Pakistan is in a mess along with its troubled spots, including Waziristan. Only Pakistan military can clean up the mess which has created it in the first place with the ability to put together the extraordinary combination of arrogant but scared leadership and total lack of judgment which went into its making.
Those who claim that there is a militant problem in Pakistan must look into the history of this region and Pakistan. Oppression never goes without an equal and opposite reaction. The sledgehammer hasn’t worked in Iraq. It isn’t working in Afghanistan. And it has suffered serious reverses in Pakistan with more than 3000 Pakistani soldiers killed in two years.
The Waziristani tribes have stood guard on the Frontier for over fifty years. They went to Kashmir in 1947 and what we have of Kashmir we owe largely to their enterprise and valour. Before jumping the bandwagon of justifying all crimes with the Taliban boggy, we need a period of reflection and understanding the root causes of the problem before making the culprits accountable.
From the following analysis we should learn to do our own thinking for brining Musharraf and his cronies to justice and be able to tell the Americans where to get off.
- Since 1947 to 1979, there was no problem of militancy and rebellion in the tribal areas despite their martial and semi-autonomous status. Despite presence of strong pockets of pro-Afghan communists like ANP who constantly demanded “Pashtunistan”, the tribals never saw any cause to rise in an uprising against any Pakistani government. Globally, the U.S. and its allies were engaged in undermining the former Soviet Union and had no time to exaggerate the threat of Muslim movements. There was an absence of mass media like VCR, audio tapes, multiple TV channels, Cable and internet were also not present.
- Even during the Afghan war between 1979 to 1992, there was no rebellion against Islamabad in the tribal areas despite presence of millions of Afghans and thousands of armed Mujahideen using these regions as base area to fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But globally, those were the times of awakening for the Muslim movements and thousands of volunteers from all over the world came to participate in Jihad against Soviets. This was the era of political awakening and the creation of new Islamist political leadership not just in Afghan Jihad but also within the Muslim world. During this era, the status quo of Maliks and Elders was broken in Afghanistan and all Mujahideen leaders challenged the traditional hold of tribal elders in their society. Media was used in massive way to propagate message of Jihad and effectively use Muslim sentiments against oppression and occupation to defeat the Soviet Union. All the energies of the Afghan and Arab militants were directed against the Soviets forces and later against the regime that it installed in Kabul. It is interesting to note that even during this era, there was no mass call of Jihad within Pakistani tribal areas and the war was basically fought by Afghans or Arabs who came from outside and backed by the United States and many Muslim states. Pakistani tribals were few in the war.
- During civil war between Mujahideen in from 1992 to 1996, still there was no problem of armed uprising or rebellion against Pakistan in these regions. Pakistan and Islamic movements were appalled and disgusted at the infighting amongst Afghans and most of them either withdrew. Osama bin Laden went to Sudan and others went back to their countries. Very few were settled in tribal areas and married amongst local tribes. But a global Muslim political awakening against direct and indirect occupations of Muslim countries had taken place which now could not be stopped. Pakistani tribal areas remained totally indifferent towards developments in Afghanistan and there was absolutely no participation of Pakistani tribals during this era.
- During Taliban era –” 1996 to 2001, still there was no military uprising in any of the tribal pockets of Pakistan and the tribals were peaceful in all agencies. Local tribals never supported Taliban and no tribe or tribal elements ever went in to fight alongside Taliban against Masood or northern alliance. By 1999, the Northern Alliance was almost non-existent, except in the books of all anti-Taliban forces, which relentlessly sought those who would oppose the Taliban in Afghanistan. The so-called Northern Alliance was in control of just 5% of the total landmass in Afghanistan. The geographical location and mountain enclave had given them the much needed protection they needed to continue resistance to the Taliban government.
- Osama had come back into Afghanistan by then and U.S. had started a campaign of propaganda and character assassination against Osama and former Arab Mujahideen, even attacking their base with Cruise missiles. A general anger against U.S. had begun to grip the Muslim world especially after the first Gulf war in 1991 and now Osama and associates were more vocal and open against U.S.
- The Bosnian war (1992-95) had generated extreme anger amongst Muslims against the Western indifference in general and their involvement in occupations and genocide of Muslims in particular. The global environment was ripe for a confrontation between U.S./West and Muslims struggling against the U.S. and its allies-sponsored repressive regimes. Still, there was no uprising or insurgency or unrest within Pakistani tribal areas. Pakistan government had maintained the policy of engagement with Taliban and there was no hostility amongst Taliban, Islamic movements or local tribals against Islamabad.
Then, 9/11 happened….
- Since 1979 till today, no study had ever been carried out in Pakistan based on above factors and environments in tribal areas. Pakistan never had an independent Afghan policy and everything that was being done was either dictated by U.S. or done under the doctrine of necessarily as stop gap arrangement without any serious historical, military, social or religious understanding of the melting pot Afghanistan and its possible impact on Pakistan’s national security. Pakistan had lost all its assets in Afghanistan which it had cultivated after decades of investment when Taliban came into power. All former Mujahideen leaders like Hekmatyar, Sayyaf, Khalis, Haqqani, Masood etc were either angry with Pakistan or openly hostile as it was widely presumed that Pakistan had created and sponsored Taliban at the cost of former Mujahideen leaders. So, neither Taliban were under Pakistan control nor former Mujahideen leaders when 9/11 happened. It is naÃ¯ve to assume that the Taliban were under Pakistan’s influence. They were prone to manipulation by the CIA agents within the circles of religious clerics. Other than that, the Taliban were not ready to go under anyone’s influence –” not even the United States. That’s what dampened all hopes in Washington which had assumed that manipulating and using the Taliban, like the present day Shia’s in Iraq, would pave the way for having a strategic grip on Afghanistan for military and financial purposes.
- The pre-planned U.S. invasion of Afghanistan under the pretext of 9/11 had outraged Muslims all over the world. Not because of love for Taliban but because of hate for the policies of the U.S. government and its wars of aggressions. Also, the advance of the northern alliance and the betrayal, massacre and persecution of ordinary Afghans and Taliban at the hands of the Americans and Northern Alliance had created a sense of extreme hatred and anger in Pakistani Pashtuns and other Muslims whose emotions were fully exploited at the time by opportunist Mullahs like Fazal ur Rehman, myopic clerics like Sufi Muhammad. Thousands of Pakistanis from all over the country, not just Pashtun tribals, went into Afghanistan but were massacred or captured by U.S. forces and their allies. The stories of their massacre in sealed containers, in Qilai Jangi and in Konduz reached Pakistani tribal areas where a sense of tribal revenge and rage took over. The prime anger was against Pakistan for suddenly reversing its policy against Taliban and assisting U.S. in “Pashtun” slaughter. The remnants of Taliban and Afghan refugees, escaping Arabs and local Pashtuns who had lost their relatives to America and had sworn revenge got united in a holy war. Locals in Tribal areas witnessed first hand the butchery of pakistan military, whereby they indiscriminately killed almost anyone escaping into Pakistan. There were three enemies –” U.S., Northern alliance and Pakistan. Pakistani tribal areas had become the re-grouping areas with general sympathy of the local population with anyone opposing U.S. aggression and occupation of Afghanistan. Islamabad still had no assets within militants and no powerful political elder or tribal Malik who could control this new breed of angry young people. A policy disaster had already taken place.
On the Issue of strategy:
- The greatest mistake committed by Pakistan was when its military leadership buckled under the U.S. threat for cooperation. It almost immediately decided to side with Americans in the war of terrorism that it did not define the limits and terms of its cooperation with U.S.. There is no anti-terror policy in Islamabad till date. Islamabad today is perceived as the single most powerful apparatus for unleashing terror and forcing its own people into submission.
- On the external front, Pakistani military leadership kept on obeying U.S. beyond all limits of decency, morality, international and human laws while U.S. kept its most inhuman treatment of Muslims captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While Pakistan took pride in arresting or killing thousands of Arabs and Pashtuns, it was taken as an enemy State along with U.S. by the Islamists. President Musharraf was particularly targeted for his closest association with U.S.
- Later on U.S. invasion of Iraq proved beyond any doubt that U.S. had other intentions within the Muslim world and all States and leaders associated with U.S. in this Plan were equal enemies. Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharaib incidents had really set the fire raging within Muslims and within new breed of tribal Pashtuns, who are victims of the Pakistan military’s excesses in their land and who first hand witnessed blowing of their houses and massacre of their relatives at the hands of Pakistani forces, acting like occupation forces from outside. Those were the results of General Musharraf’s decision to send in military in the tribal areas without addressing any of the political or religious issues involved.
- Sending in the army without creating a favorable political and religious environment was the second biggest blunder of Pakistan. In the absence of any anti-terror policy of its own, Pakistan had only acted under U.S. duress and went into tribal regions and made aggressive intrusions into local culture, traditions and customs which infuriated further the entire population of those regions. The leadership of the militants was in the hands of new generation of angry men who were not under the influence of tribal elders – like Nek Mohammed and others.
- As a general rule, Taliban, Arabs and these local militants never wanted to fight Pakistan army but aggressive intrusion of army into their domain without any moral authority created this dangerous confrontation causing great loss to army and creating much bad blood between tribals and federal government. Still, it is to be noted that there was no widespread rebellion in the tribal regions and not all tribals rose in arms against federal army or the northern alliance government or the U.S. In Pakistan, South Waziristan and North Waziristan were the main problematic regions only.
- It should be kept in mind that revolt in tribal regions is a religious and political uprising against the oppressive occupation of Pakistan by its own armed forces, but also has strong Pashtun tribal and cultural influence as well. Religion and politics combined with local honor and customs created this dangerous mix which simply cannot be contained with brute military force, whether it is Gaza and West Bank or North and South Waziristan. Resistance to occupation and aggression can only be neutralized through granting the right to freedom and independence and moral authority of the religion backed by strong tribal pressure. Military force can never succeed in denying their right to self-respect, self-rule and resistance to occupation and aggression.
- Another factor which was never taken into account was the fact that installation of northern alliance government in Kabul had given India an incredible opportunity to set traps for Pakistan army in tribal regions. Also, U.S. never wanted Pakistan to disengage and try to find political solutions of the crisis. Both U.S. and Indian assets were highly active within these regions. For example: Abdullah Mehsud who was “released” from Guantanamo bay came back and instead of fighting the Americans, the first thing he does is to kill the Chinese!!. No “Islamists” ever killed Chinese. It is U.S. policy to use local militants to kill Chinese. That is why we see attacks on Chinese in Northern alliance controlled Konduz and BLA controlled Gawader and Hub as well as “Islamist” controlled Waziristan.
- Abdullah Mehsud is a U.S. asset just as Omar Saeed Sheikh was an MI6 and RAW asset. Apart from Abdullah Mehsud, there were dozens of other Pashtun militants sent by Kabul posing as Taliban who fought Pakistan army and set traps for the federal forces. As a general policy local militants avoid fighting Pakistan army and only do so under desperate situation. The Shakai agreement of South Waziristan is an example of the same and is still holding despite death of Nek Muhammad in U.S. strike. Pakistan did not use the media to highlight the Indian and Kabul factor in the so-called tribal militancy as that would have created more frictions between Kabul and Islamabad (as if it was ever low). Islamabad’s policy has been based in fear since day one –” fear of unknown, fear of Kabul, fear of U.S., fear of Islamists, fear of its image, fear of its own shadow… –” thanks to the most coward leadership in these times). In fact, the military regime in Islamabad never had any policy except fear and working under duress.
- Now when Islamabad has started dialogue with tribals and signed a truce, U.S. is extremely unhappy. Kabul is worried and India wants to create misunderstandings. No solution is acceptable to them, except vague demands to dismantle “terrorist” institutions and network. Tribals leader only want to be left alone and want to negotiate with army. They are willing to negotiate. Their terms are simple and do-able though U.S. does not like it but is extremely beneficial for Pakistan army to enter into agreements like Shakai and disengage itself from killing its own people.
- One thing which must be noted is that Pakistan’s deployment in Waziristan is NOT affecting the war in Afghanistan. All the fighting in Afghanistan is being done in Helmend and Kunar which are farthest from Waziristan. It clearly proves that the resistance force, lumped together and labeled as Taliban are not operating or entering from Waziristan and only few desperate men of foreign origin or locals may have holed up there who also happen to have relations with the local tribals. There is absolutely no military, moral or political justification to deploy 80,000 men in these regions especially in Waziristan when the events in the agency are NOT affecting the war in Afghanistan but creating serious traps for Pakistan army. This is a completely disproportionate deployment of forces and creates only major security crisis for Pakistan.
- Building Trust remains the biggest challenge between army and the local residents. Tribal leaders simply do not trust Pakistan that Islamabad would honor its commitments. Worst fears of tribal people and people in their protection is that Pakistan will hand them over to U.S. for Guantanamo which is seen such a dishonor that death is preferred over it. Musharraf has proved with his statements how his regime is selling these people for a paltry sum to the United States. Pakistan has not yet stopped sending people to Guantanamo and the trust deficit remains serious. Hundreds of ordinary Pakistanis are still missing. ISI and other agencies are still busy in rounding people and protests of the families of missing people are a dialing routine. The new breed of young tribal men, resisting injustice and oppression are not under the control of traditional tribal Maliks but are still within the moral pressure of their tribe.
- Whatever is happening in Waziristan has its global roots also and cannot be ignored. The war between U.S. and the Muslim world is irrevocable now. Every day, anger is growing in the Muslim world against U.S. occupation and the U.S. imposed puppet regimes –” whether they are in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan or Islamabad. Any government which is seen to be stooge of the U.S. does not have future for long. For Islamabad to have any say within its own angry population bent on resistance, it remains important that at the very least its religious and moral credentials remain impeccable. U.S. will remain in Afghanistan for some foreseeable future and hostility against U.S. would also grow in Afghanistan, not just in tribal areas of Pakistan. Recent anti-U.S. riots in Kabul should be noted carefully.
- It is not Taliban but all ordinary Afghans, living and suffering outside the circle of opportunists reaping the benefits of collaboration, are coming back in Afghanistan with vengeance. With present levels of military commitment by U.S., there is no possibility that Afghan resistance can be crushed. The show has been deliberately kept on, to justify prolonging the occupation. In fact, everyday, they will be gaining more and more strength. Resistance to the unjust and illegitimate occupation of Afghanistan is a reality. Limiting this resistance to Taliban will not help the U.S. and its allies consolidate their grip on Afghanistan.
- There is no possibility that Kabul regime would drop its hostile posture against Pakistan. Pakistan has now got an enemy regime in Kabul which needs to be kept in check not fully backed and supported. They would always bite the hand which feeds them.
- Pakistani tribal areas cannot fully be cleaned of those whom are sympathizing with resistance in Afghanistan but their levels of military engagement can be brought down to acceptable levels which should not create major uprising in tribal areas against Pakistan. Since U.S. policies of supporting non-Pashtuns and its war against Taliban is the biggest cause of Pashtun unrest, it will not be possible to isolate Pakistani tribal areas from developments in Afghanistan. It would be a futile exercise if the military regimes in Islamabad thinks it can isolate Pashtuns under present policies.
- Indian and Afghan assets would continue to exploit the local Pashtun unrest to create security issues for Pakistan, to create confusions between parties and to initiate a civil war in Pakistan on the pattern of Iraq and Palestine. The United States and India are interested in degrading Pakistan military forces in the eyes of Pakistani nation to the extent that no one is willing to see his son in military uniform. General Musharraf, with his cowardly and myopic approach, has already brought enough shame and disgrace for the armed forces with acts like accepting responsibility for the American crimes against Pakistani people.
- First and the foremost, the military leadership, other than Musharraf and his cronies have to shoulder the responsibility and do anything in their power to stop General Musharraf before it is too late for Pakistan to survive.
- The country can no more carry the burden of Musharraf as the sole decision maker. The people are sick and tired of demonstrations that are routinely ignored by the government. It is important that the two institutions that are supposedly intact –” the Army and the Judiciary –” should be called upon to ‘punish those responsible for the massacres in tribal areas, including the death of 83 people in October 30, 2006 attack, for which the General has claimed responsibility.
- Bajaur being in FATA, an FIR should be registered in Islamabad for the murder of 83 teachers and students against General Musharraf. If the police refuse, the cases should be taken to the Supreme Court to order it to do so.
- Bajaur being a Tribal Agency, a Jirga can consider the case of murders. The tribal jirga should meet and ask the federal government: 1). the name of the official who authorized the raid on the school, 2). consular assistance to sue the US Government –” Department of Defense –” for 83 murders, 3). to obtain JAG advice if the air strike on the school was lawful and the target legitimate.
- If it is determined for certain –” about which there is little doubt already – that General Musharraf authorized the raid and the target was not legitimate –” the Vice Chief of Army Staff may be asked to perform his duty and authorize the arrest of the COAS –” General Musharraf. It would be dereliction of duty if he did order the arrest of General Musharraf even after it became clear that he and he alone is responsible for the murder of 83 teachers and students of the madrassa at Khar in Bajaur.
- In the U.S., Pakistani lawyers should set up a forum and hire the best law firm to sue the DoD for compensation on ‘no win no fee basis’.
- A new Pakistani leadership, replacing Musharraf, should declare an independent, legally and politically correct and religiously inclined anti-terror policy which should comply to international laws against torture, mistreatment of detainees and fair trial. It should also disengage Pakistan from the U.S. war of terrorism. In that case, Guantanamo Bay would be out and a major trust gap would be bridged between Pakistan and militants.
- Irrespective of who is in power in Islamabad, Pakistan should immediately stop handing over any arrested person to U.S. under any circumstances until guarantees of fair and open trial under international law is given. Pakistan must define terrorism according to its own needs and understandings and must not wait for world community to come to an agreement on this.
- Pakistan must now declare an independent Afghan policy without U.S. duress, based on its needs and requirements of national security. Pakistan MUST hold Afghan and U.S. army responsible for securing their borders and not accept total and unconditional responsibility. If the Afghans and U.S. cannot guarantee, Pakistan should not take any non-sense from them either.
- In fact, Islamabad should stop toeing the propaganda line that pushes the lie down our throat that it is not a national resistance but resistance posed only by the Taliban to the U.S. occupation. Pakistan should offer to act as mediator between the resistance forces and Kabul regime to bring peace in the country. Withdrawal of the occupation forces and election of a truly neutral and representative government should be pre-conditions which the U.S. would disprove. But one must not hesitate from struggling for achieving what is right and just, no matter how impossible it may look like.
- It is important that Pakistan should not do irrevocable damage to its relations with resistance forces in Afghanistan as there is a very strong possibility that in near future, the puppet regime is going to fall and the present resistance forces will be controlling large parts of Afghanistan if not all of it. Even the CIA operatives have started to admit that the United States will be defeated in Afghanistan (see. Michael Sheuer’s interview to Daily Times, December 31, 2006).
- Once these major policy declarations are done, immediately there would be goodwill between Islamabad and all pro-Taliban elements in Afghanistan, Pakistani tribal areas and in rest of the country which would remove all possibility of any future violence or terrorism by these elements against Islamabad. Taliban are NOT spreading extremism within Pakistan, it is U.S. policies which are making extremists out of normal Muslims. Pakistan should come out of this twisted notion of blaming Taliban and not U.S. policies.
- Shakai type agreement should be done with tribals and military should be either be withdrawn or brought in lower profile with massive development projects launched to open up the areas economically and politically.
- Pakistan should also initiate contacts with Tajiks, Uzbeks and other non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan. There are many such elements based in Pakistan even now from among the refugees who are not favoring Kabul regime and can be Pakistani assets in future Afghanistan. Right now, we have totally abandoned such elements despite having them in thousands within us.
- It must be clearly understood that there can be no independent tribal region policy of Pakistan without having an independent and moral Afghan policy. Whatever is happening in tribal areas is only fallout of Pakistan’s twisted, weak and flawed Afghan engagement under U.S. duress. It is time that Pakistan stand on its own two feet, else forget about lasting peace in tribal regions. All other measures would otherwise only be temporary stop gap arrangements not proper long term strategic moves guaranteeing national internal and external security.
- All national Think Tanks should be asked to come out of the influence of propaganda by western “mainstream median. They should be asked to think outside the box of militant colonialists and to learn deeper lessons from history and Pakistan’s Afghan experience in the last 50 years especially since 1979. There must be detailed writing and analysis of history from archives of ISI and memory of those who had participated in Afghan war, to draw invaluable lessons. Our biggest problem is that we do not learn from history, ever.
This map (Click here ) gives cruel and clear indications of what U.S. may have in store for our tribal areas. Pakistan must reverse the game by building bridges with Afghans and tribals instead of making them hostile.
The June issue of Armed Forces Journal suggests redrawing the map of the Middle East in order to promote stability and peace in the area since, it argues, the current boundary alignment does not lend itself to such. The proposal may have its merits but there are enough nations and individuals who would be opposed to it to prevent it from occurring. The proposal would also leave the area virtually unrecognizable with only a few states retaining their current boundaries. It is time to look at Baluchistan and Waziristan problem in the broadest context.
Abid Ullah Jan has co-authored his latest book, “The Ultimate Tragedy: Colonialists Rushing to Global War to Save the Crumbling Empire,” with Rory Winter. The book was released in December 2006.