situation to increase the temperature, its the bombings which provided the impetus.

Also these attacks again remind us that Pakistani security institutions are not designed to defend people.

They are designed to defend dictators like Musharraf, attack media houses, attack judiciary, bomb villages and strengthen their control over political, land and other economic resources of the country.

Serious restructuring is required to make these institutions into defenders of the country from occupied mercenary armed forces.

Recent security and intelligence failure at Karachi Airport shouldn’t be a surprise as these good for nothing institutions are busy in protecting Pervez Musharraf, hiding their asses in missing persons case, bombing villages for dollars, running over Geo and controlling more power for some interest groups.

People should also question the Uzbak and Indian weapons rhetoric. We need to know what were the security institutions doing when they were entering the area? Saying that Uzbaks were involved doesn’t undermine the failure.

Current setup like 2008 setup is just a face of democracy, main players are same. Musharraf is still largely above the law and enjoying full security and support of his juniors in the army. Zardari and Nawaz cannot change anything as they got power by making deals with the army.

Things don’t get rotten overnight. First Ayub Khan pushed Pakistan into cold war, then Yahya played his part by introducing genocide of common populations and people digested it as the victims were Bengalis not “A” class human beings of this country, then Zia exploited Mullahism to take control of more power and pushed Pakistan more into cold war and then Musharraf and his legacy Kiyani, Raheel Sharif, Pasha and Zaheer ul Islam types pushed Pakistan into more imported conflicts like this war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also these martial laws resulted in setting wrong priorities for security institutions.

Agencies and federal government are saying that they created a security alert four months ago regard the possibility of such attacks. This is totally absurd. If you were planning to do new wave of jet bombings and derailing the dialogues then of-course you must be aware of the possible back lash on strategic locations.

10 terrorists made their way into a main airport and security agencies were busy in conquering Geo News or doing aerial bombings over villages. At night time police and rangers stop common citizens on daily basis just to take money out of their pockets but often we see terrorist groups end up entering high security installation without any serious resistance. This shows serious lack in training and failure of setting proper priorities.Now they will use the rhetoric of “Uzbaks” with “Indian weapons” to hide their incompetency.

We need to realize that current security setup is not designed and is not capable of defending the people, it only serves few interest groups.

Dictatorships have contributed to the failure and Musharraf tenure added new dimensions of failure by bringing more foreign conflicts at home which this current rotten setup is not capable of handling so in frustration the pawns or so called soldiers end up running over journalists, common citizens or bombing villages.

We need a serious revision of Pakistan’s security setup and we need a culture of transparency and accountability in the affairs of military establishment. We need to get rid of this legacy of failures and culture of troop worship to bring some positive change in Pakistan.

Geo Suspended by PEMRA/ISI: A defeat for civil society, judiciary, democracy and free media.

Geo has been suspended by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on the pressure of Pakistan’s corrupt military mafia and its nefarious spy agency ISI.

I strongly condemn this attack on the freedom of media and free speech.

This is not just a ban on a private channel but an assertion of authority by Pakistan’s deep state or occupied mercenary armed forces over the rights of people and businesses.

The ban also shows that Musharraf’s legacy still controls the country and a lot is needed to be done by freedom and justice loving people.

Unfortunately, many media houses, political parties and religious groups danced to the tune of military establishment.

I hope some sanity will prevail and freedom of speech will be restored.

http://www.zemtv.com/2014/06/06/last-3-minutes-broadcast-of-geo-news-after-they-got-their-licence-suspended/

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