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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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?

Martyr debate, drones and NATO supplies

Recent comments by Ameer e Jamat e Islami Munawwar Hussan regarding the status of martyr for Hakeem ullah Mehsud or for Pakistani soldiers fighting this American corporatist war.

It seems that pro-war lobby in media and civil society are trying to use this martyr (shaheed) debate issue to undermine drones and NATO supply issue. ISPR and its mouth pieces are also active now to take advantage from this debate and to play nationalism card and other cards they play to exploit sectarian and social class differences based fault lines.

Considering army soldiers dying while fighting this American war against Afghanistan/Pakistan or Hakeem ullah’s status as a martyr or terrorist is as subjective as discussing Abu lulu (murderer of Umar r.a.) should have a shrine in Iran or not.

The need is to come out of this mess to give peace a chance. For me, status of shaheed for people dying fighting this war is less important than saving innocent lives of those who are dying due to drones /military operations and being classified as collateral damage or dying in resulting terrorism.

PTI, JI and other anti-war parties should focus on their plan to block NATO supplies on 20th November and keep up their pressure for ending this war and drone strikes.