NOT Israel vs. Palestiine! Eyewitness Account From S Waziristan

No surprise!

S Waziristan as I saw it
Monday, May 03, 2010
Ayaz Wazir

Believing that the government was now making genuine efforts to improve things in Waziristan, I was always hard put to believe visitors returning from Waziristan who told me horrifying tales of the problems they faced traveling on the Wana-Gomal-Tank road. But seeing is believing, and I experienced the same difficulties myself when I traveled on that road last week, the other road linking Wana with Tank via Jandola being closed to traffic since the launch of the military operation in October last year.

It is not the rough ride that makes one sick but the manner of the all-too-frequent checking conducted by the security agencies. At a check point where one enters South Waziristan from the settled area of Tank, all travelers are asked to disembark and present their identity cards, standing in a queue under the blazing sun without shelter. Meanwhile, the driver of the vehicle slowly walks forward to the check post, hands raised in the air in a gesture of surrender, to get written permission for the onward journey. All items inside the vehicle are checked, counted and then recorded on the permission slip. This slip is required to be handed in at the last check post, where the passengers and their luggage, and any animals with them, are rechecked to ensure that nothing in the list is missing. In case any item is indeed missing, vehicle and passengers are sent back to the first check post. There the driver gets a proper thrashing and the passengers are made to stand, often for hours, before the procedure is repeated and they are allowed to proceed onwards on the basis of a fresh slip.

In a recent incident a boy put his life in danger to retrieve the family dog that had bolted on the road. The driver was slowly negotiating a difficult bend when the dog jumped out of the truck. The youngster immediately jumped out to bring the dog back. A bystander advised him to forget the dog and return to the truck because trying to catch the dog in the rough terrain could be hazardous. Ignoring the advice, the boy kept chasing the dog because he knew that if the animal was discovered missing at the last check post the family would be maltreated and humiliated, and then ordered to return to the first check post for fresh permission.

On my return from Wana, I travelled on the road from Wana to Tank via Jandola which passes through the Mehsud area. What I saw was stuff nightmares are made of. Houses, shops, madressahs and even official buildings on the roadside stood in ruins or demolished. All along the road from Madijan to Jandola, villages on both sides had the appearance of a war zone and testified to the fact that they had borne the brunt of the military operation. There was no sign of any human or animal life, except for a few cows wandering about in the deserted villages.

At Jandola it was a different scene. The market of the Bettani tribe had been completely razed to the ground and the debris dumped in the nearby riverbed. There is no market or shopping area for the tribesmen to buy food or essential items. They have to go all the way to Tank to get items of daily consumption.

I was told the internally displaced people (IDPs) were under tremendous pressure from the authorities to return to their homes in Waziristan. The officials are not interested in the reason for the IDPs’ reluctance to return to their hearths and homes: they worry about their safety if they returned. Has the government taken steps to ensure the complete security of the returnees? Have arrangements been made for reconstruction and rehabilitation of their homes and their villages? Has travel on the roads in the Mehsud area been permitted? If it hasn’t, how will the IDPs arrange for their food and items of daily use? These are some of the basic prerequisites that need to be met by the government before it forces the IDPs to return.

All civilian form of government has been missing from the area for the past eight years. Matters have been left in the hands of the army and a Grade-18 officer, the political agent. Since the army is not trained for taking political decisions, it is incapable of taking them. As for the political agent, he is not even able to travel in his area of posting except under the protection of an army helicopter. The government needs to face reality and wake up to the extremely grim situation. It needs to show presence at a senior level if it is serious about getting to the depth of this complicated problem and resolving it.

The president should himself have visited the area and taken bold decisions, but he preferred to address a tribal jirga in the air-conditioned hall of the Governor’s House in Peshawar. In his address to the tribesmen he chose not to touch upon the real problems faced by people in that area. He did not even pay lip service to the promises that he had made earlier about introducing political and economic reforms in FATA. Surely, travelling to Waziristan is less time-consuming than travelling to China, Dubai or London. If he felt Waziristan did not merit his personal attention he could at least have directed his governor to visit the area. Interaction with the inhabitants, at the highest level, is the need of the hour to bridge the deep trust deficit which exists between the people and the government.

Unless urgent and effective action is taken to this end, I fear all military actions taken so far will prove to be in vain, and we may well hear news of a resurgence of militancy. The military may win all the battles. but the government will certainly lose the war if it does not pay urgent attention to the problem.

The writer, a former ambassador, hails from FATA. Email:

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5 Responses to “NOT Israel vs. Palestiine! Eyewitness Account From S Waziristan”

  1. 1 Project May 4, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for drawing attention to this article. It is written by a moron – I am sorry. While the description of carnage is heart-wrenching, look what he says in his analysis of current affairs:

    “I fear all military actions taken so far will prove to be in vain, and we may well hear news of a resurgence of militancy.”

    What is “militancy”?

    Once the hectoring hegemons have created a core-lie and got people to believe or accept it, namely, that ‘war on terror’ is real and “our war”, then many truths within the core-lie can be fabricated, and also are created due to their own natural dynamics with proper black-ops channeling to mobilize insurgency and then officially fighting it as “counter-insurgency”. A cook-book recipe for fabricating “revolutionary times”, for indeed, “what is inconceivable in normal times is possible in revolutionary times”! A self-sustaining system dynamics comes into existence which is closely managed and continually harvested to sustain “imperial mobilization”.

    The Decapitation of Pakistan by its own Military!

    Notice that when people keep the core-lies intact, they become Ambassadors, Presidents, Prime-ministers, Joint Chief of Staff, news anchors, and dissent-chiefs. Some are awarded Nobel prizes too. Others are invited to give talks.

    But when they outright challenge the core-lies and deconstruct them as Machiavellian social engineering, they become “terrorists”. Minimally, “conspiracy theorists”.

    Unless matters change, they are fait accompli. And matters don’t change by wishing them to change. Nor by narrating how bad they are.

    Zahir Ebrahim

    • 2 nota May 4, 2010 at 7:51 pm

      It reminded me exactly of the “IDPs from tribal areas” Dawn editorial I had posted sometime back (and “I fear all military actions taken so far will prove to be in vain, and we may well hear news of a resurgence of militancy.” certainly is the “Tackling the militants must of course continue with full force” line of this piece)…

  2. 3 Project May 5, 2010 at 12:48 am

    The Trouble with Drones By Scott Horton

    Worth reading. It also has problems though.

    “Koh’s legal analysis is certainly correct as a matter of traditional law-of-war doctrine, particularly as understood in the United States. Moreover, he’s to be congratulated for directly addressing the legal questions surrounding drone warfare. The U.S. government has been quiet on this topic for too long, apparently as part of a strategy to keep the use of drones secret. But drone warfare is America’s worst-kept secret. The use of drones is too public, too obvious, and too essential a part of the current military effort to justify the policy silence. In fact, it’s time for a more rigorous debate about drones and the issues they raise.

    While I don’t disagree with any of Koh’s comments on drones, I am concerned that he goes after straw men and neglects the big legal policy issues I see. In my view, there are two major problems with Obama-era drone warfare, which in general looks like Bush-era drone warfare on steroids”

    While it accuses of “Koh’s comments… that he goes after straw men”, Horton does the same – but picks different straw men.

    Too preoccupied to deconstruct at the moment, but it does need deconstructing. Perhaps you can take a stab at it?

    Zahir Ebrahim


    • 4 nota May 5, 2010 at 9:42 am

      Well, I wish I had the time to give it the attention it deserves but I will say i lost interest when i got to “While I don’t disagree with any of Koh’s comments on drones, I am concerned that he goes after straw men and neglects the big legal policy issues I see. ” Fuck those issues. What if laws existed to take care of those “legal issues”? Would that justify this? Not in a million years. The issues” Horton sees and listed below are meaningless:
      — “the current campaign can’t be reconciled with the agreed premises for the separation of military and intelligence community activities in the National Security Act of 1947”

      — “this occurred without the sort of rigorous policy discussion involving Congress and the entire national-security community that should have occurred”

      — “the claims of secrecy surrounding these operations are risible. For all its problems, Pakistan is a democratic state with an active press. You cannot operate a program that rains death from the sky in such an environment without detection; it’s simply too public.. Moreover, the drone wars are attracting media attention around the world ” (This one does take the cake for me)

      — “the CIA is itself a civilian agency, not a military force accorded privileged combatant status under the Geneva Conventions.” (This following him having stated earlier CIA “would have the right to use lethal force in certain settings, of course, and it would even have limited paramilitary capabilities, but its essential function would be intelligence gathering and analysis” — the argument about using “lethal force” for “would have the right to use lethal force in certain settings, of course, and it would even have limited paramilitary capabilities, but its essential function would be intelligence gathering and analysis” — I just can’t figure out how that works 😉 )

      — “the United States is now relying heavily on at least six private security contracting firms to do on-the-ground work in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, much of it inside of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. These civilian contractors are collecting information used to guide the predator drones to their strikes; they serve as the “eyes” of the predator drone force. They are usurping a traditional core military reconaissance function.” (Oh, so the only issue Horton has here is that the contractors “are usurping a traditional core military reconaissance function” and nothing else; He seems almost glad the “The finger behind the trigger that releases death on the villages of North Waziristan is likely as not that of a civilian contractor.” He has no issue with “releasing death on the villages themselves.

      — “America’s posture on this issue is shamefully hypocritical, and needlessly so. ” Yes, he says “needlessly so” because he himself provides us the answer on how to do the killing without being hypocritical: “American law and doctrine provide the correct answers”. Note again Horton’s lack of any concern for the killing itself and adds “As a weapons system, the drones must be committed to the uniformed military”

      — “the United States is now setting with respect to the use of drones away from an acknowledged battlefield, especially in connection with targeted killings. No weapons system remains indefinitely the province of a single power.” (Again, Hortons concern here is only that others might follow suit: “The way America uses this technology is therefore effectively setting the rules for others. Put another way, if it’s lawful for America to employ a drone to take out an enemy in the desert of Yemen, on the coast of Somalia, in a village in Sudan or Mauretania, then it would be just as lawful for Russia, or China–or, for that matter, for Israel or Iran.” AND underlying that is of course the main concern: “Doesn’t it invariably lead us closer to the situation in which a targeted killing will be carried out in a major metropolis of Europe or East Asia, or even the United States?”)

      Finishing up with this piece of garbage from Horton, I want to highlight this bit that gave me giggles:

      The Polonium poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko in London, for instance, or the assassination of Umar Israilov in Vienna, which Austrian prosecutors linked earlier this week to a Putin-protégé, the president of Chechnya, are two examples that suggest that Europe may have been cleared as a theater for targeted killings by a great power. The 2004 killing of former Chechen President Zelimkhan in Qatar is an example of another Russian targeted killing in the Gulf. The recent likely Israeli assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai is another instance.

      Note that he stated all those not-so-clear murders as “facts” but the one that is very clear, he couldn’t help himself describe it as “likely” (“The recent likely Israeli assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai…”)

      And the concluding para too I find hilarious:

      Unlike Dean Koh, I can’t embrace the introduction of this technology as something altogether fortunate and humane. As with most new weapons systems, it offers its masters new opportunities, but it also challenges them to be ethical and thoughtful about its use. And the United States is clearly falling short on this challenge.

      Is he not saying

      Like Dean Koh, I can embrace the introduction of this technology as somewhat fortunate and humane. As with most new weapons systems, it offers its masters new opportunities, but I see no challenges to them being ethical if we are thoughtful about its use. And with a few changes, the United States can easily not fall short on this challenge

      and continue using it to rain death on villages without any qualms…

      Horton is just wishing the pig wore lipstick!

    • 5 nota May 5, 2010 at 9:47 am

      BTW: Talking about “Obama-era drone warfare, which in general looks like Bush-era drone warfare on steroids”, here’s something Horton can get excited about (provided US military personnel perform “the key operational role in maintaining the drones, in arming and piloting them”):

      US deploys 1000s drones in Afghanistan

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