America’s occupation of Afghanistan exacts a heavy price for the people of Waziristan as Pakistan’s rulers continue to act as US mercenaries with little thought for much else.
Waziristan: America’s Pakistani Blood Price
Slaughter in Waziristan
As the shenanigans in Islamabad continue with much of the political attention centred on the would-be revolutionaries Imran Khan, Tahir ul Qadri and their motley caravans, quietly unnoticed in the political background operation Zarb E Azb (strike of the Prophet SAW’s) has continued with full vigour in North Waziristan. Launched on 15th June 2014 the operation has seen the deployment of F-16 warplanes, artillery, helicopter gunships and ground forces backed by tanks and armoured vehicles. These attacks began with curfews imposed on Waziristan trapping hundreds of thousands in their homes. Their eventual exit was inevitable as the terrified inhabitants of Waziristan, according to the UN nearly 75% being women and children, fled for their lives with many men left behind desperate to protect livestock and property.
With North Waziristan effectively sealed by the military and the so-called free media in Pakistan almost exclusively focused on the stage-managed dharnas, the true extent of the carnage is yet to be ascertained. The only reason for stopping the outside world is that Miranshah, the administrative town of North Waziristan, will almost certainly have been turned into the Fallujah of Pakistan. In statements to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Safdar Dawar, President of the Tribal Union of Journalists said “We have been trying to get food supplies through to them, but the trucks from Bannu are not being allowed in. The conditions are terrible.” Shaukat Saleem, a Mingora based human rights activist, added “The situation in North Waziristan is very grim, we understand.”
This new wave of refugees adds to the misery of those already displaced by the previous army Rah-e-Nijat operation in 2009 and still not permitted to return to parts of South Waziristan. The number of people displaced from the tribal areas now stands at over two million people, making them one of the largest bands of refugees in the world today. According to the ISPR everyone killed so far, over a 1000 of them at the last count, has been a suspected militant with not a single civilian casualty. However the terrible and horrific military attack on the defenceless population of Gaza by Israel serves as the real parallel here. In its fifty day scorched earth campaign Israel slaughtered over 2000 civilians with many women and children who were the victims of horrific injuries as they were mercilessly bombed. So unless General Raheel Sharif, the newly appointed army chief, has suddenly taken a quantum leap forward in fourth generation warfare the rest of the world remains ignorant of, any sober individual should pour cold water on such a derisory and insulting claim.
Pakistani rule of law?
Aside from adopting Israeli tactics another contrived myth has been that the operation was in response to another spectacular high profile attack on Karachi airport which was apparently claimed by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Never mind the fact that any evidence linking the alleged perpetrators has not been presented in any plausible manner. Indeed it is notable that in the last several years of high profile attacks, not a single alleged militant has ever been presented alive or any credible evidence presented in any court room. It seems inconceivable that up to a dozen men could attack Karachi airport given the experience of past attacks and the sheer depth of Pakistani military force available. If the American Embassy in Islamabad can be safely protected from terrorists, then it is reasonable to expect adequate security for other important sites as well.
Astonishingly an American FBI agent, Joel Cox, was caught red-handed with ammunition and knives boarding a domestic flight from Karachi airport days before the attack occurred. Like the previous CIA agent Raymond Davis who was captured in 2011, Cox was quickly released by a Pakistani court after the Ministry of Interior submitted a letter from the US embassy attesting ‘that the agent was on a mission’. According to the district judge Hasan Ali Kalwar who quashed the case the agent had been charged ‘under the wrong law’. Despite the seismic shift in the national debate which has seen the revision of the Pakistan army’s doctrinal ‘Green book’ to focus on domestic terrorism, no impartial police/army investigation, parliamentary or judicial inquiry by Pakistan’s government over how Cox managed to get into the country or what he was doing was even considered necessary. It beggars belief that American agents are now allowed on official missions inside Pakistan, that are only disclosed when they are mistakenly captured by ordinary officials unaware of such clandestine agents.
The negotiations with the shadowy Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are also remarkable for their lack of substance. If the PML-N and Army leadership were sincere in such talks it would have involved serious private negotiations over time, instead of giving prime time updates on television. The British, when confronted with their own insurgency in Northern Island from Republican Catholics, endured years of bombing attacks from the IRA in mainland Britain but they did not resort to air strikes and artillery shelling against the civilian Catholic population (hypocritically they support operation Zarb e Azb today). Instead starting in 1995 they quietly negotiated for years, with changes in government, intermittent violence and broken ceasefires failing to halt the process which eventually culminated in the Good Friday agreement and a disarmament process verified in 2002. These Pakistani talks have been nothing but a sham, necessary to placate public opinion against Pakistan’s continued involvement in America’s ‘War on Terror’, to show every option has been exhausted before military action.
Rather than focusing on the real internal threat to Pakistan from covert American operations, who have a rich experience of funding guerrilla groups, they have been given a free hand by Pakistan’s rulers. Moreover with such a huge number of people being forced to leave Waziristan, any terrorists’ hold up in Waziristan would simply have melted away with the rest of the population and be free to move to other parts of Pakistan. So how does such an operation allegedly to ‘stamp out terrorism’ make any sense and most importantly make Pakistan any safer as argued by PM Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel?
It is obvious that Pakistan’s rulers have deliberately framed and blamed the people of Waziristan with consistent unsubstantiated allegations which now pass for evidence with the government acting as judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ has simply gone out of the window as proven with the passage of the fiendishly named ‘Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014’ which empowers security officials to be able to kill or detain in secret anyone even considered to be a suspect with the onus on them to prove their innocence, that is if still kept alive. This is the rule of law which democracy in Pakistan has established.
The reality is that with the US wanting to reduce its footprint in Afghanistan, it needs the tribal areas in Pakistan under control to stop attacks in Afghanistan from rebels who use North Waziristan as a refuge. This can be easily determined by examining US demands over the last several years. Former US Joints Chief Admiral Mike Mullen, through his spokesman Capt. John Kirby, said wayback in 2010 “(Mullen) conveyed his deep concerns about the increasing — and increasingly brazen — activities of the Haqqani network and restated his strong desire to see the Pakistani military take action against them and their safe havens in North Waziristan”.
The US obsession with a Pakistani attack on Waziristan is actually rooted in its own historical military failure. In frustration at its huge losses in the Vietnam War in which it eventually lost nearly 60,000 soldiers at the hands of the communist Viet Cong, the US began to furiously bomb neighbouring Cambodia where the rebels sought refuge, killing thousands of civilians in the process. Today facing regular attacks on its troops and Afghan forces it is no closer in securing Afghanistan on the terms it would like; the US is again resorting to extending its bloody war just as it did in Vietnam. The US goal is to break the Taliban’s resistance to the extent that it will force them to the negotiating table and come to an agreement with the Afghan regime (read US). Unfortunately for the people of Waziristan they represent that new ground zero with the foolish and treacherous Pakistani rulers all too willing to do the US subcontracted killing.
This puts Pakistan’s security and foreign policy at the heart of Pakistan’s crisis. There was no insurgency or army deployments in the tribal regions of Pakistan prior to 2001. In the post 9-11 world Pakistan under General Pervez Musharraf swiftly moved in supporting and participating in America’s then announced ‘War on Terror’ which was aimed at firmly controlling the Muslim world’s vast resources and eliminating the possible emergence of any independent Muslim power such as a Caliphate. The policy of Musharraf was continued by both the democratic Zardari PPP government and crucially the next army chief General Pervez Kayani who steadfastly continued with military operations in Pakistan coinciding with the ever rising death toll from terrorist attacks. Now General Raheel Sharif has launched the most ambitious military operation to date in Waziristan, daring to tread where even both Generals Musharraf and Kayani refused to go due to their political capital being exhausted by their open American support.
This is why despite the strong official emphasis on saving Pakistani lives with Zarb e Azb, the Nawaz-Raheel axis does nothing about the renewed American drone strikes in Pakistan which have killed over 3,500 Pakistani men, women and children. If this was a genuine Pakistani war, the Americans would not be financing it and neither would they be signing a bilateral security agreement with the new Afghan regime to continue stationing 10,000 US troops after their supposed ‘withdrawal’. Pakistani Security analyst Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi recently wrote “Despite American criticism of some aspects of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency policies, Pakistan’s military is viewed as a bulwark against terrorism. Pakistan’s support is needed for Afghanistan’s stabilisation, which will continue to be an important American consideration after the withdrawal of most of its troops.” That’s why the quid pro quo for operation Zarb e Azb has not been long in materialising. Within days of commencement the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff Committee General Rashad Mahmood was touring Washington meeting top US military and Congressional figures. The US Senate approved legislation on 22nd June that provides for $960 million in aid for Pakistan in fiscal year 2015.
Whilst there is very little thought from Pakistan’s rulers in the long term repercussions apart from securing US aid and clinging to power as the elite grows ever unpopular, the Americans have a clear objective of weakening Pakistan, keeping it off balance and in turn strengthening India to counter the rise of China. Writing in The Dawn recently Pakistan’s former UN ambassador Munir Khan wrote “The most proximate impediment to India’s quest for Great Power status remains Pakistan. So long as Pakistan does not accept India’s regional pre-eminence, other South Asian states will also resist Indian diktat. India cannot feel free to play a great global power role so long as it is strategically tied down in South Asia by Pakistan. India under Modi has maintained the multifaceted Indian strategy to break down Pakistan’s will and capacity to resist Indian domination.”
The removal of Pakistani troops from India’s border has not only left Pakistan more vulnerable to an Indian attack but also eased the pressure on India which in turn has used the opportunity to brutally suppress the Kashmiri people which Pakistan has all but abandoned in name. Likewise the Americans have delivered on a plate what India itself could never achieve, that is to secure its Western border whilst simultaneously weakening its historical enemy, Pakistan. As Barack Obama laid on America’s hospitality in Washington this September for India’s newly installed leader seeking closer strategic military, political and economic ties, he would have certainly reminded Modi of this favour.
More war in Waziristan also makes for good domestic political headlines for the PML-N government and the establishment liberals who have nothing to show for about the supposed virtues of democracy. None of the difficult questions over unemployment, cost of living crisis, new IMF loans, electricity and gas load shedding, law and order, progression on provision of essential services like health and education need be asked as they are all relegated from the official public narrative. For the rulers in Islamabad solving these problems is beyond them, something which they know all too well and the real name of the political game is survival with servitude to America absolutely essential absent any real domestic legitimacy. While Nawaz Sharif talk’s peace with the Muslim butcher of Gujarat Narendra Modi turned Indian Prime Minister, he gratuitously kills his own people.
Pakistan today despite its abundant strength of nearly 200 million people, huge agricultural wealth and nascent industrial base, is being ruined and been turned into the American ‘chipraasy’ (batman) of the region. Today we see American spies infiltrating Pakistan, compromising its nuclear programme and using its powerful military to fight its colonial war as the US seeks to secure the riches of Central Asia; more than 4000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed , twice the number of men the US has lost fighting the Taliban. The economy is on the verge of collapse as the rulers print money to help cover the spiralling costs of military deployment in Waziristan and their budget deficits. The country has officially lost more than $103 billion in 12 years of the ‘War on Terror’ but the indirect costs are far higher as businesses struggle to function in a climate of insecurity, resulting in slower economic growth and rising unemployment. What has Pakistan gained from fighting America’s war apart from the occasional pat on the back for its corrupt rulers but a kick in the teeth for the rest?
The sad fact remains that none of this would be happening if Pakistan’s rulers did not co-operate. The new incoming ISI Chief Rizwan Akhtar is par for the course; writing in 2008 for his Masters dissertation at the US Army War College he emphatically states “Pakistan needs to enhance its credibility by publicly identifying some of its critical strategic challenges. It must reform its governance, improve the economy, confront and eliminate Islamic extremism, and create a more tolerant society. Most important, it must aggressively pursue rapprochement with India.” Going further he adds “Pakistan should also provide greater transparency for its nuclear program. In this regard, it needs to take a more concerted effort to assure the United States and the world about the security of their nuclear weapons and facilities and the intentions of its nuclear program.” Concluding Akhtar writes “The US-Pakistan alliance in fighting the Global War on Terrorism provides the immediate and compelling impetus for close relations.” With the Pakistani leadership in its pocket the US could not ask for much more.
Western Ideological Aims
It is clear that whilst the faces of both the democratic rulers and generals may change, the fundamental policy of working with America will still continue. This explains why NATO’s supply lines still make their way through Pakistan fuelling the American war machine which has brought so much death and destruction on both sides of the Durand line. There prevails such a defeatist mindset in the Pakistani leadership that it has knowingly or unknowingly fully bought into the ideological positioning of the West. Ironically it is the secular political system, be it dictatorship or democracy over Pakistan’s 67 year history, that has led to such miserable economic, social and ultimate political failure for Pakistan.
So what of the Western ideological position? If that was not clear enough its position was reiterated most recently by one of the leading proponents of the ‘War on Terror’. In an extensive piece former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says “The problem is that we’re facing a spectrum of opinion based on a world view which stretches far further into parts of Muslim society… At the furthest end is the fringe. But at the other end are those who may completely oppose some of the things the fringe does and who would never themselves dream of committing acts of violence, but who unfortunately share certain elements of the fanatic’s world view. These elements comprise, inter alia: a belief in religious exclusivity not merely in spiritual but in temporal terms; a desire to re-shape society according to a set of social and political norms, based on religious belief about Islam… Unless we confront the spectrum as well as the fringe, we will only eliminate one group and then be faced with another.”
It is clear for Western leaders a Muslim who views and sees in Islam solutions for contemporary political problems or calls for the re-establishment of the Caliphate has actually become the problem. So when the ISI Chief and other Pakistani leaders talk about fighting Islamic extremism, they too are referencing this Western viewpoint in essence and ultimately see any aspect of Islamic political expression such as support for an Islamic framework of governance or implementing the Shariah beyond personal worship as completely unacceptable. The West, with its long history of colonialism, is not on some humanitarian quest but rather to pursue its own material and ideological interests. That is why the true reality is that despite their apparent half baked platitudes towards Islam and Muslims, the West’s actual actions led by the US and UK since 2001 have brought immense death, destruction and suffering across the Muslim world. John Prescott, Britain’s former Deputy Prime Minister, was candid in his view on his old master’s battle cry saying “Tony would put on a white cover with a red cross and go on his crusades.”
Era of Change
In Pakistan the war in Waziristan has created deep anger in the native Pathaan population who are bearing the brunt of American drone strikes and military attacks as the Pakistan army has been pitted against the people. These are conditions which will sow division between the people and army for years to come, ripe for a future secessionist movement. Pakistan will have to permanently act like an occupying force if it is to retain any military gains made; these are a tribal people who have successfully fought greater empires of past. With more than 150,000 troops now deployed in the region at anytime, troop rotation will ensure most of the army will be deployed in this deeply divisive campaign that is repulsive to the bulk of the army. Muslim fighting Muslim is a recipe for disaster for an army that is built on Jihad fisaabillah instead of American delegated imperialism.
Above all Pakistan’s rulers have shown contemptuous and misplaced loyalty. The track record of America and the West is clear; it will not hesitate to abandon Pakistan once its objectives are met. It did that in the 1965 war against India and did so again after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and imposed sanctions; why would it not do so again? If Pakistan’s leadership thinks it can rely on America then it only has to look at Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and now Syria to see the real result of American intervention as chaos spreads across these regions. The tribes these rulers attack in Waziristan though are the ones who helped defend Pakistan in past wars and helped secure Azad Kashmir from India. Their fighters were labelled the ‘Mujahideen’ when fighting the Soviets but now have become ‘terrorists’ as their offspring are bombed and expelled from the land they have lived in for centuries. Their forefathers could not have imagined such a horrific fate befalling their people at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them.
What is required is an end to this fatal alliance with America and her ‘War on Terror’; this is a war politically designed to target Muslim lands both covertly and overtly. Yet it is clear that both the Pakistani democrats and generals in power will not change course; their criminal and amoral leadership puts its material interests before that of the people. The only thing on offer from them and their pitifully hopeless democracy is even more poverty and fighting for years to come as they fail Pakistan repeatedly. General Raheel bears particular culpability; real power in Pakistan rests with the army and no security or foreign policy decision can even be contemplated without the army chief giving his blessing. Pakistan’s people expect their army chief to defend them, not American interests. For how much longer will this despicable travesty continue?
The era of betrayal and oppression in Pakistan like the rest of the Muslim world is now approaching a defining moment; the momentum for change is now firmly entrenched. In Pakistan its failed democracy is being attempted to be resuscitated through the Qadri and Khan roadshow. Such skin deep measures by the establishment cannot mask the emotions and thoughts now circulating in Pakistani society. Democracy can neither satisfy or respond to the desire for radical political and economic change or even safeguard the people. The desire to be ruled by Islam is so strong that even Imran Khan has to quote Hadith, Quranic ayat and tales of Caliph Umar RA to gift wrap democracy. With the West again militarily intervening in Iraq and Syria on the pretext of new threats after their previous WMD deceit the Muslim world is in a state of flux as the artificial Sykes-Picot arrangement begins to breaks down. So the likes of Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel should know it is only so long they can stave off the re-establishment of the Caliphate and their accountability for the Muslim blood they spill so cheaply in Waziristan; for now history itself is in the very process of being re-written.