By Professor Farakh A Khan
September 04, 2012
The killing of bin Laden by the Americans in a house next to the military academy in Kakul was an extremely embarrassing blow to our military and its policies
Frankly, I am confused by the government (meaning military) policy regarding the FATA and drone attacks. It is even more intriguing what decisions are taken behind closed doors by our leaders. I shall try to make some sense of this confusing subject.
Qazi Hussain Ahmed praised Ahsan Aziz who along with his wife was killed in a drone attack on August 18 in North Waziristan. Qazi praised the spirit of jihad in the young engineer who had participated in Jihad-e-Kashmir and Jihad-e-Afghanistan. Qazi also wanted the Pakistan Air Force to destroy the drones. Aziz’s father is a retired navy commander and two elder brothers are senior retired army officers. The father was proud of his son. We also hear of senior retired air force officers on TV wanting drones to be shot down, but were not sure of the consequences. These are the people who have been making disastrous decisions for Pakistan.
Recently, Mullah Dadullah, the TTP commander of Bajaur Agency was killed in a drone strike in Kunar province, Afghanistan. Apart from the other FATA agencies, Bajaur has been a thorn in the side of the army and the paramilitary forces in the area. The legal aspects of drone strikes apart, Dadullah’s death in the strike must be thrilling for the Pakistani ground forces in the area. Drones are the Pakistani forces’ assets rather than a strike at our sovereignty and must continue.
According to news reports, more people are being killed by the army and air force through F-16 bombardment and artillery shelling than in FATA drone attacks. The operations by the Pakistani military are not in the public domain. There is no independent reporting from FATA. The authorities claim that the Americans should tell them the location of militants and they would kill them. Would it be kosher if we kill our own people rather than infidels? So why is the government opposing drone attacks or are they not? Opposition to drone attacks is a government drama. The parliamentary resolutions against drone attacks are just a dressing.
Meanwhile, the religious parties and organisations including the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) are shouting hoarse for drone strikes to stop. There is little sympathy among the rest of Pakistan. It is claimed by the Taliban that they would refuse polio vaccination in the area if drone strikes continue. Furthermore, they would intensify suicide attacks on the rest of Pakistan.
Imran Khan is bent upon a peace march to Waziristan to protest against drone attacks. Will he also ask them to allow polio vaccination and stop suicide attacks in the rest of Pakistan?
About FATA itself, also known as ‘Alaqa Ghair’ (foreign lands), we know almost nothing about. The people of FATA enjoy gas, electricity, roads, etc, from our taxes and its people can travel throughout the country unhindered and buy property wherever they want. The FATA people are Pakistanis but do not need a visa to cross into Afghanistan. On the other hand, I can only travel to FATA with a ‘visa’ from a tribe. I cannot invest or buy land in the area. Finally, the Pakistani administration only exists indirectly. We thus have a no go area for the rest of the Pakistanis. Pakistanis have more sympathy with Burmese Muslims under attack than the devastation in FATA. Deaths in FATA, and there have been many, are treated as road traffic accidents in the rest of the country.
Nevertheless, we must never forget the sacrifices by the people of FATA in their role in Kashmir in 1947-8, which got for us what is now Azad Kashmir. They were pro-Pakistan until our army attacked them.
We also have a lopsided policy on al Qaeda and its associates. When Osama bin Laden was killed in the American raid in Abbottabad, there were varied responses from various quarters while the government only established a committee that shall never make its findings public. There were people who were convinced that bin Laden had been frozen and placed in cold storage for years and what they shot and killed was his brother. Others believe that there was no raid at all in Abbottabad. Many people resented the killing of bin Laden with or without the help of Pakistani agencies. Bin Laden never helped Pakistan but was also not involved in suicide bombing in the country; he was only fighting the occupying forces in Afghanistan.
While the Americans were trying to locate Osama bin Laden, General Pervez Musharraf and later, President Asif Ali Zardari repeatedly claimed that bin Laden was somewhere in Afghanistan and not Pakistan. Both repeatedly claimed that he would be arrested if he came into Pakistan and be deported to the US. The killing of bin Laden by the Americans in a house next to the military academy in Kakul was an extremely embarrassing blow to our military and its policies. They further confused the nation. Dr Shakil Afridi was arrested for allegedly helping the CIA locate bin Laden. He was quickly charged under FATA’s FCR law and was sentenced to 33 years of imprisonment. The conviction was based on his alleged connection with the terrorist organisation, Lashkar-e-Islam. This sounds crazy since America wants his release. He was doing what was Pakistan’s superficial foreign policy, which was to get bin Laden. In any case, we have been told that drones are guided by locals recruited by the CIA. Allegedly, many of our administrators and political leaders are on the payroll of the US and other countries. I cannot see any wrongdoing by poor Dr Afridi even if it was for a few dollars. In any case, he was doing the ‘right’ thing according to our declared foreign policy. The anti-American feelings in Pakistan may have swayed the court to hand him a harsh sentence. The case is ongoing in the Peshawar High Court.
The anti-American feeling among the people of Pakistan has created a lopsided foreign policy regarding what is happening in FATA. The Americans lured us into South Waziristan Agency with their dollars and other aid, making this war ‘our’ war. It has been three years since our army is haemorrhaging in South Waziristan. Another front in North Waziristan Agency will shatter what little economy has been left in the country. No matter what the army chief and President Zardari say, this war will never be ‘ours’. Wars are messy affairs costing a lot of money and we have little left. Wars are also inhuman, where mostly innocent civilians die or are injured. The mental trauma of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among the survivors reach over 60 percent. In this day and age, war anywhere is not an option.
Pakistani leaders have a policy regarding the FATA and Afghanistan but we are not given any information in this regard. In the media, we are given contradictory statements and the frequent visits by high-level American administrators in closed door meetings are confusing, to say the least.
Professor Farakh A Khan is a freelance writer