Monday, January 27, 2014

Terrorism Mess in Pakistan (Part-1) - Origin of the Terrorism Mess

By: Shah Zalmay Khan
These days the whole national, political and media focus is on North Waziristan operation. Proponents of the operation dub it as the ultimate solution to the problem of militancy. Opponents of the operation feel it will be yet another futile and counter-productive exercise like past operations. What is reality? Being a tribesman myself, I find it quite amusing (at times disgusting too) when 'FATA affairs experts' sitting in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi or even Europe/USA comment on how & what we tribesmen feel about the operations. Anyhow thats not the point here.
In this 4-part article, I try to analyse the issue in a wholesome manner, with reference to its peculiar near-past bits, present dynamics and possible future outcomes.
Part-2 can be read HERE.
Part-3 can be read HERE.
Part-4 can be reads HERE.
Part-1: Why NOT? Seeing in perspective
The problem of extremist violence is not new in Pakistan. Extremists used violence as a means of vigilantism many times; from 1953 Lahore riots to Shia-Sunni sectarian violence of 1980s-90s and from Majlis-e-Ahrar vigilantism to Sufi Muhammad's armed TNSM rebellion. General Zia's decision to plunge Pakistan into the US vs Soviet Cold War battlefield of Afghanistan served as the cocoon for future Jehadist militancy embryos. Following up on those basis, militancy as we know it today in a systematic way, started in South Waziristan's Wazir belt in 2002 when Waziristani fighters (like Nek Muhammad) - once fighting alongside Afghan Taliban - crossed back into Pakistan after Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Anaconda, accompanied by remnants of some Arab/Uzbek fighters of the Afghan Jehad era.
Without thinking the consequences out, Musharraf bowed to American pressure & in early 2002, agreed to joint Pak-US operations in Waziristan (a blunder to say the least). Also he sent regular army units into the tribal areas although people familiar with the area cautioned against any such move. Musharraf thought the 'few hundred fighters' were no match for Pakistan army and that the few army units moved into FATA would eliminate any resistance and 'clear' the area rather easily. In doing so, Musharraf ignored or at least misread the history of this region where 'boots on their land' (subjugation by force) is considered more bitter than death (now this may sound rhetorical but past 100 years are a proof). The adventure misfired soon as army casualties started mounting due to little or no counter-insurgency training, inadequate weapons & equipment and often faulty intelligence.
Instead of reading the situation, Musharraf  poured in more troops into FATA and soon the army presence swelled from few units to brigades and then to divisions. The troops' numbers steadily increased (and so did militancy) even after Musharraf, throughout Zardari's tenure and now in Nawaz Sharif's 8-month stint (Today almost 5-6 divisions of army and some 50,000 FC troops are engaged in this war that has entered into its 12th year). Side-by-side with troops, extensive use of artillery and tanks was made, coupled with shelling by helicopter gunships and aerial bombardment by airforce jets. All these conventional weapons were (and are) useless and highly counter-productive in the guerilla-style war being fought in FATA. Poor army/FC soldiers without adequate counter-insurgency training and equipment were exposed to the expertise of guerilla warriors using tactics learnt and practised over 30 years or so. As the losses of army/FC mounted, tit-for-tat actions by them became a norm which included indiscriminate artillery shelling, aerial bombardment and relentless firing in crowded bazars when under attack. This resulted in souring levels of civilian deaths. Thousands of tribesmen lost their lives in these ill-conceived, ill-planned and ill-executed military operations - from Kaloosha (South Waziristan, 2003) upto Loi Sam (Bajaur, 2008) and beyond. Thousands of houses, shops and other buildings were turned into rubble. Businesses were destroyed and FATA was literally sent into the 'Stone Age'.
Photo that got Journalist Hayatullah Wazir killed by 'You know whom'.
The situation was further aggravated by US drone strikes. These killer birds, although theoretically more precise than jets or artillery, worsened the situation further as they gave militants the much needed 'legitimacy' (The Jehad) and they started using drones as a propaganda tool. Thus even though drones took out some senior militant figures, they (drones) also helped the militant groups recruit literally thousands of foot soldiers, especially their most lethal weapon - the suicide bombers (by marketing their battle as a war against 'US and its allied Pakistani forces'). Also drones are not as precise as they (Yankees) would boast. There have been countless instances when drones either hit the wrong targets (due to faulty intelligence) or killed civilians alongwith militants.
Thus a combination of the military's failure to tackle guerilla warfare tactics effectively and the ideological baggage of the (otherwise lethal and even partially effective) drones discredited this 'Our War' beyond bounds. Coupled with the state's inability to protect those tribesmen who sided with it in the operations, the 'ops+drones combo' proved to be a recipe for disaster.
And disaster it has been - for the tribesmen, for the army/FC/police and for the Pakistanis in cities and towns far away from the combat theatres. So here we are today (12 years after the first operation in Waziristan) - with militancy spread across every nook and corner of the country like a Cancer. It is 'operations' that boosted this phenomenon from a few villages in one Tehsil of Wana Subdivision of South Waziristan (in 2002) to the entire length & breadth of Pakistan - from Gilgit to Karachi and Quetta to Bahawalpur (2014). Ever heard a better example of 'more of the same'?
Now coming back to the North Waziristan Operation. Lets do some brainstorming to understand this issue in perspective:
Q: Why operation in North Waziristan?
Ans: Because TTP militants are bombing our cities and killing our soldiers and civilians - from Bannu to Karachi.
Q: Great. So, will the NWA operation stop this tirade of militant attacks?
Ans: Hopefully it will.
Q: How come? Since the operation has been announced already, why would the militants sit back & wait for military to eliminate them in a frontal assault, when they know fully well that they (TTP) can't fight them (army) frontally?
Ans: Even if they flee, at least they will be deprived of their headquarters where they train, plan and rest.
Q: What if they move to nearby Khost/Paktia provinces of Afghanistan and establish their HQs there?
Ans: NATO/USA will not allow them to do that.
Q: Have NATO/USA stopped militants fleeing to Kunar/Nuristan from previous operations in Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber? Rather Fazlullah has been enjoying complete protection and attacking Pakistani border areas - from his bases inside NATO-controlled Afghanistan. No? So if North Waziristan militants also shift to Khost, what will Pakistan do? Bomb Afghanistan?
Ans: We will see to it later (read NO PLAN).
Q: Fine. On the flip side, how about the severe blow-back in cities especially adjacent settled areas of KPK and major urban centres like Karachi? Has any preparation been made for that or would people be at the mercy of Allah and the militants?
Ans: We will see to it later (read NO PLAN).
Q: How about the tribesmen living in North Waziristan? How will their safety be ensured when jets & gunships bomb the area and artillery pounds the region?
Ans: We will see to it later (read NO PLAN).
Q: What about the 0.5 million expected IDPs? Any plan for rescuing and housing them or supporting them? Any camps established for them? Anything?
Ans: We will see to it later (read NO PLAN).
With so many 'unknowns' in the equation, would an operation in North Waziristan (just for the sake of operation) be a solution at all? I seriously doubt it (and so does Imran Khan - thats why he opposes it). And we are not alone in saying this. Hear what 4 top Pakistani anchors (including the 'expert' Saleem Safi) say about the issue:

What then is the solution? Can we afford to let our soldiers and civilians die in militant attacks forever - while we sit back & do nothing?
Off-course NOT. We cannot let that happen and there is a way out of this mess too. But remember there are neither any 'short cuts' in this way nor is there any room for knee-jerk tit-for-tat actions like last week's indiscriminate aerial bombardments in North Waziristan.
However, before we get to solve the riddle of terrorism, first we need to know the players on the opposite side i.e. the militant groups working under the Taliban umbrella or even otherwise.
Part-2 of this article 'Knowing the players of the Game' can be read here.
SOLUTION will be proposed in Part-4 of this article (coming up in few days). 
The writer is a tribesman from Bajaur Agency (FATA) and tweets at @PTI_FATA .
(No official association with PTI)

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official PTI webpage and is run by a group of volunteers having no official position in PTI. All posts are personal opinions of the bloggers and should, in no way, be taken as official PTI word.
With Regards,
"Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf FATA Volunteers" Team.


  1. I believe this tribesman is not a member of Pakistan armed forces war council, then how the fuck do he know so many answers as the unknown, pure imagination
    he is just another PTI follower who are blinded by the stubborn and arrogant attitude of IK. Tell me one thing, if no op, then what?
    let TTP get away with 70000+ deaths?
    I am a tribesman too, from Orakzai
    I have witnessed what TTP does to local populace, man TTP is not a counter productive entity, it is a movement to enforce their version of islam, no revenge as blatantly told by their sympathizer
    If NW people are so innocent, why the fuck do they come to fight for TTP in Orakzai, Kurram, Khyber?
    get your facts right genius
    this is a cancer, and cancer has only once cire, OPERATION

  2. Sir Olaf Caroe, Governor NWFP and long serving officer of British Army, wrote in his book on Pathans that "no empire of which we have any record has ever succeeded in making subjects of the tribes of Waziristan".