Pakistan descends deeper into civil war

I am not sure if we agree with this analysis in entirety but it makes a useful reading and presents a few insights worth pondering…Raza Rumi

By Peter Symonds  – WSWS website

As the Pakistani military gets set to launch a major offensive into the tribal agency of South Waziristan, Islamist militants carried out coordinated high-profile attacks yesterday on police facilities in the city of Lahore.

Teams of gunmen disguised as police officers struck two police training centres and the provincial headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency. At least 28 people were killed, including 19 police officers. Two of the targets had already been attacked in the previous 18 months.

Two further attacks took place yesterday in the North West Frontier Province. A suicide car bombing at a police station in Kohat killed 11 people—three police officers and eight civilians. A smaller bomb outside a housing complex for government employees in the provincial capital of Peshawar killed a child and wounded nine other people.

Yesterday’s attacks follow an audacious raid on the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi over the weekend that led to a 22-hour standoff. At least six soldiers, including a brigadier-general and a colonel, were killed in the fighting. Previously, a car bomb exploded in a marketplace in Peshawar on October, killing 52 people and injuring more than 100. On October 5, a suicide bomb attack at the UN’s World Food Program headquarters in Islamabad killed five aid workers.

Responding to yesterday’s raids, Interior Minister Rehman Malik declared: “The enemy has started a guerrilla war.” In fact, the country has been in a state of undeclared civil war since the Pakistani government, under intense pressure from Washington, ordered the military into the Swat Valley and neighbouring districts in April.

Now the military is primed to carry out a similar operation in South Waziristan, where it alleges most of the recent “terrorist” attacks were planned. The Obama administration has been pressing for months for a major Pakistani offensive into the tribal agency, which is used as a refuge by insurgents fighting the US occupation of Afghanistan.

While a fully-fledged ground assault is yet to take place, the army has moved troops, tanks and artillery into position and is constructing strategic roads in the Mamo mountains. Air and artillery bombardment on alleged insurgents intensified this week, partly in response to the attack on army headquarters last weekend.

“We are targetting militant hideouts with jet fighters and helicopter gunships in the first phase of an operation in South Waziristan,” Tariq Hayat, a top government official responsible for the tribal border areas, told the Dawn. At least 27 people were killed in heavy bombing yesterday following similar raids on Tuesday and Wednesday in at least five separate areas.

On Wednesday night, eight people were killed in an aerial attack on a cave shelter in the Spinkal area. Pakistani intelligence officials insisted that the dead were all insurgents, but local tribesmen told the media that all the victims were civilians, including three women and three children, who had abandoned their homes to seek shelter.

The stream of people fleeing the tribal agency is accelerating. According to the Associated Press, an estimated 200,000 people have left South Waziristan since August. About half of those have registered as displaced persons. South Waziristan’s exact population is unknown, but the figure is generally put at around 500,000.

Mohammed Shahbaz, a businessman, told Spiegel Online: “Life here is becoming increasingly difficult; we expect war could break out anytime. Even without war we have problems. The military is patrolling everywhere and there are controls on every street. It is getting more difficult by the day to get hold of food and other everyday goods.”

Naimatullah Khan, a police officer, told the Associated Press (AP) that the exodus had grown this week. Around 80 vehicles carrying refugees are passing each day through the Chonda checkpoint on the edge of the region. Haji Ayub Mehsud, who had fled along back roads with his six children, told AP that the intensified bombing left him no choice. “It is difficult for local people to stay there in peace. I had to bring out my family,” he said.

Most refugees have moved into safer districts such as Dera Ismail Khan and Tank. There is no sign that the government has made any preparation to look after them. Hundreds of thousands of displaced persons who fled the Swat Valley earlier this year were housed in squalid camps that lacked sufficient food, water and electricity. A local official in Dera Ismail Khan told Spiegel Online: “When the army attacks begin, we expect a mass exodus from South Waziristan. Where do we accommodate and provide for all these people?”

When the ground offensive will begin remains unclear. On Monday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that political leaders had given the go-ahead, but the timing was up to the army chief of staff. However, the government and the military have been talking about the impending offensive for weeks. The apparent hesitancy is one indication of the internal political crisis being generated by the widening conflict with the Taliban and allied Islamist groups.

In military terms, the offensive in South Waziristan could prove to be very costly. Three previous operations ended in failure. The army has reportedly marshalled 28,000 soldiers to confront an estimated 10,000 armed militants, who have considerable local support. Among Pashtun tribespeople in the border areas, the government is widely despised as an American puppet that is helping to shore up the US and NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

Repeated attacks by unmanned US predator drones on the Pakistani tribal agencies have only intensified popular anger. These raids have been accelerated under the Obama administration—40 have taken place since Obama was sworn in on January 20. The latest yesterday on a house in North Waziristan killed four people. While the Pakistani government publicly opposes the strikes, privately it has given the green light to the US.

Popular opposition inside Pakistan to the US occupation of Afghanistan is not limited to Pashtun border areas. Fearful of generating greater anger, the government only launched its offensive into the Swat Valley after heavy arm-twisting by Washington. A major assault in South Waziristan will only prompt further Islamist attacks in the country’s main cities and fuel deepening discontent and opposition.

Dr Hasan Askari-Rizvi, a security expert, told the Guardian yesterday that attacks by militants were unlikely to collapse the government. But, he warned, “If these things keep happening there will be a major crisis of confidence in the government. There is a sense of insecurity across Pakistan. You don’t know what will happen when you are walking on the streets.”

A diplomatic row over a US Congressional aid bill is another indication of the fragile situation in Pakistan. The Pakistani government was compelled to send Foreign Minister Shah Mehmoud Qureshi to Washington after the army expressed “grave concerns” about clauses in the legislation, effectively requiring US oversight that Pakistan was playing its part in Obama’s AfPak war.

The differences were patched up after Qureshi met with the bill’s sponsors Senator John Kerry and Representative Howard Berman. They issued a written statement to accompany the legislation, declaring that it should not be interpreted as implying that the US “does not fully recognise and respect the sovereignty of Pakistan.” The bill itself remained unchanged and was signed into law by Obama. Despite the lauding of US generosity, the $7.5 billion over five years amounts to less than $10 a year per head of population, even assuming the money is actually delivered and reaches ordinary people.

The latest attacks in Lahore only underscore the reckless character of Obama’s escalating AfPak war. As the US administration prepares to dispatch tens of thousands more American troops to the neo-colonial conflict in Afghanistan, it is pushing neighbouring Pakistan into deepening civil turmoil that can only further destabilise the entire region.

15 Comments

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15 responses to “Pakistan descends deeper into civil war

  1. Ali Abbas

    Riddled with inaccuracies and sweeping statements, the conclusion highlights the poor research undertaken by the author; he is obviously drinking the same cool aid that is currently being imbibed by the elite chattering class and the Pro-Taliban Pakistani media. Afghanistan Post 9/11 is not America’s “neo-colonial” but a NATO action that has UN mandate. Those who make the analogy between Iraq and Afghanistan are being disingenuous; the invasion of Iraq did not have UN support and is an illigal occupation that was conducted under false pretenses and driven by the Neo-Conservative lobby. Afghanistan is different, which is not to say that the US has not botched it.

    However, falsely positing the Taliban as some sort of “anti-imperialist”, “Pushtoon nationalists” (as done by many media analysts/”experts” is equally out of synch with the stated fact of the Pakistani establishment which used to openly call the Taliban as an instrument of “strategic depth”. How are the Taliban any different, being as they are, the tools of Bonapartist imperialists who are using these Islamist mercenaries to establish their control on others. The KL bill is unacceptable to the establishment and its media and opposition proxies because it asks for an end to the adventures of using Jihadis as foreign policy proxies.

  2. Junaid

    Now the military is primed to carry out a similar operation in South Waziristan, where it alleges most of the recent “terrorist” attacks were planned.

    So the attacks can only be planned in South Waziristan?

    What if the attacks start getting planned in Karachi?

    The argument is synonymous with the US argument that Afghanistan needs to be attacked because Al-Qaeda plans its attacks in Afghanistan.

    How hard is to run training camps and plan attacks from one place to another?

  3. Bloody Civilian

    @junaid

    are you saying that south waziristan should not be addressed? or that karachi too should be addressed if there is evidence that it needs to be?

  4. Bloody Civilian

    @Ali Abbas

    right on target. thankyou

  5. Junaid

    @Bloody civilian

    That depends upon your capacity to keep on “addressing” and the mode of addressing.🙂

  6. Bloody Civilian

    @Junaid

    either the problem will be solved or ‘your’ capacity to keep on addressing it would run out. either way, the ‘addressing’ has to be taken to its logical end.

    as for the ‘mode of addressing’, the enemy’s ‘mode of operation’ defines that, substantially.

  7. Junaid

    The Waziristan Talibans center of gravity is no longer the Mehsud inhabited area of South Waziristan. They have spread into Orakzai Agency, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu District, Khyber Agency, Kurram Agency, Southern Punjab and most notably Karachi, which is a monster city of some 18 million souls with some one third Pashtun or lets say one-fourth Pashtun. Any tangible military operation in Waziristan will not destroy the Taliban.

    The Talibans require a broader strategy.

    What this broader strategy is…..

    Well I am not sure. But certainly military strategy is not working.

  8. Majumdar

    Junaid,

    The Waziristan Talibans center of gravity is no longer the Mehsud inhabited area of South Waziristan. They have spread into Orakzai Agency, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu District, Khyber Agency, Kurram Agency, Southern Punjab and most notably Karachi, which is a monster city of some 18 million souls with some one third Pashtun or lets say one-fourth Pashtun. Any tangible military operation in Waziristan will not destroy the Taliban.

    This has been written by Maj AH Amin on another forum. Are you a pseudonym of Amin sb or quoting him?

    Regards

  9. Bloody Civilian

    @Junaid

    are you saying that ‘military strategy’ should be no part of the ‘broader strategy’?

    @majumdar

    re. …or quoting him?

    was there an acknowledgement? did i miss it?

    i read the major’s article. thanks. there is a case to be made for the ‘broad strategy’ to recognise the historic fact that the tribals have always made a living by threatening passing trade and other caravans, and even armies who wished to be left alone; raids into settled areas and kidnap for ransom; the more reliable source of income in the form of cash-filled envelopes from the Political Agent; arms manufacture and arms and all kinds of smuggling; providing refuge to fugitives at a suitable price etc. some of these means of making a living saw exponential growth during the afghan war. heroine/narcotics became a new lucrative industry. the war became good business. this is not to say that there was necessarily any ‘trickle down effect’ as far as the common tribal man was concerned. and now, to an extent, taliban/al-qaida/terrorism is good business. hence the deadly fight over baitullah mehsud’s estate which included rs 2 billion in cash.

    pakistan could offer a better alternative, esp capitalise on a better ‘distribution of wealth’ effect. the treatment and fate of bush’s $750m FATA development plan doesn’t give much hope though.

    it’s interesting to note that the major also writes:

    “The Talibans inflicting major damage on USA are in Kandahar or Helmand but these are being rewarded with rich construction and logistic sub-contracts by US aid agencies since 2001. They carry on drug and weapons trade day and night and are not interdicted by any US forces as I have repeatedly seen as a contractor based in South Afghanistan since 2004.Are they being prepared for Iran or at some stage China.Its a question that only history will answer. These Talbans have their center in Pakistani Balochistan but have never been attacked by the US.”

    there is a point of convergence there with what ahmed rashid and several others have been saying.

  10. Bloody Civilian

    ……. those making far too much money out of this to be lured by a (more) legal alternative, can continue to be despatched by drones.

  11. Majumdar

    Civvie mian,

    So why not buy peace with W’stanis now rather than bomb them. Let them be autonomous in their own area as long as they dont shelter sectarian gangs which operate in mainland Pakistan.

    Regards

  12. Bloody Civilian

    majumdar

    that has to be part of the ‘broad strategy’. a big part. ‘let them be autonomous’ doesn’t necessarily ensure a better distribution of wealth. it most likely would work against it. so the foot soldiers and even the ‘walking bombs’ will remain. buying off baitullah types alone will not work.

    an economic (and cautiously political) programme is necessary. the first two years of foot-dragging and obstructionism in relation to the USAID $750m FATA package is disappointing, even worrying.

    another role for the military and a military strategy as one part of the ‘broad strategy’ is to show to the simple folk of FATA, every now and then, that a) the Taliban are not superhuman, and b) they are no match for a national army. neither of a) or b) require carpet bombing all over FATA. but well chosen operations completed with full commitment. also a) and b) are obviously interdependent.

  13. Bloody Civilian

    buying off baitullah types alone will not work.

    if the GoP had bought him off, say, for rs 3 billion, there would be someone else trying to make rs 2 billion exactly the way he made it.

    so there is no need to buy off any individuals. a concerted effort on the economic front is required. it has to be an integrated programme, so education and welfare has to come with it. there is a thirst for education as people see it as the means of escaping misery and poverty.

    political reform has to be more cautious. but also, in many ways, it’s easier. extend the Political Parties Act 1962 to FATA, and the rest will take care of itself.

  14. bonobashi

    @Bloody Civilian
    @Majumdar

    There is also an ethical aspect involved, although it is obviously not one that will intrude into a view of these matters formed by realpolitik. Deliberately keeping an entire population in backwardness and under the grip of obscurantists, merely because it is an administratively convenient option, does not make a so-called democracy any better than a colonial power. In any case, it is difficult to see how a democracy can possibly collude with anti-democratic and feudal elements to disenfranchise a section of its own citizenry.

    This was allowed to happen. Its consequences are clear for all to see.

    Carried to an extreme, the further consequences are that the entire state may then be parcelled out to feudal contractors, delivering law and order and reasonable absence of drugs, arms and breeding of terrorists, in return for untrammeled exercise of what used to be called in mediaeval European jurisprudence the high justice, the middle justice and the low justice.

    In the extreme limit, therefore, the end result is a perfect feudal society, precisely as it was defined by jurists at its peak, around the 13th and 14th centuries.

    Back to the future, gentlemen?

  15. IS this latest attack from the TTP? It doesnt seem logical. Is there another player in the field? i think it very possible. When a crime has been committed, the first question to ask is “who benefitted?”
    Another question to ask, “Who benefits from turmoil in Pakistan?”
    sometimes simple questions answer complex questions..