Nothing to hope for
Mohsin Dawar
April 16, 2015

After suffering both the brutal target killings by the Taliban and the Pakistan Army’s operations for over 10 years, the people of North Waziristan were ordered to leave their homeland overnight once orders for Operation Zarb-e-Azb were announced.

And they have been waiting for respite since the day they left. They fled Waziristan leaving behind their few precious belongings with only a pair of shoes and the clothes on their back. One million people left in a span of 24 hours without adequate transportation facilities. Except a few lucky ones, the rest had no option but to leave for Bannu on foot. They reached Bannu after a miserable journey that took anywhere between 24 to 60 hours (depending upon their location and conveyance) in the heat of June. Many people lost their lives due to thirst and hunger on the way.

During the turmoil of more than 10 years the people of North Waziristan have suffered in almost every aspect of their lives. The social structure, the jirga system which defines and disciplines their way of life, was demolished by replacing a Malik with a militant and the political administration with the military. The only job left for the political administration was to act as a messenger between the military and the militants using some newly manufactured vastly unpopular Maliks for that job. The real power play remained with the military and the militants.

Businesses were badly affected due to the uncertainty of being killed or kidnapped at any time by the Taliban, and because of the unexpected curfew imposed by the army at any time. Commercial property was highly devalued and curfews sometimes remained in force for weeks, which also affected the education of the students of North Waziristan.

Girls’ education all but disappeared and the only girls higher secondary school in Miranshah city was looted by the Taliban, its belongings sold off and the school building later used as a base office by the local Taliban. Due to the the influence and pressure of the militants the education system of Waziristan became a joke and even illiterates were passing BA and MA examinations with the help of proxies sitting in for them.

After going through all this and becoming IDPs in different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – mostly in Bannu – the people of Waziristan were once again treated badly by the state authorities. They were kept in hujras by local people but most of them resided in government schools which were vacant due to summer holidays. After the schools reopened, they were transferred to the Bakakhel camp and other areas. Due to neglect by the provincial and federal governments they suffered a lot in getting even basic facilities.

The IDPs waited for two to three months for their stipend and waited for hours in queues to get their monthly ration at the few ration collection areas set up for more than a million IDPs.

And after all this they were ready to forget all their miseries with a hope for a new Waziristan. A Waziristan that would be peaceful and free of militants. Where they would be free to run their businesses without paying any extortion money to the Taliban and where boys as well as girls would be able to be educated. Where there would be no militants nor would there be beheadings by the Taliban or mortar shelling by the army.

The IDPs believed that the state was never serious about taking out the militancy from the region and that it would continue to use it as part of the great strategic game in the region. But their hopes were still alive, and they felt that this time the operation would be effective as they saw the good Taliban getting weaker and the bad ones becoming stronger day by day. This was so especially after the tragic incident of December 16 when the political leadership of the country was on the same page to form a national action plan to tackle militancy.

These hopes were alive at the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and even after the consensus on the NAP but the people want something to be done in action. After seven to eight months of Operation Zarb-e-Azb the military has still to show a high-profile target killed or arrested.

The recent talks between the military and the Haleem Khan group of the TTP in North Waziristan have also raised reservations that some may be spared.

The residents of Waziristan have been patient up to the very extreme extent. They have been through killings and humiliation at the hands of the Taliban and the army. They have left their homes and sacrificed as much as was possible for them. Now they want some positive results from the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. They want a militant-free Waziristan on return and anything other than that would be a great disappointment for them.

When all hope is lost and disappointment reaches extreme levels, the situation can lead towards an unidentified direction. The state should avoid creating such a situation especially when all the global powers in the region are operating as per their own vested interests.

The writer is a North Waziristan-based lawyer and political worker.


Published in The News