Has Bajaur been cleared of the Taliban?

Published: April 23, 2010
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Farhat Taj is currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban. (farhat.taj@tribune.com.pk)

Farhat Taj is currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban. ([email protected])

Security forces of Pakistan declared victory in Bajaur in the first week of March 2010.

For the first time in history Pakistan’s flag was raised on Damadola, the Taliban stronghold in Bajaur. The Pakistani media showed images of people in Bajaur celebrating the success of the security forces. The people of Bajaur, however, inform us that not much has changed on the ground.

The Pakistan army has captured Damadola, Sewai and some other areas of Mamund but have left the Taliban relatively untouched, especially since seven more schools have been bombed since the announcement of the ‘victory’ and diehard Taliban commanders who were reportedly killed by the security forces turned out to be alive.

Residents of Bajaur inform that, following the daily surrender of Taliban members, they are set free again on the Jirga’s ‘guarantees, who feel pressurized by both the Taliban and the military authorities. The state authorities do not suspect these Taliban members following their ‘surrender’.

If caught again in acts of terrorism, the Taliban show the surrender letter given to them by military authorities and are allowed go free. The people of Bajaur complain that now the Taliban have a state-given clean chit and nobody asks them about their past atrocities against innocent tribesmen and women. They ask how can the state give them such a clean chit without accountability!

These new reservations are an addition to the long list of complaints that people of Bajaur have long held against the military and the Taliban. If the military’s daily claims of militants’ deaths are to be believed, more than 3000 militants would have been killed in the various operations in the area. On the ground, nobody can prove the deaths of more than a few militants.

The target killing of both neutral and pro-government tribal leaders continues to happen. Over 100 tribal elders have been target-killed. Over 80 schools have been blown up in the areas which the army claimed to have cleared. Local journalists cannot freely report due to a fear of either the security forces or the Taliban.

The ‘victory’ in Damadola seems to be a media gimmick to mould public opinion outside Fata, especially in the Punjab. The security forces of Pakistan have to really crush the Taliban. This is important to control the seemingly growing feelings of alienation in the area.

Seen from the perspective of the people of Bajaur nothing has changed in terms of elimination of the Taliban, some of those I spoke to said: ‘We hate the Taliban from the core of our heart but our passions for Pakistan are also drying up with each passing day. If the state has nothing to offer to us and if we have to be their slaves forever serving this state with our blood, then why not choose someone else for a master?’

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Apr 23, 2010 - 3:29AM

    I have lost count of the number of times Bajaur has been claimed to be cleared! Would not be surprised if a similar write up is published six months from now. Recommend

  • Ali
    Apr 23, 2010 - 10:33AM

    What the hell is going on over there? Can anyone bring this to the notice of our civilian government? The army clearly doesn’t seem to care about our people over there but at least these reports should be brought forward in the mainstream media. So much for accountability of politicians when the khakis can get away with something as outrageous as this. Gobbling up money is one thing and letting peoples’ lives being taken and destroyed is another. Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    Apr 23, 2010 - 10:58AM

    The successful operation in Bajur is a huge break through as such regions were stronghold of militancy. We need to recall that Bajur was also cleared of militants in the past but the failure of civilian institutions to govern effectively allowed militants to return. The role of Army is limited to combat, we need to strengthen the democratic institutions in FATA and implement the reforms so that this region can embark upon the journey to progress.Recommend

  • Majid
    Apr 23, 2010 - 11:34AM

    We should all be clear about the status of this civil war raging on the western border – it wasnt there until American and NATO forces cajoled our Army headquaters to start operations against those fighting a resistence in Afghanistan. We have successfully created our own enemy at the behest of an invading power. We should be more concerned with the situation in Balochistan where a full-fledged independance movement is underway. Targeted assasinations of Punjabi’s in Quetta are a daily occurrence. I recently attended a two day conference on Balochistan in Islamabad and was extremely disgusted to hear from one Baloch Senator, no less, that Balochistan has no commanality with Hind but rather thier common culture and tradition is with Central Asia! We should declare ceasfire with the Taliban whose fight was never with Pakistan but with the Invaders across the border – and start dealing with the other Musharaff-instigated Bangladesh problem in Balochistan.Recommend

  • Amna Zaman
    Apr 23, 2010 - 12:52PM

    Bajaur has now been clear off the terrorists. This is a great acchievment by the Pakistan Army and the nations supports these actions. The military intensity must be kept high on the Taliban so that people are free of the cancer of extremism.Recommend

  • Dr Mohammad Riaz Khan
    Apr 24, 2010 - 12:51AM

    I am not that much free to comment on this article.
    I am from that area (Bajour Agency). I need my OLD peaceful bajour, Govt writ was every where at that time even in Damadola.
    This is a long story to described the reasons for this revolution.
    we himself create such situation which in long run favor extremism.
    Most of the expert are telling lie about the real situation in bajour. Even our MNA cant visit back Bajour. Because they cheat their voters.
    Riaz Bajour AgencyRecommend

  • Jahan Zeb
    Apr 24, 2010 - 2:21AM

    Common man of Pakistan and especially people of Punjab does not know the issues of Pakhtuns and especially the Pakhtuns of of FATA’ [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] . FATA was pushed to dark ages under one or another pretext such as ‘great game’ , ‘cold war’ ‘Afghan jehad’ and ’ strategic depth’ by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia British Raj and US. But most of the damage has been brought and still continue by the ‘strategic depth’ policy of Pakistan state.
    Just in case of Waziristan, the state writ has systemically given to Taliban. More than 300 pro-elders have been killed by Taliban on behest of the state security agencies. A former Pakistani retired ambassador Ayaz Wazir of Wairistan, says that before 9/11,the people of FATA were more peaceful than the settled areas of the country. There is no political system, no assembly, youth are unemployed. People need employment, education, health services, playgrounds and above all they need equal and equitable socio-economic development programs and political rights.
    According to Mohammad Raza who is a Fulbright scholar says” The people of FATA can elect members to the Pakistani parliament; however, these elected members can neither legislate for FATA nor do they have the authority to represent their constituencies. The people must be provided with an opportunity to take part in the legislation of their immediate areas within FATA….At present, the people of FATA are only symbolically represented in the Pakistani parliament; however, such symbolism does not benefit the citizens (of FATA) because, according to Pakistan’s Constitution, legislation for FATA remains the exclusive authority of any sitting President of Pakistan.] http://pashtuninstitute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19&Itemid=17
    As one of our friends says ‘Firstly, the people of FATA were lift to the will of God by British and then thrown to the wolves by Pakistan.
    Either we stop playing more games with the people of FATA or get ready for breakup not only the country but the fabric of our society.Recommend

  • Bajaur's Son
    Apr 24, 2010 - 2:29AM

    The operation, just like the previous ones, is a nothing but a drama. The Taliban are asked to move out from one place so as to be settled in another one, often, not very far away. The locals are asked to stand up to the Taliban, and when they do, their leadership is mercilessly slaughtered by both the Army and the Taliban, thus creating the power vaccum which is later on filled by Taliban. The same Taliban are then sent across the border to Afghanistan where they play havoc with the lives of Afghan public.
    This drama is going on now for around 10 years, and hundereds of the local people have been killed in targetted attacks.
    The Pakistani Generals, it seems, are passionately following the infamous quote,’where ideas matter, people don’t’. And the idea is:
    1) To bleed Afghanistan, so that it does not grow strong enough to demand the return of it’s lands of Pakhtunkhwa and FATA from Pakistan. 2)To realise, ofcourse, the more audacious agenda of attaining ‘strategic depth’in Afghanistan, where the lands of Afghanistan would provide a breathing space to the armed forces of Pakistan in case of Pakistan being attacked from the Eastern side by India. They often talk of Afghanistan as Pakistan’s fifth province.
    But, someone has to pay the price of this dirty game played in FATA by the Pakistani Generals. They are the poor pakhtun population of FATA who are paying with their lives, livelihood, culture, and most importantly the future of their coming generations. Destruction of schools by Taliban is not quite their favourite pastime. By destroying schools, the Taliban create more chances of childern sent to madrassas which are in their control, hence more recruites for Jihad and more Jihadis at the disposal of Pakistani Generals. Recommend

  • Naveed Afridi
    Apr 24, 2010 - 2:50AM

    Some of the comments surprise me.

    Regarding the failure of civilian Govenments: FATA has been kept in the dark ages. No effort since partition, has been made to develop these areas. These areas are under direct Federal control. And as much of Federal Government is directly or indirectly under the military I would suppose it serves a good purpose for them.

    FATA was a buffer zone for the British. Those in control of Pakistani Foreign Policy have maintained this status quo. Not to keep a buffer against Russia so much nowadays but rather to keep a safe haven for militants who perform proxy wars for the Pakistani military. These militants need areas to train and coordinate from, and FATA provides them that.

    So whether it serves Pakistan’s purpose to launch activities in Kashmir, or Afghanistan, it has it’s buffer zone.

    Many anti-Taliban lashkars have been decapitated by targeted killings. Many people in the Tribal areas say, and with certainty and knowledge that there is no difference between teh Taliban and the pakistan Army and that they are one and the same.

    Many of the Taliban targeted by the military is solely agaisnt those Taliban that have become rogue. Or are not Taliban but ordinary people, usually anti-Taliban Lashkars.

    Regarding Baluchistan. They have been treated, much like the Pukhtuns in FATA as second class citizens. They are not given oppertunites to develop, and their lands are given off to outsiders who take advantage of the backwardness imposed.

    The resistance of baluchistan is a reaction to the exploitation of the State against those that exploit. It is nothing more than that.

    Unless Pakistan accepts it’s minority population as equals, unless it stops using minorities as canon fodder for imperialist designs, there will only be more bloodshed and the fragmentation of teh Federation.Recommend

  • Gahez Shpooul
    Apr 24, 2010 - 4:37AM

    Calling the Bajaur situation a success or failure of civilian government is meaningless. I don’t think the civilian government-federal or provincial, had any say either in starting the so called military operation or ending it. Its the army and the, not very secret, secret services of Pakistan that has a monopoly on Taliban’s bloody theater in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The strings of Taliban are in the hands of Pakistani establishment that controls the chaotic situation through these ugly militias. Pulls them and unleashes them at the general populace whenever and wherever needed. Civilian governments have no control over these forces and debating the role of civilian government is meaningless unless you are some from the establishment and trying to divert the attention of ordinary men and women in that region from the real culprits in the entire Jihad saga.Recommend

  • Khurrum
    Apr 24, 2010 - 12:10PM

    hats off to Farhat Taj , she is the Only voice of FATA , as it is a separate Province Practically and different from Pukhtunkhawa but the Journalist fail to see the Geography and History of this area and there is complete lack of Understanding of FATA as it was separated from Pukhtunkhawa by British on 25 Oct 1901 , after this land was separated from Afghanistan after Durand line agreement was made on 12 Nov 1893 .

    This Land remains to be Play Ground of Super Powers through their Proxies be it The Taliban / Mujahideen or even Other Forces since year 1800 and the Great Game played in which we are Partner of USA now .

    Although FATA is Part of Pakistan through Article 1 of Constitution of Pakistan it is UN-Governed through a strange system of FCR-40 Inhuman Laws and Political Agents who report Directly to Islamabad .

    It is Article 246 and 247 , of same constitution that is fueling the Fire and same divide and Rule Policy is continued in FATA and PATA ( Malakand Agency ie Swat ) .

    The People in Islamabad are In-sensitive to Plight of FATA People and so are Taliban who are Part of Strategic Depth Theory of GHQ , who uses them to curtail Influence of Central Asian and Afghanistan Puhstuns who ruled India for Last 5000 Years .

    It is understanable what Farhat Taj has comented is out come of System we have provided to FATA rewsidents , as system of Kufar as Sufi Muhmmed Rightly Termed it ( British System since 1757 ) .

    The People on Ground Rightly Identify with Terrorist like these because of only Hope it Provides to them .

    Even Leader like Zulfiqar Bhutto and now in 18th Amendment it was Ignored and 30 Lakh to 50 Lakh People of FATA were not Given Courts , Laws and Police and other Admin system that exists in Other Part of Pakistan . It is not much to ask for and lack of Providing it shows the Insensitties and Lack of understanding of the Problem.

    Even Gilgit was made a such from FANA and FATA was ignored deliberatively , while it has population of only 5 Lakhs .

    All these Areas were Part of Pukhtunkwa for last 5000 Years have been seperated by British in Past and now by Pakistan . Recommend

  • Nasir
    Apr 24, 2010 - 6:41PM

    The Taliban oppologists who say that there was no threat before 9/11 should remind that there was a oppressive Ta;liban government in Kabul since 1996 and an insurgency followed by civil war fueled by Pakistani ISI and its associate religious political parties. This is a rather stupid argument to think that a Taliban government in Kabul backed by ISI who also host people (Arab terrorist) that plan terrorist opperations in the world will go for long. Yes, 9/11 just speeded-up the process of that death and destruction which was engulfing this region slowly and gradually due to the un-intellegent policies of Pakistani intelligence agencies. There is only way out of this situation and that is; Pakistan (I mean its Army, ISI and right wing political parties) should stop this destructive game on Afghans and Pashtuns in Pakistan otherwise this war will never end rather further asscelate even if the NATO/ISAf forces leave Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Shabnam Gul
    Apr 24, 2010 - 8:38PM

    Real problem is the mind set of Pakistani military. They are obsessed with the “Strategic Depth”policy in Afghanistan .Taliban are their assets and would be preserved for the rainy day . For the Pakhtuns , khakies and Taliban are the two faces of the same coin.They got the license to kill with impunity . Even a child know the collaboration between the two. This declaration of “Mission accomplished” is just a farce.Ask the inhabitants of those areas who are the real witness and they will give you the clear picture of the things happening there.People of the FATA are caught between the devil and the deep sea.The carnage is going on with the consent of the men in uniform. Where are all the leaders of these killers? The likes of Fazlullah, Muslim khan and many others? Obviously they are your guests.Get them and let them be investigated by the independent body without any interference or bullying from ISI and let the world know about the facts.Stop the genocide of the Pakhtuns for the bloody politics.Recommend

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