South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights


News of bloodshed continuously keeps pouring in from the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). Pashtuns from tribal areas are still in the eye of storm in the so called war on terror. They are still dying and they are still IDPs. There is no let up for them although the situation has some what changed for the better in the rest of Pakistan. On Tuesday  November 3 two known tribal leaders were killed in cold blood by terrorists in Bajaur Agency. Both were killed in explosions caused by improvised explosive device (IED) in different parts of Bajour.

Tribal leader Malik Mohammad Younis was going to Raghgam from Tali. When his car reached Gulo Shah area it was targeted by a bomb explosion. Malik Mohammad Younis died on the spot and his  two sons Ijaz and Hazrat Noor who were accompanying him in the car got severely injured. Ijaz’s condition is stated to be critical. The body of the deceased and injured persons were taken to the Agency headquarter hospital in Khar. Another tribal leader Malik Munsif Khan was also killed in an explosion caused by IED when he was on his way back from a mosque in Galey village in Bajour. On the same day a known tribal journalist Zaman Masood was target killed in Tank bazar which borders South Waziristan. TTP accepted responsibility for his death. He had received death threats from terrorists who were demanding coverage of their statements in his reports. From time to time we also see or read press releases about casualties in ground operations or aerial bombardments. But these are mainly statistics without names or identities. Collateral damage has not been mentioned even once. The war in FATA has been by and large remained as faceless up till now as it has been through out the Cold War.

Tribal elders have been killed for siding with the state for the last decade and a half but the state didn’t protect them or didn’t even provide the type of support to tribal leaders that could have galvanized their fight against Taliban and Al Qaida who occupied their area. The terrorists started their attacks invariably against tribal leaders in every tribal agency to create terror in the region  and establish their writ.

Military operations were launched against terrorists from time to time (in some cases two, three and even four operations in one tribal agency), but the menace could not be wiped out because space for Afghan Taliban (or the good Taliban) was always maintained and they obviously required some local support. Hence the agreements with local militants signed in 2006 and 2007 that survived up till recently in which the militant would pledge to not launch attacks on this side of the Durand Line (implying that they will focus their fight in Afghanistan).

Even after the launching of Operation Zarb-e-Azb some Punjabi Taliban and Masood Taliban were able to switch over from “bad Taliban” into “good Taliban” by declaring their intent to shift their focus from fighting in Pakistan to fighting in Afghanistan.  It is a matter of record that General (R) Musharraf publicly welcomed their decision  as a good omen for Pakistan. So the Taliban networks have survived and the death of tribal elders continued. Their deaths went unnoticed and unmourned as the state authorities practically disowned them.  Many of tribal leaders raised local self defense forces against Taliban but most of them died in suicide attacks launched by Taliban and others were forced to  became IDPs.

The President of Pakistan and Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who are supposed to be administering FATA, do not send even simple condolence messages to the bereaved families and clans. That is exactly what has happened this week also. The families of Malik Mohammad Younis, Malik Munsif Khan or journalist Zaman Masood did not receive a phone call, a condolence letter or any other kind of state recognition. It is obviously difficult to decide as to weather these Pashtun casualties are part of collateral damage or a mere cannon fodder in the so-called ‘war on terror’. For all practical purposes FATA is expected to bleed as long as Afghan Taliban are allowed to use the area for continuing their war in Afghanistan.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb started in June 2014. It was supported by all and sundry and its genuine successes were recognized. There can’t be any complaint about the lack of political ownership for it. The first and the last briefing to political parties was given about it in August 2014.

Initially it was expected to be a matter of a few months. It was also extended to parts of the Khyber Agency and some other pockets in FATA. But after a year and a half there is still no end in sight. It can go on for the next few years. Most probably it is linked with plans for fighting in Afghanistan. It is linked with on the ground changes in Afghan policy and not the high rhetoric emerging from Islamabad now and then. Cleansing Shawal and Datta Khel in North Waziristan has taken ages with out any tangible explanation. Pashtun IDPs from FATA, particularly North Waziristan, who were promised to be sent back to their homes and hearths “very soon” are still waiting. We hear about the number of families who will go back. They are living human beings and not abstract statistics. They are the most disempowered and miserable people in Pakistan. They do not figure on the radar of “ free media” that deserves full marks for self-censoring.

Is there any roadmap for an end to war in FATA and the rehabilitation of the IDPs? The Human Rights bodies should not only raise their voice against the continuing death, destruction and agonies faced by the tribal Pashtuns but they should also support the demand for establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to apportion responsibility for the crimes committed against the people of FATA.

Any reform without such exercise would not bring the matter to a close as the scars in the people’s minds are too deep to be heeled by mere administrative measures. Even colonial subjects do not accept half backed superficial measures as an ultimate solution to their pains from long sufferings and oppression. They insist on justice.

Updated On:
Updated On: November 07, 2015