by Sailab Mehsud
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
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.
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.
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:
I am especially glad to see the names of teachers in the list who are showing support for some good cause.
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:
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.
According to media reports, Imran Khan, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) has finally woke up and found sometime from good for nothing Geo bashing to put some light on North Waziristan bombing issue.
According to DAWN:
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan on Tuesday said it appears as if a conspiracy is being hatched to detach North Waziristan from the country and vowed to bring the matter to Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s notice, DawnNews reported.
Briefing the media after attending a meeting of the party’s core committee here, he said that he will meet with the army chief and appeal to him to stop the military offensive in North Waziristan.
The PTI chief said he witnessed similar situation in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during the military operation before it was detached from rest of the country in 1971.
In past few days, army used heavy jet and gunship helicopter bombings over civilian population which resulted in the deaths of dozens of innocent people including kids.
Good to see him at least waking up on the issue even if a bit too late.
As far as smelling conspiracy to detach N Waziristan is concerned, I think its a bit too late. The option of detachment now looks perfectly moral and logical especially when populations in settled areas of Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore sided with the mercenary army in their merciless bombings over civilians in tribal areas.
It will still be interesting to see if IK is really going to do something about these bombings or is he just giving a false hope to the people affected by these bombings?
Another good article by Hamid Mir on how establishment under Musharraf created this mess of terrorism and sectarian violence in Pakistan. My view on the issues are:
General Musharraf, Army and other pro-war lobbies used sectarian and social class differences in the society to forward their war agenda. Before 2005-06, there wasn’t much support for this fake war on terror but after that time they worked
on sectarian and social-class lines to create acceptability for this war. 2007 Lal-Masjid operation was in those same lines. The other thing they did was to exploit ethnic differences to strengthen his rule and MQM/PPP/ANP assisted 12 May 2007 was part of that policy. These things may have helped Musharraf in his war agenda or temporarily strengthening his rule but this has put Pakistan into a self-destructing mode.
Below is the article by Hamid Mir on Lal Masjid Operation. published in Jang:
May Allah give justice to the victims of this barbaric action by state institutions and give strength to the judges of Supreme Court to deliver justice without any fear. We also need to make state institutions clean from these evil minds who plot these evil things against the country and its people.