Posts Tagged ‘tribal areas’

Pakistan rejects ‘America’s war’ on extremists

October 24, 2008

• Parliament vows to end military action on border
• Relations with US will be strained by new strategy

Members of religious party Jamaat e-Islami yesterday at a protest against US airstrikes along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan

Members of religious party Jamaat e-Islami yesterday at a protest against US airstrikes along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Photograph: Fayyaz Hussain/Reuters

Serious doubts multiplied yesterday about Pakistan‘s commitment to America‘s military campaign against al-Qaida and the Taliban after parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for dialogue with extremist groups and an end to military action.

The new strategy, backed by all parties, emerged after a fierce debate in parliament where most parliamentarians said that Pakistan was paying an unacceptable price for fighting “America’s war”. If implemented by the government, support for Pakistan from international allies would come under severe strain, adding further instability to a country facing a spiral of violence and economic collapse.

“We need to prioritise our own national security interests,” said Raza Rabbani, a leading member of the ruling Pakistan People’s party. “As far as the US is concerned, the message that has gone with this resolution will definitely ring alarm bells, vis-a-vis their policy of bulldozing Pakistan.”

The resolution, passed unanimously in parliament on Wednesday night demanded the abandonment of the use of force against extremists, in favour of negotiation, in what it called “an urgent review of our national security strategy”.

“Dialogue must now be the highest priority, as a principal instrument of conflict management and resolution,” said the resolution. “The military will be replaced as early as possible by civilian law enforcement agencies.” It also said Pakistan would pursue “an independent foreign policy” and, in a pointed reference to US military incursions into Pakistani territory, proclaimed that “the nation stands united against any incursions and invasions of the homeland, and calls upon the government to deal with it effectively”.

The force of the resolution was unclear last night, with differences in interpretation between the ruling People’s party and opposition. The document is not binding on the government even though it was party to it. The army remains the ultimate arbiter of security policy. Some analysts believe that differences between the parties will see a tussle over implementation that could temper the resolution’s thrust. The US response was muted, with officials saying they considered it rhetoric for domestic consumption.

But the intense American pressure on Islamabad to take on the militants was underlined yesterday by another US missile strike inside Pakistani territory, an instance of the heavy-handed intervention that parliament railed against. The attack came in Pakistan’s border area with Afghanistan, at an Islamic school being used by suspected extremists, killing 11. The madrasa was linked to Afghan Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, who has an extensive network in Pakistan.

There have been about a dozen US missile strikes inside Pakistan since the beginning of September and a ground assault, fanning widespread anti-Americanism in the country. The US and Nato depend on Pakistan to prevent its tribal area being used as a safe haven for Afghan Taliban.

Past attempts by Pakistan at making peace with militant groups in the tribal area have allowed them to regroup and led to a sharp increase in cross-border attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Yesterday a US official made clear what it expected. “Pakistan needs to and is attacking insurgents in its northern areas,” Patrick Moon, a deputy US assistant secretary of state, said during a visit to Kabul. “Sanctuaries for Afghanistan Taliban in Pakistan complicate our security operations. Pakistani Taliban and other extremists such as al-Qaida are posing a threat to the stability of Pakistan.”

Pakistan is confronting multiple crises, political, security and financial, which threaten to overwhelm the nuclear-armed country and push it into chaos. It is heading towards bankruptcy, forcing Islamabad this week to approach to the International Monetary Fund for a rescue package. But the IMF bailout could be jeopardised if Washington is not on board.

Ordinary people complain that the country feels like it is falling apart, with a severe shortage of electricity causing blackouts of 12 hours or more in many areas, and crippling food price inflation, running at up to 100%, swelling the numbers living below the poverty line.

The country’s north-west, especially its tribal border area with Afghanistan, is under the control of Taliban and al-Qaida, who are connected to militant groups that have networks across the country. Yesterday, in what is now a typical day for Pakistan, aside from the US missile strike, eight anti-Taliban tribal leaders were killed by militants in the Orakzai part of the tribal area, and the army killed 20 fighters in Bajaur, another part of the tribal belt.

In Swat, a valley in the north-west, the headless body was found of a policeman, previously kidnapped by Taliban, and posters went up in Swat warning women against shopping in markets, saying it was “unIslamic”.

“Our country is burning,” said Senator Khurshid Ahmad, a member of Pakistan’s upper house of parliament for Jamaat-e-Islami, a mainstream religious party. “We don’t want Bush to put oil on the fire. We want to extinguish this fire.”

Sherry Rehman, minister for information, said the motion was a “firm resolve to combat terrorism”. But Talat Masood, a retired general and security analyst, said: “The army will be disappointed there was not a clear consensus. I think the army will continue with the existing policy.”


Pakistan’s tribal territory, formally known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), is a legacy of the Raj, a 10,000 square mile sliver of territory that has become central to geopolitics and the homeland security of the US, Britain and Europe.

The laws of Pakistan do not extend to the tribal belt, which is run under its own punitive laws and tribal custom, a system developed by the British. Fierce customs mean that men all carry guns, and guests, including al-Qaida militants, must be protected.

Al-Qaida’s leadership and thousands of Taliban escaped the US war in Afghanistan after September 11 2001 by slipping into the tribal area, which runs along the border.

Under a treaty with the tribes, the Pakistan army was not allowed to enter the Fata, but the accord broke in 2004 under US pressure calling for al-Qaida bases to be disrupted. This sparked a tribal insurrection and pushed the locals towards extremism, creating a Pakistani Taliban. Taliban militants killed hundreds of traditional leaders and now control most of the Fata, imposing a rough and ready Islamic law, though it is believed that most tribesmen remain moderate.


Pakistani Opposition Figure: 1,500 Civilians Killed in Bajaur Operation

October 21, 2008

Jason Ditz |, October 19, 2008

Sahibzada Haroonur Rashid, a high ranking official in the Jamaat-e Islami (JI) party from Bajaur Agency, claimed today that 1,500 civilians have been killed since Pakistan’s military offensive in Bajaur began in August. He also condemned the operation for displacing hundreds of thousands of Bajauris, and accused the government of killing people in the tribal areas to ‘appease the United States.’

The military has claimed 1,000 militants killed and another 2,000 wounded in the heavy fighting of the past months, they have not provided any figures on the number of civilians killed. Relief agencies have reported that more than 400,000 people have been displaced in the tiny agency, whose entire population as of the most recent census was less than 600,000.

The Pakistani government has rejected calls by the militants for a ceasefire in the past, and has remained officially silent since last week’s offer by a TTP spokesman to lay down arms in return for an end to the offensives. Confusingly, the government announced a ceasefire of its own at the beginning of Ramadan, but continued to launch attacks throughout the Muslim holy month.

The Jamaat-e Islami is a religious political party in Pakistan. They have no MPs in the current Pakistani legislature, having boycotted the most recent elections over then-President Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency. They have long been outspoken critics of military offensives and supporters of peace talks with the various militant groups in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas. They have also been accused of links with al-Qaeda in the past.

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