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 -- 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.
Not surprisingly, in an editorial titled "The wrong target?" the leading English newspaper, tens of thousands of people who have fled South Waziristan tell terrifying tales of falling bombs and blocked roads, which placed them at enormous peril as they tried to reach safety. Others speak of houses being destroyed in the Mehsud areas of the tribal agency. The paper said that already the people of Waziristan equate the Pakistan military with the militants.
The South Waziristan offensive and the broader US machinations can only further destabilize Pakistan which witnessed a spate of bomb attacks in recent days. In just the last two weeks, terrorist attacks have claimed more than 200 lives. Bombings and shootings have been rocking Pakistan including a recent brazen attack on army Head Quarters in Rawalpindi near the capital Islamabad, a massivebombing of Peshawar's exotic Khyber Bazaar and three simultaneous attacks on security offices in Lahore.
However, it is not clear who is responsible for these deadly attacks. Although all the bomb attacks have been blamed on the so-called Taliban but everybody knows that there are many players in the field who got opportunity to destabilize the country. With porous borders in the north with Afghanistan and west with Iran, it is not difficult to infiltrate foreign agents.
The "war against terror"- has practically become a proxy war between India and Pakistan. India gained excessive influence in Afghanistan from where it is undertaking major covert operations against FATA, NWFP and Baluchistan to destabilize Pakistan. India had all along vied for a base in Afghanistan from where it could launch covert operations against Pakistan's provinces adjoining Afghanistan. India has so far invested over $1 billion in Afghanistan for reconstruction and has become one of the largest donors. Besides its 17 consulates and 80 cultural and educational centres, it has about 4000 men working on a road project since 2002. This project is utilized for shielding Indian Intelligence Agency RAW's covert operations against Pakistan. In short, India was given a free run in Afghanistan so money and weapons for terrorists flowed in from Afghanistan into Baluchistan and FATA as well as NWFP.
The US has gradually increased its covert presence in Pakistan. There are reports that Iraq ill-famed US private mercenary army Blackwater is operating in Pakistan freely. It is not only operating in Peshawar but now in Islamabad under a front Washington-based company, Creative Associates International Inc (CAII) which has opened an office in Peshawar to work on projects in the nearby tribal agencies of Pakistan. All of these projects, interestingly, are linked to the US government. The National Assembly Standing Committee for Human Rights in September expressed serious concerns over presence of Blackwater and its secret activities in the country and constituted five-member committee to review the matter.
US missile attacks from Predator drones are also destabilizing the country. The CIA has used drones as a means to intimidate people of FATA, to disrupt peace deals between Army and militants and to stoke resentment against the government. At least 27 people were killed in Bajaur tribal agency in the latest drone missile attack on Saturday.
In this week's issue of the New Yorker magazine, Jane Mayer writes about CIA's use to kill terrorist suspects in Pakistan. He says: According to the CIA, they've killed more than half of the twenty most wanted Al Qaeda terrorist suspects. The bad news is that they've inflamed anti-American sentiment, because they've also killed hundreds of civilians. According to a study of a US think-tank - the New America Foundation - only six of the forty-one CIA drone strikes conducted by the Obama Administration in Pakistan have targeted Al Qaeda.
"The number of drone strikes has risen dramatically since Obama became President," Mayer reports. In fact, the first two strikes took place on Jan. 23, the President's third day in office and the second of these hit the wrong house, that of a pro-government tribal leader that killed his entire family, including three children, one just five years of age.