By Prof. Farah A. Khan:
On September 7th Imran’s PTI Peace marchers against drone attacks in Waziristan reached 20 km from Tank at the border of South Waziristan Agency but were stopped from going to Kotkai by the army. His opponents were ANP, JUI-F, PPP and PML-N who have never offered a solution to Fata issue. They have finally found common ground to unite against Imran. Maulvi Fazal (JUI-F) went over board. He accused Imran of not holding on to his Jewish wife and his children living abroad were being brought up by a Jewish mother. Under Islam this is nonsense. He also claimed that Imran was pushing Israeli agenda (Yahood and Ansara) but could not explain how and distributed pamphlets and made announcements in the mosques to the same effect. Rumours were also circulated of suicide bombers targeting the marchers. There is nothing else he could pin on Imran except that he did not understand the Pakhtun psyche. Maulvi Fazal is a cheat and a crook. His base Dera Ismail Khan has been devastated by PTI visit. Today Fazal was talking against PPP while being in the government and enjoying all the perks. He will never resign. The PPP and PML-N have produced absolutely absurd objections to Imran’s march. They feel that PTI should have had this march in USA!
We all know that permission to drone Fata has been agreed by President Zardari, former PM Gilani and the army chief in Pakistan and not in US. It is not surprising that Israel shot down a drone when it entered its air space. But we are not Israel. The ruling ANP leadership in KP loudly claimed that they did not stop the PTI march and gave them full security on the way. Why lie in the age of live TV reporting. All along the route from DI Khan containers were placed to stop them! There were reports that about 40 foreigners with the Peace March were arrested from the Rest House in DI Khan. This would have only promoted PTI agenda. Later this was shown as a hoax. From top to the bottom our politicians are con artists never to be trusted.
The media response is puzzling to say the least. Cyril Almeida article (The demagogue in Khan. Dawn. October 7, 2012) is full of venom and hate against ‘Taliban Khan’ and PTI office bearers and little of substance. Cyril writes about the hated Taliban killers of Pakistanis who have Imran’s sympathies whereas the army is encouraged to fight on in Fata. The TV anchors and talk shows are of such low calibre that it would be unwise to comment on them. The comments vary from why did Imran throw the turban in the crowd after his address in Tank to why did he not condemn the Taliban. Besides point scoring the TV has given us no clear signs of the issues in Fata. Unfortunately there are no independent sources of information from the area since the army does not allow people in the operational areas of Fata. Sitting in the air-conditioned rooms of Islamabad and Lahore these ‘experts’ want a military solution in Fata paid by the hated Americans.
First and foremost all governments in the world dehumanise the enemy. The Americans invaded Afghanistan to get rid of Al Qaeda in which they partially succeeded. With nationalist resistance in Afghanistan the enemy then became Taliban and their associates in Pakistan (Haqqani ‘network’, Lashkar-e-Tyabba, Ilyas Kashmiri group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, Maulvi Nazir fighters, Punjabi Taliban and many other jihadi groups). Now we rarely hear about Al Qaeda in Afghanistan since most of them were captured in the major cities of Pakistan and handed over to US.
It seems that the Americans are confused regarding their policies in Afghanistan but they are not with their top class secret agencies and think tanks operating round the clock. I was attending a medical conference in Seoul when America invaded Afghanistan (2001). The foreign delegates asked me as to what will happen next. My simple answer was that another superpower is going to get a bloody nose. I don’t think they believed me. It would have far more appropriate for employing a lowly urologist as advisor to the White House! It would have saved lot of lives on both sides and huge American spending on ‘civilising’ Afghanistan.
Coming back to the Peace March. We must analyse as to what did it achieve? This was the first foray into the area by a political party with clear objective. First and foremost it has created an awareness and unity with rest of Pakistan. This itself is a great achievement. Some people would call this as political mileage for PTI and why not so. Will this stop the drone attacks in Fata even though they are illegal and immoral? With our governments permission to US for drone attacks this won’t stop till the present government is removed. For the rest of Pakistanis drones are not on their radar screen when the pressing issues are raising prices, increasing fuel and gas prices and electricity load shedding. The Peace March has shaken their concern about Fata and future of Pakistan.
There is another argument touted by many writers in the newspapers. They have unflinching support of the Pakistan army and are out to defend ISI as the ‘finest’ secret agency in the world. They are all for a military solution of Fata. The military strategy used is to depopulate Fata (3.5 lac displaced persons from Waziristan) and then go in with heavy armour, guns and air support to kill any resistance. The army also tries to takeover civilian function of rehabilitation in the area for which they are not trained. After three years the army operation has come to a standstill. As I have said before we have no independent source of information of the result of army’s tactics in Fata. In any case the army is not answerable to the civilian government. What they do is top secret and need unlimited funds, which are never audited by civilian agencies. What I have heard from the local displaced people is that they hate the army and the Taliban since there is no difference between the behaviour of the two. Both terrify the locals and both are hated. Their homes have been looted and destroyed. The orchards are dying and livestock decimated. Army’s role in Fata needs to be verified by an independent civilian commission.
Today Fata is ruled by the army and Taliban (also called militants). The army is engaged in South Waziristan, Orakzai, Bajaur, Mohmand, Kurram, and Khyber agencies (six out of seven agencies). Dir and Swat are still under martial law. Unfortunately the findings of Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms changing rules in Fata came out in 2011 were too little and too late. The ground realities had fundamentally changed and these reforms made no difference (Hussain, Khadim. Political rallies in Fata. Dawn. Dawn. October 7, 2012).
All said and done and hullabaloo created by some people in the media that Imran has pushed a vague issue for our think tanks members to an uncomfortable level. Our leadership must have also been shaken. Worst still the issue has been internationalised with about 40 foreigners in the train and splashed across the globe. Suddenly Fata is not the ‘bad lands’ anymore as portrayed by our and foreign press.
Now to the future. According to my understanding of the situation in Afghanistan the Americans will pull out earlier than 2014. The invasion is too costly for even the rich America and the cost of dead is rising too fast. The Afghan army and police under training since 2001 (now 12 years) by American trainers are now considered to be un-trainable. Enforcing democracy through rigged elections and emancipation of women has not worked in Afghanistan. As soon as the Americans leave the Afghan army and police shall be looking for pay from a new warlord/Taliban. With the Americans gone from Afghanistan they would have to increase heroin export to survive. Pakistan army will not get its annual $1 billion support from the Americans. Can Pakistan finance Fata war on its own with 1.5 lac soldiers already in the field? The war supporters want the army invasion into North Waziristan Agency as well. This cannot be done even with American dollars.
Pakistan army should realise that in war today people die and most of them are innocent civilians. One justification given for continuing war in Fata is that more than 3,000 soldiers have lost their lives since 2003. We have no figures on the locals killed or maimed in the war and we don’t want to know either. In WW I at the Battle of Somme (1st July-18th November 1916) one million German and British soldiers were killed. On the first day of attack British lost 60,000 soldiers. More devastation was caused by WW II. For peace we have to forget and forgive. Fata solution only lies in dialogue and not war.
On September 9th Malala Yusufzai Pakistan’s child heroin who survived Taliban crackdown and harsh rule in Swat and spoke against their policies regarding education for girls was shot in Mingora, Swat as she was going home. TTP claimed responsibility and cited her anti Taliban stance for this attack. TTP claimed that she would be again targeted if she survives. Pakhtun code and Islam does not allow women to be targeted especially when Malala was only 14 years old. It seems that this was the work of local Swati extremists. We also have the case of former Governor Punjab Salman Taseer who was shot dead by his guard Qadri for being ‘immoral’. The police escort gave the killer hero’s welcome in jail. The lawyers also came out in Qadri’s support. Qadri was not a Taliban but belonged to so-called moderate Barelvi sect.