The Waziristan problem

The Waziristan problem

Amna Saboor

[see: The Legendary Fighters of Waziristan]


Waziristan constitutes a mountainous, rocky, inhospitable and extremely poor region in Pakistan’s northern territory having round about four and a half thousand square miles of area between eastern border of Afghanistan, NWPF province in the north, and Balochistan in the south.

The region has never been clearly a part of Pakistan or India before independence, or Afghanistan, and was in fact an independent tribal area loosely administered by British rule until the late 19th century. Waziristan is actually two agencies, north and South Waziristan, that are part of the seven agencies making up federally administered areas or FATA. Central authority of government is limited to non-existent in these agencies. The three million people, who are inhabitants of tribal areas, live according to an oppressively conservative tribal code of honour and behaviour that mixes brutality intolerance and extreme hospitality and generosity. Literacy rate is 17 percent and just 3 percent among girls and women.

In the rugged and remote region of Waziristan on British India’s northwest border wit Afghanistan, mountain tribes of Muslim fighters gave British army a difficult time for decades. The Waziristan revolt of 1919-20 was sparked by the Afghan invasion of British India in 1919. Though the British quickly defeated Afghans, the Waziri tribe man gave forces, a very difficult fight. Many of the Waziri men were veterans of the British led and controlled Indian army and use modern military tactics and modern rifles against the British and Indian forces sent into Waziristan.

Traditionally, local Waziri religious leaders have enlisted outsiders in their feuds, through its not always that way, as local Waziri claim they are totally against the foreign militants living there. In the early stage of U.S invasion of Afghanistan, when Taliban started fleeing into Pakistan the local leaders began a campaign among their locals to oust the foreigners. Since then around 200 noble Maliks have been assassinated by local Taliban through targeted killings.

On June 4, 2007, the National Security Council of Pakistan met to decide the fate of Waziristan and take up a number of political and administrative issues in order to control the Talibanization of the area. The meeting was chaired by then President Pervez Musharraf and attended by Chief Ministers and Governor of all four provinces. They discussed the deteriorating law and order situation and the threat posed to their security. National Security Council divided to take few actions which include:

1-     Deployment of unmanned reconnaissance planes.

2-     Strengthing law enforcement agencies with advanced equipments.

3-     Deployment of more troops to the region.

4-     Operations against militants on fast track basis.

5-     Action against madrassahs preaching militancy.

6-     Focused operation against militant commanders.

7-     Appointment of region co-coordinators.

8-     Fresh recruitments of police officers In NWPF.

The ministry of interior has prepared a list of militant commanders and played a large part in gathering for the operation against the militants and their institutions.

In 1980s, when CIA funded one billion dollars to the mujahideen fighting against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Waziristan was a mujahid staging ground for cross border attacks. Among the Afghan and Arabs mujahideen in Waziristan at that time was also Osama Bin Laden. According to US military officials in Bagram, Afghanistan, some 3500 foreign militants had taken refuge in South Waziristan. Where, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), was pressing Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to send troops against the militants. Musharraf was resisting, preferring to save his military for Pakistan’s perennial stand off with India.

Al Qaeda regrouped in Angor Adda in South Waziristan, sending fighters on missions against American forces across the border in Afghanistan. Tribal who opposed Al-Qaeda or Taliban operations in the region were executed. That created sure rifts between Waziri tribes and Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who were perceived as outsiders. The government never took advantage of the rifts. It either attempted, through the ISI, to play the Taliban presence in the area to its advantage. Or ill-staged heavy handed, showy fruitless attacks designed to give impression of trying to get control of the region.

Shortly, after 9/11 attacks, Pakistan had a chance to bring Waziristan into Pakistani fold and prevent it from falling under the control of Taliban. Many tribesmen demanded that the Govt give them the choice of either joining NWPF or creating a separate province out of the FATA agencies. If the military had a referendum at the time, an overwhelming majority of tribesman would have opted to become full citizen of Pakistan by choosing one or the other options. If such a political step had been taken and followed up with development funds and road building, it would almost certainly have changed the complexion of FATA and prevented it from becoming terrorism central. Instead the army continued the games of manipulating the tribesman. Meanwhile canted states also focused on military rather than economic or socially constructive alternatives in the region.

In 2004, Govt of Pakistan, a head of U.S Presidential election, launched a major offensive in South Waziristan. The offensive did not achieve its objectives. Many Al-Qaeda and Taliban operations merely moved to North Waziristan. New militant leaders took up the fight against the Pakistani military in South, which was sealed to foreigners. The Taliban’s hold on the region was neither diminished nor softened. To the contrary Baitullah Mehsud firmly held the ground of South Waziristan.

Recently a full fledge military operation is going on in tribal belt and US military is also targeting the hide outs of Al-Qaeda and Taliban in the Pakistani territory. Pakistan Govt has condemned the US attacks inside Pakistan and termed them as a serious violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. According to the some reports by foreign media, these US attacks are the result of a silent agreement reached upon by the Govt of US and Pakistan that US will continue to carry out the attacks while Pakistan will carry out protests.

Barrack Obama is now the US Presidential elections and the policy of the new US Govt still has to be seen. At least this fail is established up till now that US attacks in Waziristan will continue despite the protests of Pakistan as US always denied to talk to Taliban.

American Govt is not helping Pakistan in real sense by providing them new equipments, arms and facilitates them to hit terrorism. Rather they are targeting Pakistan. It is unbearable for true Pakistani nation solidarity. It has made the situation of chaos in the people of Pakistan by continuous and directly hitting in the boundaries of Pakistan. It is very harmful to the solidarity of Pakistan, as, Pakistan Army doesn’t have the power to cope with internal insurgency. Pakistani official should make it a point to American Govt to stop their activities as federal Govt has made it the point to negotiate with militants and Taliban. Pakistan Security Forces and other law enforcements operations have not yet able to stop terrorist activities of these people. Now, negotiation among these tribes and security forces are very essential to eliminate the wave of unrest among people.

The solution lies in talks. Military is not the solution rather it will send Pakistan into deep troubles as now this fighting is carried on to settled areas as well. There should more thinking and more talking on the problem rather trying to solve it offensively.