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An on-ground assessment of opinion
 
 
Mazhar Tufail
Saturday, December 25, 2010
From Print Edition
 
 

 

ISLAMABAD: If the government goes for a military operation in the volatile North Waziristan Agency, the political leadership of the country will have to face the music as the politicians will be the prime target of retaliatory attacks by militants, it transpired in conversation with a number of tribal elders in the region.

 

Amid conflicting media reports, particularly those appearing in the US media, about launch of military operation in North Waziristan, the residents of the tribal district are extremely angered and perturbed, this correspondent noted when he travelled this week from Islamabad to NWA via Kurram Agency and Razmak to gather firsthand information about the situation prevailing in the area. The visit was particularly aimed at seeking views of the tribesmen about the situation arising out of a possible military operation. It was noted during the visit that besides the elderly tribesmen, the young people are also seriously worried.

 

One thing which became crystal clear during this visit was that it does not matter to the residents of the tribal areas whether there is a democratic rule or a dictatorial regime. It was noted that the top priority of the tribesmen is to strengthen the tribal system and to stick to the local customs and traditions.

 

Interestingly, one thing which was particularly noted during this visit was that people of NWA have positive opinion about and special affection with the Pakistan Army. Although, the tribesmen and tribal elders of North Waziristan have negative views about General (R) Pervez Musharraf, their views about Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani are positive and believe that he is undoubtedly a combatant general.

 

Perhaps, this perception of General Kayani is because of the extremely brave nature of the tribesmen, as arms are their real life. The people of NWA consider a newborn lucky if the expensive arms are given to him on his birth. Whether the death of a person occurs in a drone strike or one dies a natural death, the women, children and elderly don’t shed tears as they accept it as will of God.

 

The average age of the residents of NWA, having dangerously high mountains and the astonishing mountain passes, is surprisingly much longer than people of any other region of Pakistan. This correspondent met several tribesmen who were 90 or above 90 but they were very active and fit. They strongly believe in Allah and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Religious schools are established in vast compounds where children are imparted only religious education until they become young guys.

 

Whereas the tribesmen of NWA are good religious scholars and have the largest representation in Tableeghi Jamaat, they are also very beautiful and proficient horse riders and their horses move very swiftly in mountain passes. The centuries-old communication means are still used there and mules are used for the purpose. The intelligence system in the region is strong to an astonishing extent. The unique feature of the houses of common tribesmen built 50 years or more ago have internal tunnels.

 

The residents of NWA have relationships across the border in Afghanistan and have very small number of relatives in the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Arms are common and so easy to acquire of which a common Pakistani even can’t think. For their livelihood, the people of NWA depend only on trade in the goods smuggled from Afghanistan and their upward transportation to other parts of Pakistan.

 

These people are completely different from common Pakhtuns. The political administration exists but to a specific level. These tribesmen, who speak Pashto in a pleasing manner, have great respect in their hearts for Lieutenant General (R) Hamid Gul, former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence, and have serious complaints against the political leadership of Pakistan. They have made different companions of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) their role model and they love the Islamic teachings and jihad very much.

 

The most hated countries of the NWA residents are India and the United States. Majority of foreigners in NWA are Chechen and Uzbek Muslims while a small number of Chinese Muslims are also there. These tribesmen, who do not accept any sort of dictation from others, have positive views about the Pakistan Army but have serious complaints against the political leadership.

 

According to them, if any operation is launched in North Waziristan to fulfil the desire of the United States, the politicians, who would support in the parliament any such operation, would be real and easy target for the people of NWA because they don’t know how to forgive and forget.

 

The NWA people have serious complaints against the top leadership of the Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) while they have great respect for the former Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed and incumbent JI head Syed Munawwar Hassan. According to them, only these two leaders raise voice against the US drone attacks.

 

When this correspondent asked some elderly tribesmen that what would happen if a military operation is launched in NWA, they quickly said in that case Pakistan would be no more because the youth of NWA would take revenge from the Pakistani elite in such a manner, which cannot be described in words. During conversation with tribesmen about any operation in NWA, this correspondent noted unanimity of views that no military operation can succeed in their area because of difficult terrain. During the visit, this correspondent noted that if an action by fighter jets and helicopters is not impossible, it is certainly extremely difficult for the fighter jets and helicopters to successfully hit their targets. The terrain is so difficult that even a ground operation also seems impossible as the invading force might suffer colossal loss of lives.

 

The presence of an alien in the area can’t be concealed for a long period and on the basis of this fact, it could be judged easily as to why no foreigner has so far tried to forcibly enter the region. The views of the young tribesmen were very strong and clear that if the Pakistani parliament took a decision meant to please the US authorities, the very existence of the parliament would face a serious threat and how much destruction would occur in Pakistan could be judged only by meeting with the residents of NWA.