Monday, May 3, 2010

A letter from Bajaur

I wrote this article some time back about the post-operation situation
in Bajaur Agency and sent it to two English dailies but they did not
publish it for unknown reasons. When I came to know about the launch
of your new daily "The Express Tribune", I decided to resend the
article with latest updates. If you dont print this article, it is
okay. I can understand your limitations and also have not pinned any
hopes on you. I have only written this article in an attempt to reach
to the concerned Pakistanis who may realize that "We are also
(I had a mobile phone before the operation but since the mobile
services have been cut-off for the last 20 months, my only contact is
through email from net cafe whenever I come to Munda or Timergara
Sher Zaman Khan Alizai, Bajour Agency

A so-called military operation is going on in Bajour Agency for the
last one and a half year... We call it "so-called" because it has only
served to target the civilians...
Even hostile forces dont commit the atrocities in occupied lands that
our own army has committed in Bajour Agency. Artillery and mortar
shelling has resulted in hundreds if not thousands of civilian deaths.
Some families have been completely eliminated. I personally know 3-4
families who have lost 7 or 8 persons each to this shelling. The
airforce jets and gunship choppers hit and destroy anything with
pin-point accuracy except the militant positions. The general public
feeling that has emanated from this whole operation is that the
military and the militants are one and the same. They are just playing
a game with each other as the only losers in this battle are the
non-combatants. If the military's daily claims of militant deaths has
to be believed, more than 3000 militants have been killed in the 20
months of operation. However, on the ground nobody can prove the
deaths of more than a mere few. The security forces have destroyed
more than 3000 houses and shops on the Khar Nawagai road from
Sadiqabad to Zor Bandar. Hundreds of buildings in others areas have
also been raised to the ground. The once-residents of these area are
living in Jalozai and Kaccha-Garhi refugee camps in pathetic
conditions for the last 16 months. There are obvious double standards
when it comes to treatment of IDPs from tribal areas compared to Swat
IDPs. The Swat IDPs were treated far better and were sent back to
their homes in just 2-3 months while tribals IDPs have been left like
step-children. The students from Swat were given special fee
concessions by the colleges / universities while tribal students have
been neglected although tribal people have been affected for much
longer time and much more severely than Swat IDPs. We are happy that
the Swatis got what they got but why are we not treated the same way.
Are we from some other country or are some 2nd or 3rd grade
Had all these pains resulted in peace and eradication of militancy
from the area, the people would have accepted this as a horror episode
and restarted their lives. Alas! this is not the case. The militant
activities still continue. At night especially, it is the militants
who rule throughout Bajaur except the main GT Road, FC fort and Civil
Colony complexes. The local civil administration employees e.g
Khasadars, health staff, education staff etc are the most affected
because the militants have blown up their houses, kidnapped and killed
them or their family members.
The military gave extreme hype to the capturing of Damadola, Sewai and
Badan areas of Tehsil Mamund. However, the locals know that all major
militant commanders were given a safe exit for unknown reasons. The
militants surrendering to security forces is yet another drama. The
surrendering militants only have to submit an AK-47 rifle and then
they are allowed to go scot-free. None is intorrogated for the
atrocities they committed against the people of the area. The Maliks
and Jirgas that give surety for the surrendering militants to the
authorities are themselves not so powerful to control them and stop
them from indulging in mischiefs again. Even children in Bajour know
today that Maulvi Faqir Muhammad is safe and sound alongwith his top
commanders Sheena, Wali-Rahman and Abdullah in the "Enzari" village
only a few kilometers away from the military's main operational base
in Loi-Sam. Commander Pervez is active from his hideouts in Dhoda
village of Tehsil Nawagai, while Qari ZiaurRehman is operating from
Mattak village of Charmang. The military also knows about them but
dont target them. On the civilian front, however, the military has
huge successes to its credit. A collateral damage consisting of
hundreds of civilians, destruction of thousands of residential and
commercial buildings, barrening of thousands of acres of agricultural
fields and orchards and conversion of nearly 1 million Bajouris into
Psychic patients are the only achievements of the military operation.
Target killing of neutral or pro-govt tribal elders is almost a daily
routine. Over 170 tribal elders have been target-killed in the past
8-10 months. Scores of schools have been blown up in the areas which
the army claims to have cleared. Half a dozen schools have been blown
up just in the last fortnight. The local media journalists also dont
depict the true picture either due to fear of both parties or due to
perks received from govt.
Where should we, the tribesmen, go in these circumstances. We see no
ray of hope. The powerful media, the independent judiciary, the civil
society nobody listens to our voices.
Then the people ask why have these people (tribals) have gone mad and
why are they killing our children in Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore.
It is the same innocence with which Americans asked the world after
9/11 that "Why do they hate us"? Although I am not trying to justify
the killings of civilians in Peshawar, Punjab or elsewhere. But the
fact is that the tribesmen have been cornered and ignored to an extent
that anything can be expected from them. We hate the militants from
the core of our heart but our passions for Pakistan are also drying up
with each passing day. I know it sounds unpatriotic to say this but if
the Pakistanis have nothing to offer to us and if we have to be slaves
forever then why not choose someone else for a master; the Americans
or the Indians or the likes. So that when we fight them in response,
we can die as martyrs and we dont feel the pain of being killed by our
own brothers.

Sher Zaman Khan Alizai, Bajour Agency.

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