The situation in Tirah Valley is spiralling out of control as the Lashkar-e-Islam, aligned with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the area, distributed pamphlets in Bara warning residents against sheltering internally displaced persons (IDPs) belonging to the Ansar-e-Islam. The battle in Tirah Valley is essentially a militant turf battle with the Lashkar-e-Islam and the TTP facing off against the Ansar-e-Islam, which is allied with pro-government tribesmen. Caught in the middle are the residents of Tirah Valley, an estimated 150,000 of which have had to flee the area. Both the Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansar-e-Islam are groups that believe in wanton violence and the government’s tacit support of the latter is ill-advised. This does not mean, however, that it should not intervene in this latest threat issued to IDPs. Even though there are likely to be some Ansar-e-Islam fighters among the IDPs, the vast majority are innocent civilians simply trying to escape with their lives.
Along with providing relief and security to the IDPs, the government also has to go on the offensive in Tirah Valley. Ceding such a strategically-important territory to the TTP militants is simply not on. Neither is relying on tribesmen who are outmatched and outgunned. Had the government better trained the tribesmen and supplemented their forces with military personnel, perhaps we wouldn’t have been stuck in a situation where the tribesmen had to align themselves with the Ansar-e-Islam. Right now, the government is operating on the an-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend principle but the benefits of this policy are short-lived. Soon, the Ansar-e-Islam, too, may turn against the government and we will face yet another enemy.
Only a tiny fraction — as little as three per cent by some accounts — of the IDPs are being accommodated in relief camps. Not only does the government have to provide shelter to all of them, now they must be given security, too. We have already failed the citizens of Tirah Valley; it would be an unforgivable crime to do so again.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2013.
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@cautious: Excuse me? Half of the wealth of Pakistan? Are you also blindfolded by the Geo and Express tribune? only 18 per cent of the total GDP is spent on Armed Forces. Correct you figures please. Pakistan has one of the lowest defence spending of all the nations who are currently at war. Major nations. Don't count Somalia or Mali in it.
Perhaps it's time for an Editorial which discusses the replacement of Military leaders who lack the will +/or ability to take on the Taliban. Why spend the almost half the wealth of Pakistan on a military which seems content with the status quo? What's the old saying - if you can't take the heat stay out of the kitchen?
It is a matter of great shame for Pak govt that people are becoming IDP in their own country as the security forces of the country have failed to eliminate TTP despite fighting them for the past five years. It would be in the fitness of the things that decisive operations are launched against TTP before more areas are occupied by them and thousands of hapless people become the victim of their atrocities.