Pakistan Army facing ‘friendly fire’ by the Taliban – by Farhat Taj

Dangerous abyss of perception

The Pakistan Army is engaged in ‘friendly fire’ with the jihadi gangs in which the civilians, poor soldiers of the security forces, especially FC soldiers, policemen and foot soldiers of the Taliban are killed. This, according to the Pakhtun perception, is in line with the scheme of things of the military-militant leadership

I have been writing in these pages that there is a remarkable difference in the perceptions of the people of Pakhtunkhwa, including FATA, and the majority of people in the rest of Pakistan with regard to what drives terrorism in our country. For the latter, it is the US, India and Israel rocking our country with terrorism on the pretext that no Muslim can ever kill fellow Muslims. Whereas the former believe that fellow Muslims in the Pakistani religious-political parties, jihadi organisations, retired and in service generals of the Pakistan army (the real lords of our country), and media Taliban (pro-Taliban journalists and analysts) have created a complex mixture of fanatical, sectarian, anti-civilisation and anti-humanity state of mind among fellow Pakistanis, who are now thoroughly engaged in the genocide of the Pakhtun and replacing the Pakhtun culture with the seventh century Arab tribal culture. The US, India and Israel may or may not be fishing in troubled waters, but they are certainly not running the deadly show on the Pakhtun lands in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, the international jihadi forces are fully in alliance with the Pakistani jihadis. The Pakistan Army is engaged in ‘friendly fire’ with the jihadi gangs in which the civilians, poor soldiers of the security forces, especially FC soldiers, policemen and foot soldiers of the Taliban are being killed. This, according to the Pakhtun perception, is in line with the scheme of things of the military-militant leadership in terms of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan.

In a conference held in Peshawar on December 12-13, 2009, this issue of the difference of perceptions was thoroughly discussed. The conference, named ‘Terrorism: The Ways Out’ was attended by political parties and civil society organisations of Pakhtunkhwa and FATA that actively oppose terrorism: Awami National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians, Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao, National Party and Awami Party Pakistan. Civil society included organisations under the banner of Amn Tehrik (Peace Movement), businessmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, labourers and intellectuals.

The conference concluded the following in terms of the difference in perceptions. One of its reasons is perfectly natural. There is a Pashto proverb that burns are felt where there is fire. Most of the fire of terrorism is burning in the Pakhtun lands. The second reason is the policy of the government. In pursuit of strategic depth in Afghanistan, the government of dictator Musharraf allowed massive media coverage to the people who were supporting terrorism. This includes some retired generals and a few journalists and analysts. As a result, those living in other parts of the country or those who were not directly affected by terrorism were systematically indoctrinated with pro-terrorism ideas for about eight years. This nurtured a social environment that is tolerant to those committing terrorism. Those living in the war zone are eyewitnesses to all that is happening there and they have their own perceptions of this war.

The conference noted with great concern that it continues to be propagated in the media, though in an implied manner, that terrorism is the continuation of jihad against the Soviet Union. The fact is that almost all of those who were fighting against the Soviets have become an active part of the political canvas of Afghanistan in order to bring stability to the democratic process in that country. They are the foremost opponents of terrorism. They include Professor Mujaddidi, Burhan-ud-Din Rabbani, Pir Gilani, Abdul Rasool Siaf, Abdul Rasheed Dostam and the party of late Ahmed Shah Masood. Only two people of the anti-Soviet campaigns are now involved in terrorism, i.e. Gulbadin Hikmatyar and Jalal-ud-Din Haqqani. Gulbadin’s party is almost non-existent. Only one of his commanders, Kashmir Khan, and a few friends are supporting him. Haqqani had already joined the Taliban and is based in North Waziristan, where he commands an entire terror secretariat.

Moreover, none of the Pakistani terrorist organisations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkatul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Muhamamd, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Islam, Ansar-ul-Islam, Amar-bil-Maroof, Tahreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi and Tahreek-e-Taliban had participated in the anti-Soviet campaign. Despite this, it was propagated over the media that these terrorists were part of the anti-Soviet campaign and they have been living in the tribal areas for thirty years where they had married the local women and thus became part and parcel of the tribal society. The fact is that in the tribal areas, a foreigner is never called a native even if he had taken asylum and lived there for centuries. The Mehsud tribe of South Waziristan did not allow even a single non-local to stay in their area during this whole period.

The conference participants observed that people of the war-affected areas think that the army and the Taliban are friends, not enemies. These people have been persistently asking the question why the military failed to target the core leadership of the militants in all the 17 military operations in FATA? It is true that during the military operations the top as well as the second and the third cadre leadership were neither killed nor wounded nor captured. Moreover, the news of the killing of many terrorist leaders was broadcast several times over the media but they are still alive. Commanders like Ibn-e-Amin, Shah Duran and Ikram-ud-Din are the prime examples of such false propaganda.

In Swat, the news that Fazlullah is under siege was broadcast three times by the ISPR but in the same month it was propagated through the media that he had escaped to Afghanistan. Fazlullah’s close associates Muslim Khan, Haroon and Mahmood were arrested by the military but six months have passed and nobody knows what happened to them.

In the past, Sufi Muhammad was arrested and then released in a so-called peace deal, which was imposed upon the provincial political leadership at gunpoint. The valiant police of the Pakhtunkhwa province once arrested 28 terrorists with suicide jackets and these terrorists were taken away by the intelligence agencies for further investigation. These people were kept somewhere for a few months. They were released the day when General Pervez Musharraf imposed the Emergency. Only a few words came to us about their release. It is due to these reasons that the people of the war-affected areas are neither satisfied with the military operations nor do they entertain false hopes.

The issue of drone attacks is the most important one. If the people of the war-affected areas are satisfied with any counter-militancy strategy, it is the drone attacks. According to the people of Waziristan, drones have never killed any civilian. Some people in Waziristan even compare the drones with ababils (the holy swallows sent by God to avenge Abraha, the invader of the Khana Kaaba). A component of the Pakistani media, some retired generals, a few journalists/analysts and pro-Taliban political parties never stop their baseless propaganda against drone attacks.

I would request all fellow Pakistanis to urgently address these issues. Any more silence on this matter could be dangerous for the integrity of Pakistan. The generals, militant groups, religious-political parties and a section of our mainstream media, especially Urdu media, are pushing the entire Pakhtunkhwa towards becoming another Bangladesh. If this happened, those fellow Pakistanis who otherwise may not agree with the military, militants and the media Taliban, but chose to remain silent, would also be responsible for another break up of Pakistan.

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. She can be reached at

Source: Daily Times



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