The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has announced to an already-stricken population of Pakistan that it beheaded the seven Pakistani security personnel that it had kidnapped on June 21 in Laddah, South Waziristan. Its spokesman has proclaimed that “the heads of the slain soldiers would soon be produced before the media”. He also denied the army claim that it had killed 10 terrorists; he said only two had actually died. The TTP also enriched itself with the weapons captured from the army personnel.
The tragedy of South Waziristan goes on. This was the place where we made our first mistakes. We are now more focused on the villainies of the US and the Nato, whom we are denying passage into Afghanistan, and are busy ‘reinterpreting’ the Taliban as paid killers of the US, while sheltering some of them as they cross the Durand Line and kill Americans getting ready to depart the region after being defeated. If this is a victory, it is killing us. We are appeasing our tormentors by making ‘adjustments’ at all levels — judicial, political, economic and military.
In March 2004, militants ambushed an army convoy near the village of Sarwakai, close to Wana in South Waziristan. A dozen soldiers were found at the site and the decapitated bodies of a number of others who had been taken prisoner by the assailants were found near the area days later. The army went in to take the killers to task. Zahid Hussain, in his book, The Scorpion’s Tail, writes:
“The clerics of the powerful Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad issued a fatwa declaring the resistance in Waziristan a jihad and called on the people to not give Islamic burials to the soldiers killed while fighting the tribesmen. In obedience to the clerics, many parents of the soldiers refused to receive the bodies of their sons. Public opinion in the region turned more hostile toward the military. The operation also angered some individuals within the officer corps and several Pashtun officers were court-martialled for refusing to fight”.
The Supreme Court should have taken note of this before it decided in favour of the guilty cleric who had issued the fatwa. (It ordered restoration of the property of the seminary destroyed in a 2007 operation.) In 2005, the army concluded a ‘peace deal’ with Waziristan leader Baitullah Mehsud. It agreed to withdraw troops from the checkpoints it had set up in the area and deployed only paramilitary Frontier Corps personnel there. The government paid him $540,000, the “money the militants said they owed to al Qaeda”. The corps commander of Peshawar even declared Baitullah a “soldier of peace”.
It is understandable that our army feels uneasy fighting inside Pakistan. It is trained to fight external enemies. But that doesn’t mean that external enemies are created when there are none. The killers that make our people suffer are all inside Pakistan. Another thing to note is the way that the atrocities inflicted by the TTP are presented to the people of this country. It is strange that Husain Haqqani is quickly branded a traitor for his role in the memogate affair, even before the Supreme Court gave its ruling on the matter. But the activities of the TTP have hardly ever received the same level of condemnation that came Mr Haqqani’s way.
We have to realise that the real enemy is in our guts. It is the Taliban and its master, al Qaeda. We are opposed to them but we are outside the camp that fights them at the global level. We can’t fight them when our economy is in shambles and our population is helpless to rise against a state whose writ is already minimal. Why should we sacrifice ourselves uselessly when the world is willing to help us? If we thought South Waziristan was in our control and that we had made the terrorists flee the agency, we have been proven wrong. We could be proved wrong soon in Swat and Bajaur, too, and we have not really pacified Orakzai, either.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2012.