Conflicting reports are being seen in the media these days regarding a military operation against militants based in North Waziristan, under US pressure. One report even informs that the authorities have quietly asked aid agencies in Pakistan to be prepared for an influx of thousands of IDPs from North Waziristan in the event of an operation. Then the media reported on June 1, 2011 that no decision regarding a military operation in North Waziristan had been taken by the military and the government of Pakistan.
North Waziristan is a stronghold of al Qaeda-linked militants from all over the world. One Mehsud tribesman described the ethnic diversity of the terrorists in these words: “They (the terrorists) are people with blue, green, brown and black eyes.” From Waziristan they plan attacks all over the world, on anti-Taliban forces inside Pakistan and the security forces of the country. The militants have overpowered the tribes. The Pakistani state has abandoned the area to global terror networks, including the pro-military establishment militant groups, the Haqqani network and the Gul Bahadur Taliban. The area has been a target of most US drone attacks. There has to be a targeted military operation in the area to release the tribes from terror, restore the writ of the state and to eliminate the bases of global terrorism.
Before the operation, a strategic shift has come in the security paradigm of Pakistan. The strategic depth that seeks to impose a pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan through jihadi adventures has to be given up. There is nothing in the national scene that suggests so. Parliament has surrendered to the generals in the aftermath of bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad by the US and its joint resolution is no more than, in the words of human rights activist Asma Jahangir, “a toilet paper” that fails to demonstrate control over the security establishment that has landed the country in the jihadi mess. The PPP-led government has no political will to assert itself and, in the words of journalist Jugnu Mohsin, is “laying like a dead body” in front of the generals, who are running the security show like a mafia. The generals’ obsession with strategic depth has not disappeared. The pro-military establishment journalists, who dominate the Pakistani media, are spreading conspiracy theories implicating the US, India and Israel in acts of terrorism in Pakistan.
A military operation in such a context will be just like the previous operations in FATA — useless, devastating for civilians and the Taliban safely relocated elsewhere. In previous operations in FATA, no leading Taliban commanders were killed or their networks disrupted but thousands of innocent civilians and soldiers of the army and FC were killed, properties worth millions of dollars destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people displaced from the region. The generals seem to accept all this as ‘collateral damage’ in pursuit of state ‘interest’ that only they have a right to define, not the ‘bloody civilians’.
In 2007, the Waziri tribesmen in South Waziristan clashed with the Uzbek terrorists in the area. Pakistan Army weapons were freely used against the Uzbeks. And yet, instead of killing all the Uzbeks with the help of the Waziri tribe, they were allowed by the military to flee to North Waziristan. In other words, the Uzbek terrorists were pushed into the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network so that their terror energies could be directed towards the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The very fact that the operation has been announced prior to its commencement indicates that the generals are not serious in eliminating the Taliban. Quoting “highly placed sources”, news reports even disclosed the strategy of the military operation, i.e. the Pakistan air force would start the operation through aerial bombardment to ‘soften’ the militant targets, and would then be followed by a ground offensive. Is this a signal to the North Waziristan-based Taliban and al Qaeda to relocate elsewhere before the operation? The previous operations in FATA were announced before their commencement and, consequently, the terrorists relocated to areas outside the ambit of the operations.
People in FATA wonder why the security forces of Pakistan cannot launch operations unannounced against the Taliban. Why is it so important to announce the operations before they are launched? The Pakistan Army launched sudden and unannounced assaults on Indian positions in Kargil. Even the Indians were taken aback. In the initial phase of the war, the Indians suffered great casualties. Why can similar unannounced and prompt assaults not be carried out against the Taliban in FATA by the security forces of Pakistan? It is thus no wonder that the tribesmen doubt the intentions of the authorities to combat the Taliban.
Negotiations under the auspices of the ISI were already underway in 2010 with the tribal leaders of Kurram to relocate the Haqqani Taliban to the Kurram Agency. The Haqqani Taliban, part of al Qaeda’s global terror syndicate and close to the Pakistani generals, might have been relocated to Kurram or elsewhere. Leading Haqqani family members live in the big urban centres of Pakistan. They cannot do so without the consent of the military authorities.
Siraj Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani network, is one of the terrorist leaders wanted by the US and the country has recently asked Pakistan to provide intelligence about his whereabouts to capture or kill him. Will he be handed over to the Americans? Will Hafiz Gul Bahadur, another North Waziristan-based Taliban leader close to the military establishment, be arrested or killed? Only time will tell. Any future military operation will be fake unless all the Taliban are assaulted without ‘good’ or ‘bad’ distinction, including the Haqqani Taliban.
Pakistan’s jihadi proxies for strategic depth in Afghanistan have become part and parcel of the global terror syndicate led by Arab terrorists. They are part of the terror threat to global peace and are killers of the FATA people as well as other Pakistanis. Pakistan’s allies in the war on terror should reject any military operation in North Waziristan as elsewhere in FATA before the generals give up their idea of strategic depth in Afghanistan via jihadi proxies. In the meanwhile, the US drone attacks must continue on terrorist positions in Waziristan.
The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban