By: Imtiaz Waziri-Many FATA observers and common people believe that the recent military incursion, Khyber-4, launched by Pakistani military in Khyber Agency is a face saving attempt, being started in July as a result of recent visit of US Congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain. FATA people believe that the military operation Khyber-4 has been launched in a bid to defuse the recent wave of pressure by the international community rather than shunning terror sanctuaries. Such type of friendly military exercises in FATA to deceive the international community is an old strategy of Pakistan. Whenever an official of USA is making a visit to Pakistan since Bush era, Islamabad conducts some sort of so-called military raids here or there in FATA, aimed at misleading and pleasing the US administration. It is worth to mention here that locals of Rajgal Valley had already been displaced since 2014 and a large number of Pakistani troops were deployed there. Taking advantage of the opportunity being provided by the US, not only Khyber Agency but the whole of FATA has been shaped as military cantonment by Pakistan where locals have no right to freedom of expression and movement and it still remains no go area for national and international media outlets, NGOs and other humanitarian organizations. Even residents of FATA while passing through a large number of military check-posts are not allowed to reach their native homes without having a “Watan Card,” issued by Pak military to every man and woman including children of more than age 5. In the presence of a large number of military check-posts and troops, questioning the presence of terrorist outfits and failure of Pak Army in FATA is not above logic.
Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said operation khyber-4 under Radd-ul-Fasaad is aimed at wiping out terrorist groups including militants of Islamic State in the Rajgal Valley where from they operate and conduct terrorist and destructive activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As per reports the military offensive was supported by SSG commandos and Air force. ISPR has announced completion of its first phase and claimed elimination of 13 terrorists and 6 others injured. A Pakistani soldier was also killed in exchange of fire and a total of 90 kilometers area has been cleared where military posts have been built up on the highest and craggiest top of mountain, Brekh Muhammad Kandao along Durand Line. The Defense Ministry of Afghanistan has rejected the so-called military offensive and urged Pakistan to take military action against Taliban’s safe havens and breeding nurseries existing in Peshawar, Quetta, Islamabad, Lahore, Abbottabad and Karachi rather bombing mountains in Rajgal Valley of Khyber Agency.
Prior to this, minor and massive military operations, Khyber-1, Khyber-2, Daraghlam, Bya Daraghlam and Khyber-3 were conducted in the same tribal region. Each time Pakistan claimed success and complete eradication of terrorist groups from the area. Heavy military installations, forts and check-posts have been built up in the whole of FATA. But militancy and militarism in FATA is increasing day by day resulting in suppression and bleeding of local people and more power, strength and space to good Taliban. Despite the plenty of military raids, Ansar-ul-Islam and Lashkar-e-Islam leadership including all other groups of Good Taliban are still safe and sound. We are witnessed the militant groups and the notorious Haqqani network were provided safe and honorable passage before and during every military offensive in FATA. While the Bara Bazaar in Khyber Agency, Mir Ali and MiranShah Bazaars in North Waziristan and Mehsood belt in South Waziristan had been looted and razed to ground which resulted in unbearable economic losses for the local people. Same is the case with Momand Agency, Bajaur Agency, Kurram Agency and Orakzai Agency. Massacre of Pashtuns in Parachinar, capital city of Kurram Agency continues. Military curfew and various inhuman tactics of suppression is a routine practice, the twenty million human beings in all the seven Tribal Regions of FATA are passing through. Again and again innocent families across the FATA had forced to leave their native homes and many of them are still living in various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan where they are suffering worst. On the other hand civil and military establishment of Pakistan has been engaged in generating and re-organizing of terrorist outfits against Afghanistan, India and US-led NATO member countries and strengthening its position along Durand Line which is a clear cut violation to the decision between the people of FATA and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the first governor general of Pakistan. According to the decision of Jirga (Dialogue) held between the British-made Maliks (elders) of FATA and Jinnah administration, entrance of Pakistani military and any governmental step without proper and prior consultation with locals was strictly prohibited. However, that Jirga was disputed as majority of FATA people opposed joining Pakistan and stood for Independent Pashtunistan under the leadership of Haji Mirza Ali Khan, commonly known as Faqir Ipi, the real and greater hero of freedom movement against British Imperialism who openly opposed creation of Pakistan and firmly launched movement for Independent Pashtunistan. Most importantly, as per Independence Act, there is no legislation on any valid forum recommending FATA to be a part of Pakistan. That’s why FATA people questioning the legitimacy of State presence in FATA region and demanding interference of the international community to decide fate of FATA under the umbrella of United Nations, a cheapest way to win war on terror.
Any change needs high cost of sacrifices but the people of FATA are paying highest cost for change and double game in war terror. Paving ground for double game and establishing of Taliban reign in FATA has been claimed ruthlessly slaughtering of thousands among the elders, social and political activists while questioning and opposing this bloody game on their soil. About two thousand elders across the FATA are being killed. More than forty thousand innocent civilians in FATA have been killed by security agencies and Good Taliban. Their blood was traded by labeling them as local and international terrorists and in return Islamabad received five thousand US dollars per head. That’s why record keeping of civilian casualties in FATA is officially prohibited. Moreover, social, cultural and traditional valves and norms are being ruined and suppressed on gun point. The common practice of target killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearances, harassment, imprisonment in torture cells by the security agencies and Good Taliban compelled a large number of liberal and democratic people to leave their native hometowns and to take shelter in settled districts of Pakistan and Afghanistan including UAE. All the seven Agencies of FATA and districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan bordering Afghanistan are still serving as launching pads for cross border terrorism against Afghanistan. Only Afghan Taliban is running more than 15 fund raising centers in Pashtun belt of Baluchistan. The Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan splinter groups and the notorious Haqqani network are enjoying freedom in almost all the districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where they are being allowed to run offices. The current Muslim League government and security establishment came under fire when lawmakers raised the issue in a Senate body meeting in March. Big cities like Peshawar, Gilgit Bultistan, Quetta, Lahore, Islamabad, Abbottabad, Karachi, southern Punjab and Pak occupied Kashmir remains safe havens for the leadership and masterminds of more than 50 terrorist and extremists groups where each of them enjoy 2-4 wives and man-o-salwa in luxury residences located in highly secured zones.
Islamabad assumed important position in US geopolitical interests in the region following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror. Bilateral relations between the two countries were bolstered when the Washington named Pakistan a major non-NATO ally in 2002 which provided an opportunity to Islamabad to receive billions of US dollars as military and civilian aid. The same aid is being used for strengthening its position along Durand Line and for nurturing of various terrorist outfits against Afghanistan, India and US-led NATO member countries. Keeping in view the pro-terror role and duplicity, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brooking Institution in its analysis published in 2008, Pakistan was declared the World’s most active terror sponsor state which aids and shelters terrorist outfits that pose a direct threat to Washington and peaceful region. The US author Danoel Byman writes, “Pakistan is the today’s most active terror sponsor state” but Washington was reluctant to address the realistic voice against Islamabad. The Ashraf Ghani led Afghan government genuinely came forward at the beginning of 2015 to make peace with its hostile neighbor and to change Islamabad’s Taliban bloody game. Violating all the democratic and diplomatic norms, the Afghan President made a visit to Pakistan Army General Headquarter (GHQ) for the sole purpose to establish durable peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region as well. Beijing and Washington got on board and the Quadrilateral Group launched a round of peace efforts. In addition to that several regional economic cooperation initiatives involving West, South and Central Asian states provided Pakistan perfect opportunity to turn around and abandon its projects of terrorism. But Pakistan, dominated by the Zia’s radical non-state actors missed the opportunity and stubbornly stuck to its old policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan and the Taliban militants are getting expansion and intensifies its onslaught. It was a case of generous Pakistani lobby in Washington, prolonged underestimation or simply a chaotic AfPak strategy—the US did not challenge Islamabad’s role in any serious and constant way. Finally this spring, US policy-makers felt some fatigue from Pakistan’s continued double game. The US Congress raised voice about the continuation of aid to Pakistan and passed a bill imposing restrictions on $450 million aid and eight F-16 jet fighters. Since 2002, the average annual US aid to Islamabad remains $2bn and in 2010 alone, Islamabad was provided $4.5bn in military and development aid. In return Pakistan grew and flourished anti-American sentiments among the country people. Public opinion polls in Pakistan indicate that the majority of Pakistanis consider the US as a bitter enemy. The former US envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, former Pakistan Ambassador to Washington, Hussain Haqqani, former NDS Chiefs Rahmatullah Nabil and Amrullah Saleh, MQM, Pakistan’s opposition party Chief Altaf Hussain and democratic school of thought in FATA have repeatedly urged the Washington to get tougher on Pakistan to win war on terror. A US Congressman Adam Kinzinger is of the opinion that the United States must toughen its foreign policy when it comes to its ties with Islamabad. He said in the month of May while addressing at an event held at Wilson Centre, “Washington should go for any effective measures to Pakistan comply with USA’s Afghanistan strategy and even if that entails the cross border.” Similarly, European Parliament (EP) Vice President Ryszard Czarnecki (Britain) in his opinion piece published in May has emphasized on the US and EU to revisit Durand Line to end Pak terror policy. Another member of EP, Petras Austrevicius in June called Pakistan undeclared factory of terrorism and so-called Jihad. He called on EU and responsible Western democracies to come together and send a strong message to Pakistan that they have zero tolerance towards support to terror groups and networks. The US armed Services committee Chairman, Senator John McCain is also struggling for effective US strategy on Afghanistan. Besides all these Pakistan is moving on its old track in war on terror and currently sleeping in a bed with china and Russia to counter and defuse the pressure by the international community. However, the above mentioned respected voices against Pakistan’s double game, killing of Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership inside the settled districts of Pakistan, imposing conditions on civil and military aid to Pakistan, more focus on Afghanistan and weighting India are encouraging signals in the US policy but the course to be a determining factor in changing Islamabad’s ongoing duplicity is yet to be waited.
The writer is a Pashtun Nationalist politician from North Waziristan and former Central Chairman of Pakhtun Students Federation, Pakistan.