Military Operation: A Mistaken Panacea
27 February, 2013
By Khan Zeb Burki
Drone strikes, military operations and Taliban insurgency have collectively deprived tribesmen of the pleasures of life in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. The people have been compelled to leave the areas due to precarious situation and military operations. The drone and gunship helicopters have been terrorizing and displacing hundreds of thousands of people from South Waziristan, Orakzai, Khyber and other agencies.
Operation Rah-e-Nijat (path of salvation) started by Pakistan security forces and backed by political leadership in October 2009 still not culminated and achieved its targeted goals in South Waziristan. Nearly one million Mehsud and Burki tribesmen bore the brunt of the ongoing operation. These IDPs have been suffering from many problems in the camped areas for the last four and a half years. Long queues for sub standard food items (rations), discrimination, harassment by security forces at check posts and plundering their houses and are still existential challenges for the IDPs.
Time and again they have been protesting against the injustices done by the government, security agencies and rude behavior of non governmental organization officers. But the responses of authorities compelled them to protest in front of the national leaders as well as national and international media in Islamabad. Even the IDPs camped in front of Islamabad press club with the charter of demands of attract the attention of the government towards their miseries. People from different walks of life including political leaders from opposition benches, civil society, business and lawyers fraternity, and students express solidarity with them for the fulfillment of their demand.
The IDPs demanded stopping drone attacks, ending military operation in the region, rehabilitation of all the displaced people, compensation for the damages inflicted upon them due to military operation, accountability and audit of funds allocated for their constituency, free education to the children of affectees, abolishing harassment of people by security agencies, recovery of missing persons and employment in all developmental work in the region.
Voices against drone strike has been raised from every corner of the country, and even international community has expressed their reservation on the legality of drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Obama administration neglected international law and respect for the sovereignty of other states by increasing drone strikes in Pakistan which were started by G.W. Bush. The United States of America, the so-called champion of human rights, is continuously violating the same by killing innocent children, men and women in its drone strikes.
Operation Rah-e-Nijat is not the first operation of its kind launched in Waziristan, but the region has been observing many operations since 2002-3 like Operation Mizan, Zalzala, etc. and the most disturbing one in terms of displacement of people, destructions is Operation Rah-e-Nijat which is spread in vast area for longer span of time. An estimated 60,000 houses, markets and education institutions have been affected due to ongoing military operation. After returning to their hometowns, the displaced families will not be able to reconstruct their houses with the announced meager amount of Rs 25,000 or 30,000.
The audit and accountability of the fund allocated for the IDPs and their rehabilitation should be done fairly. Politically this area has no representation in the Parliament, and the developmental funds allocated for it are being diverted to other projects.
The unemployed youth is vulnerable to fell easy prey to the extremism. The developmental works and subsequent job creation in the area will contribute in bringing peace in the region. The local workforce should be inducted in maga projects like Gomal Zam Dam which will enable the poor segment of society to earn their livelihood with dignity and respect.
The most devastating impact of the operation is an educational plight of the youth and children where nearly 43 thousands students enrolled in more than four hundred education institutions are deprived of this right. Accordingly, the new generation is going 'lame to the end of life' with psychological impacts on their mind. The government has not made any alternative system to educate these children in the displaced areas. Education emergency with an honest efforts in tribal region may secure the future of this generation. The psychological effects and losses of life in the tribal region are irreparable.
The demand for the release of missing persons is also linked with the ending of operations in tribal belt. Last month, Attorney General Irfan Qadir revealed in front of the Supreme Court by saying “There are about 700 people detained in the tribal areas and they cannot be released until the ongoing military operation in those regions concludes”. If the government issues list of the detained suspected people it would let the families to know about their missing beloved ones for whom they have been searching for years. The detained suspected militant should be given right of free and fair trail.
Military operation is being considered the sole tool to root out militancy from the constitutionally deprived tribal areas, but this panacea is no more a practical phenomenon due to their subsequent miserable effects. Hence most of the problems are caused by the operations in the tribal belt and their solutions are linked with the conclusion of operations in the area. The longstanding operation Rah-e-Nijat should be ended at the earnest so that the people take sigh of relief and comfort.
The writer is a tribal affairs analyst and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org