Pakistan's mercenary army has launched the long-awaited US-financed offensive in South Waziristan. Two army divisions, supported by an array of jet fighters and helicopter gunships, began a long expected offensive in the South Waziristan tribal agency on October 19. With at least 30,000 combat troops, plus thousands of logistical personnel, it is the largest military operation on either side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the Obama administration's "AfPak" war.
The massive operation is conducted behind a smoke screen. No journalists are permitted inside the war zone. Every report on the fighting, the so-calledTaliban and army casualties, and civilian casualties is solely on the information, misinformation and propaganda released by government or military spokesmen.
The Waziristan offensive is the latest chapter in the history of mercenary relations between the US and Pakistani governments. Since 2001, Islamabad has been prepared to wage a civil war against the ethnic Pashtun tribal people along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
The army is widening the war against its own independent-minded Pashtun tribes Ś wrongly called "Taliban." [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Movement of Pakistani Taliban, came into being probably in December 2007 with a huge stock of weapons that clearly had come from across the border since some of them were of US origin.] The Pakistan government's motive is to ensure that US political, military and financial aid continues to flow to the country's corrupt ruling elite. The US has pledged to provide Pakistan some 7.5 billion dollars during the next five years under capitulating conditions which a US-client government in Islamabad has gladly accepted.
This is the second major operation against the so-called Taliban militants this year. In April and May this year the army launched an offensive in Swat Valley killing hundreds of civilians and displacing two million people from their homes. The area is now under permanent military occupation and death squads organized by the army have allegedly murdered dozens of Taliban sympathizers.
In South Waziristan a similar catastrophe is in the making. While some 250,000 people have fled the area over the past several months, some 250,000 civilians, mainly impoverished tribal farmers, have been trapped in the army dragnet.
Amnesty International has urged the army to stop its harassment of civilians from the Mehsud tribe as they flee the government's latest offensive against the Pakistani Taleban in South Waziristan. In a statement the Amnesty said that the Pakistani military has refused to allow members of the tribe to use major roads to flee the conflict zone. "Mehsud tribes people, including women and children, are being punished on the roads as they flee simply because they belong to the wrong tribe," said Sam Zarifi, director of Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific program. "This could amount to collective punishment, which is absolutely prohibited under international law."
South Waziristan is the largest of the seven agencies within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, with an estimated population of 450,000, most of whom belong to either the Mehsud or Wazir tribes. The population of the Mehsud tribe is thought to be around 300,000. Incidentally, the current military operation is targeting only the Mehsud tribes and not the rival Wazir tribes.