Senate of Pakistan

An important visit to South Waziristan

October 26, 2012

Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has invited the Senate Standing Committee on Defence to South Waziristan in November to visit the Pakistani troops stationed in the tribal agency. This would be an extraordinary event given the fact that the Taliban are still able to deter visitors there through credible threats and given also the fact that the Taliban have designated the Pakistan Army as their enemy number one. The visit will no doubt be a signal to the outside world that the army has created peaceful conditions to an extent that it is possible for a parliamentary group to visit the area and make an assessment of what the odds are for a final confrontation with foreign and local terrorists in North Waziristan. The army says it will go into North Waziristan only if given the signal by the civilian authorities; and parliament is where the signal will come from. (NB: the opposition in parliament in tandem with non-parliamentary religious parties has already opposed the operation.)

Comprising 6,619 square kilometres, South Waziristan is the country’s southernmost tribal agency and the largest in terms of area. Before the Taliban became dominant in 2007, most of the madrassas there were connected to the JUI-F, which is one reason Maulana Fazlur Rehman felt offended by Imran Khan’s rally into the agency recently. This is the original home (Kotkai) of the current chief of the Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, who is now hiding in North Waziristan and threatening the Shias of Pakistan from Kurram to Karachi, in addition to planning attacks inside the US, as was demonstrated by a Pakistani man arrested for an attempted terror attack at Times Square.

Many Taliban terrorists who killed innocent Pakistanis have been ‘taken out’ by American drones in South Waziristan. Qari Hussain, the notoriously anti-Shia trainer of suicide bombers and a staunch supporter of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) who killed a lot of people, was thus eliminated. Qari Zafar, involved in the suicide attack on the US Consulate in Karachi in 2006, was likewise eliminated in South Waziristan. This was the agency where the ferocious Uzbeks of Tahir Yuldashev were located taking part in killing Pakistani troops and citizens. They are now hiding in North Waziristan and Pakistan needs to punish them for their black deeds.

The Pakistan Army went into South Waziristan as part of a larger strategic move in 2009. Operation Rah-e-Nijat was against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and their extremist allies. It culminated in a major ground-naval-air offensive in October that year. The army has restored the state administrative structures in the agency and has also started some development projects to attract the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by conflict. However, in August this year, the Taliban declared from North Waziristan that they had “chopped off” the heads of seven Pakistani soldiers after attacking a military outpost in South Waziristan that killed 20 soldiers.

There are different reactions to the on-ground developments after air attacks by the Pakistan Air Force in the various tribal locations where the Taliban are active. The Taliban are no doubt interested in encouraging the local population to protest against the army and sends delegations to Islamabad protesting the army operation. Their hold on the local population is based on coercion and savage punishment for disobedience. But the people of Swat, who once obeyed the Taliban out of fear, are today thankful that the army went into Swat and drove the killers out. The same will ultimately be true of South Waziristan and North Waziristan.

The Taliban are now headquartered in North Waziristan. The gains in South Waziristan made by the Pakistan Army will not be complete unless it carries out an operation in North Waziristan to flush out militant sanctuaries. It is from there that most of the attacks on the Pakistan military and the state in general are planned and backed with funds collected through bank robberies and kidnappings in Lahore and Karachi. The army is right — in the face of a lot of criticism by religious parties — in saying that it will attack North Waziristan but at a time of its own choosing.


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