5 years, 12 months ago
Eighty percent areas of Bajaur, Lower Dir and Buner have been cleared of the Taliban and displaced population has started returning to their native areas, Benazir Income Support Programme Chairwoman Farzana Raja said on Wednesday. Those who were returning to their homes were being facilitated and the situation would improve in the days to come, Farzana told a private television channel. She said accommodating 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) was a difficult task but efforts were underway to provide all basic necessities to the IDPs living in the relief camps. Farzana said rehabilitation would be the next phase and the government would undertake it in a befittingly manner. She said international assistance had also started to pour in and hoped the matter would be dealt with effectively.
But is this report accurate? Other sources say not.
Mehmood had to climb to a hilltop to get a signal for his cell phone. He sounded angry at both the Taliban and the army, but was especially critical of the security forces.
Thousands of people are still trapped here due to the fighting between the Taliban and the army.
They are in a state of virtual confinement due to the curfew.
The government spokesmen, sitting in Islamabad or Peshawar, are making false claims about the situation in Swat, saying they have taken control of the situation, or captured that place, or killed so many Taliban.
I swear upon God that it’s nothing like that.
Except for some parts of the GT (Grand Trunk) road, some mountain tops and the circuit house in Mingora, all of Swat is under the control of the Taliban.
If the government really has cleared and taken control of the region, it should bring in the media and let the whole world see it for themselves.
I keep moving around, and in several places I have seen army checkpoints with a Taliban checkpoint nearby.
However, neither side engages the other, and even helicopters and jets are not called in to attack the Taliban positions.
A few days ago I tried to speak to a masked Taliban militant in Pashto, and then in Urdu, and he could not understand me.
Then another militant told me that his comrade was an Arab and did not speak Pashto or Urdu.
I then asked him ‘how are you’ in Arabic, and they all laughed.
This raises doubts over the government’s claims that they have blocked all routes into the valley.
How could he get in, when all roads are blocked?
I also don’t understand who the operation is aimed against.
A majority of the people who have been killed here are civilians.
This is not an operation, it is a drama. Swat’s people cannot be made fools of.”
In order to understand this, we must remember that the Pakistan Army is not skilled in counterinsurgency strategy or tactics. But as we discussed eight months ago, and as reported by Dexter Filkins, there is something deeper.
“Pakistan is dependent on the American money that these games with the Taliban generate,” the official told me. “The Pakistani economy would collapse without it. This is how the game works.”
As an example, he cited the Pakistan Army’s first invasion of the tribal areas — of South Waziristan in 2004. Called Operation Shakai, the offensive was ostensibly aimed at ridding the area of Taliban militants. From an American perspective, the operation was a total failure. The army invaded, fought and then made a deal with one of the militant commanders, Nek Mohammed. The agreement was capped by a dramatic meeting between Mohammed and Safdar Hussein, one of the most senior officers in the Pakistan Army.
“The corps commander was flown in on a helicopter,” the former official said. “They had this big ceremony, and they embraced. They called each other mujahids. ”
“Mujahid” is the Arabic word for “holy warrior.” The ceremony, in fact, was captured on videotape, and the tape has been widely distributed.
“The army agreed to compensate the locals for collateral damage,” the official said. “Where do you think that money went? It went to the Taliban. Who do you think paid the bill? The Americans. This is the way the game works. The Taliban is attacked, but it is never destroyed.
“It’s a game,” the official said, wrapping up our conversation. “The U.S. is being taken for a ride.”
Have the rules of the game changed enough for the Pakistan Army to clear the North West Frontier Province of Taliban for good, and stay and perform peace-keeping and stability operations? Time will tell, but we’ve heard this song before. If history is any indication, at some point the Pakistan Army will retreat and call it victory, while the Taliban who have slipped away into the hills return to enforce Sharia law and collect “taxes” to fund their military campaign.