Devastating the innocent:
Salvador option fomenting civil war in Pakistan
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
It was a bloody beginning of the year 2010 in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. More than one hundred people were killed and another 22 injured in a car bomb attack on the packed volleyball ground in Laki Marwat.
At the time when the suicide bomber attacked the volleyball ground, around 25 elders of the ‘peace committee’ were holding a meeting at a nearby mosque, but they remained unhurt. Officials say that the bomber apparently decided to target the crowd and the players, as most of them were members of the armed Lashkar that demolished houses of the militants and evicted them from their villages.
Elsewhere in the northwest province, a roadside bomb exploded near a car in the Bajur tribal region, killing a pro-government tribal elder and five of his family members. Tribal leaders who support the government against the militants are frequent targets of attacks.
Borrowing a page from Al-Anbar experiment, the US has advised Pakistan to enlist tribal leaders in the border areas in the fight against the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces. The proposal is modeled in part on a similar effort by American forces in Anbar Province of Iraq where American commanders have worked with Sunni sheiks to turn locals against the militant group. This has been hailed as a great success in fighting insurgents there.
Many experts point out that the experiment as it played-out in Iraq had produced disastrous results in El Salvador where it further polarized the populace and turned the people against the US efforts. Tellingly, the consequences of the Anbar model are emerging in the volatile Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) where even national army is seen as an occupying army by many fiercely independent-mind tribesmen.
The tragic incident of Laki Marwat best reflects the outcome of the new government policy to pit tribes against tribes through bribes. The pro-government tribes are being armed by the Pakistan government. Till this date more than 700 tribal elders have been killed in this strategy.
In October 2008, a suicide bomb attack on a pro-government tribal jirga in Orakzai killed at least 51 people and more than 200 wounded. Orakzai has been the most peaceful of Pakistan's seven semi-autonomous tribal regions. Unlike most of the others, Orakzai does not border Afghanistan. The jirga was about to send a tribal lashkar led by 25 elders to destroy the alleged Taliban headquarters in the area.
South Waziristan Operation
The Laki Marwat bomb attack was not far from South Waziristan, where Pakistan’s mercenary army is waging an offensive, called Rah-e-Nijat (the Salvation Path), against the Pakistani Taliban or militants. That operation has provoked apparent reprisal attacks that have killed more than 500 people since October when the military operation was launched.
The South Waziristan operation is continuing since mid-October 2009 under a smoke screen. No body knows what is going on in the operation theatre since media is not allowed to report about the operation or the plight of the people suffering from the indiscriminate shelling and air strikes on the so-called Taliban targets. No journalists are permitted inside the war zone. Every report on the fighting, Taliban and army casualties, and civilian casualties are based solely on the information, misinformation and propaganda released by the government or military spokesmen.
Ban on media made it impossible to gauge the real extent of civilian casualties which are these days dubbed as collateral damage. A sample of army atrocities in South Waziristan can be found on Youtube.
If the army atrocities in May-July 2009 operation against the militants in Swat has any indication then we may find extra-judicial killings and mass graves in South Waziristan as uncovered in Swat. Returning residents of Swat displaced by the army operation often found unclaimed bodies dumped in agricultural fields, by the roadside or on the banks of Swat River.
On September 1, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn quoted government officials as saying that 251 bodies had been found dumped along the roadside in the Swat Valley since July. On August 27, the newspaper reported that 51 bodies had been found in the area in the space of just 24 hours. Dawn also reported the discovery of a number of mass graves containing victims of the military and referred to local residents who had "witnessed the crude and inhuman lumping together of the living and the dead."
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) sent a fact-finding mission to Swat which documented accounts of not only extrajudicial killings but also discovery of mass graves.
In what amounted to a massive exercise in collective punishment, many civilians were killed or wounded and some 4 million people of Swat were driven from their homes, triggering a major humanitarian crisis for impoverished Pakistan. While the Swat displaced people are still clamoring for rehabilitation, the South Waziristan operation has displaced 430,000 people. More than two months after the Pakistani military launched the US-financed offensive, humanitarian aid organizations are only now gaining access to the people who have fled the fighting in the region.
New Year Drone attack
As the suicide bomber attacked killed more than 100 people in Laki Marwat, Mir Ali, a major town of North Wazirstan witnessed a US missile attack. According to unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials, the missile struck a car carrying alleged militants, killing three men. Shortly afterward, Taliban fighters arrived at the scene of the attack and moved the bodies to an undisclosed location, the officials said. This is the usual statement by the Pakistani officials as they are don’t want to show the bodies of those who are killed in the missile attacks. Why? Because most of the time they are innocent civilians and children.
According to the statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities, US drones, reportedly launched from Baluchistan’s Shamsi airbase, killed 708 people in 44 predator attacks targeting the tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009. For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by US drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians. The success percentage for the drone hits during 2009 was hardly 11 per cent. On average, 58 civilians were killed in these attacks every month, 12 persons every week and almost two people every day.
The drone attacks, which intensified under the Obama administration, have played a major role in fomenting anti-American feelings among the masses and gradually turning the traditionally highly patriotic tribal population of FATA against the state especially while the US pressured the army into moving into this area in 2004.
Now the army operation is destabilizing the whole country as the people became victims of increased suicide bomb blasts. Economic centers are also being destroyed as we have seen in Karachi on December 28 when around 4,000 shops were set on fire in the main shopping centers.
In short, a civil war is brewing in Pakistan, thanks for US policies adopted by a Washington installed government in Islamabad.