Is Orakzai Agency cleared of the Taliban? — by Farhat Taj

The ISI is playing a great game to protect ‘good Taliban’ in FATA.

The IDPs say that both the Taliban and the Pakistan Army have bombed their empty houses in Orakzai. The authorities are now handing them tents so that they go back and erect tents on the sites of their bombed out homes

Recently, the Pakistani media reported that security forces have cleared 90 percent of Orakzai Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Frontier Corps Inspector General Nadir Zeb reportedly said that a limited operation would continue in Mamuzai area, the stronghold of the Taliban in the Agency. He further said that clues pertaining to al Qaeda’s presence were found in Orakzai, but most of their operatives had been killed and others had fled the area. Moreover, he also said that internally displaced people (IDPs) from the area would start coming home in a few days.

Any notion of Orakzai being cleared of the Taliban without the elimination of the Taliban leadership in the area is meaningless. All the prominent commanders in Orakzai are still alive. None of them have even been arrested so far. They include Hakimullah, Toofan Mullah, Aslam Farooqi, Tariq Afridi, Gul Zaman Mullah, Salam Mullah, Zia-ur-Rehman, Nabi Mullah, Hafiz Saeed and Saif-ur-Rehman. The military spokesmen are not explaining how Orakzai can be secured without the elimination of the Taliban leadership.

A viewpoint of the Orakzai IDPs is that the military leadership does not wish to eliminate these Taliban commanders. The commanders are the ‘strategic assets’ of the intelligence authorities and will be used for terrorism in Afghanistan and the ‘managed chaos’ engineered by the intelligence agencies in FATA. To counter this perception, the military will have to eliminate the entire Taliban leadership. The people of Orakzai, who have suffered human rights violations at the hands of the commanders, want to see them killed. There seems to be no one in Pakistan willing to grill the military authorities over their failure to eliminate the Taliban leadership.

There are Taliban in the area between Ghiljo and Shahu Khel, who kill and kidnap people from Hangu and its surrounding areas. The area from Ghiljo to Yakh Kandaw has also not been cleared and, only a few days ago, some soldiers were killed there. Mamuzia is still under the control of the Taliban. Feroz Khel, Utman Khel and Bezot, the areas supposedly cleared several weeks ago, are still under the influence of the Taliban.

Only three areas, Mishti Khel, Shaikhan and Kalaya can be viewed as cleared of the Taliban. Kalaya is a Shia area in Orakzai and has never suffered Taliban occupation, therefore the army cannot claim to have cleared it of the Taliban.

The military authorities are putting pressure on the Orakzai IDPs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to go back to their areas. The IDPs are apprehensive because they believe that upon return they might be trapped in clashes between the Taliban and the army. They believe that clashes between the two are inevitable since the Taliban leadership is intact.

Moreover, the IDPs are afraid that the Taliban will assault them with a vengeance upon their return. The Taliban, they argue, are more dangerous than before. They consider the IDPs to be their enemies because they fled and left the Taliban alone in Orakzai to fight the army. The Taliban wanted the IDPs — especially the able-bodied men — to fight on their side against the army. The men refused the Taliban request and preferred to flee.

The IDPs say that both the Taliban and the Pakistan Army have bombed their empty houses in Orakzai. The authorities are now handing them tents so that they go back and erect tents on the sites of their bombed out homes. They complain that first they were forced to live in homelessness in the scorching heat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and now they are being forced to spend the snowy winter of Orakzai on the debris of their destroyed homes. Moreover, both the Taliban and the Pakistan Army have bombed schools, healthcare centres and the electricity system. People’s businesses have been destroyed. How do the authorities expect the IDPs to live a normal life in such conditions? There seem to be no arrangements in place to rebuild the necessary infrastructure in Orakzai.

The military authorities should share with the nation the ‘clues’ related to al Qaeda that they found in Orakzai. They should release the information about al Qaeda militants killed in Orakzai. They must also explain why and how the other al Qaeda militants fled from Orakzai, whether or not the military chased them, where they are now and whether the authorities have any plan to kill them in the areas to where they fled. Above all, they must inform the nation about when are they going to kill or capture the Taliban leadership in Orakzai. They must also inform the masses about what security arrangements have been made for those Orakzai residents who offered armed resistance to the Taliban before the army’s arrival in the area.

Similarly, the political authorities in Orakzai must elaborate what compensation they intend to make to the IDPs for the damage to their properties caused by the Taliban and Pakistan Army and what arrangements have been made to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure in Orakzai.

The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban