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Anger in Pakistan as government proves unable to respond to US attacks on villages

Zia Sarhadi

The subservience of Pakistan’s rulers was again displayed on January 13: the US bombed a border village in Pakistan's Bajaur Agency, killing 18 civilians, six of them children. Far from confronting America's state terrorism, Pakistani officials from general Pervez Musharraf down proffered lame excuses: "foreign terrorists" were the intended target, for instance. In particular, they claimed that Ayman al-Zawahiri was a guest at one of the houses for an Eid al-Adha celebration in Damadola village. Initially the Pakistani government issued contradictory statements. While speaking to officials in Sawabi in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on January 14, Musharraf said the matter was being "investigated"; later Aftab Sherpao, his interior minister, said that at least five foreigners had been killed, but that their bodies had been pulled out of the rubble and taken away by their supporters. He offered no evidence to support his claim.

Neither the distraught villagers nor Sahibzada Haroon Rashid, member of the National Assembly for the area, believed this story. Haroon Rashid told the Associated Press that a drone-plane had circled the village before firing 10 missiles and flattening an area a hundred metres across. The following morning at least 10,000 people demonstrated in Khaar, the central town in Bajaur, against US state terrorism and Musharraf's subservience to it. There were protests throughout Pakistan, including a huge rally in Karachi; other rallies were held in Lahore,Islamabad and Peshawar to denounce the US government and its local puppets. In Bajaur Agency, demonstrators attacked a US-backed non-governmental organization, BEST, and smashed computers and furniture. The office of an Italian aid-group, Intersos, was also smashed.

In order to assuage public anger, Shaikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan's information minister, told the Associated Press on January 14 that the government wanted "to assure the people we will not allow such incidents to reoccur", but he is regarded by many as a clown, so few Pakistanis take his pronouncements seriously. This was Shaikh Rashid's second statement in as many weeks in which Pakistan condemned American attacks on its soil. Eight people, some of them women and children, were killed on January 7 when US missiles destroyed the house of a religious leader in North Waziristan, close to the Afghan border. Pakistan lodged a protest with US forces two days later; the US's contemptuous response was the missile strike on Damadola village. In December an American missile strike had killed Hamza Rabia in the same area of North Waziristan; US officials alleged that he was al Qa'ida's operations commander. Although Pakistan claims that it does not allow American forces to operate on its territory, US missile attacks continue to kill civilians on its side of the border.

American officials have shown no remorse whatsoever about any of these deaths. White House spokesman Scott McLellan has said that the US will continue to attack "terrorists" wherever it finds them. He has refused to admit that any civilians have been killed in the missile strikes. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, on her way to Liberia, bristled at the suggestion that the US could be doing any wrong. She stated bluntly that both the people and government of Pakistan must understand that this is a war against terrorism and that Washington is not going to deal with terrorists softly. Her message to Musharraf was that he should get in line and know his place. Rice need not have been so forthright; Musharraf knows he owes his position as president of Pakistan to the US. That is why he has made subservience to the US the central plank of his policy.

Despite the fact that it was the Americans who committed a war crime—or a series of war crimes—against the people of Pakistan, Musharraf sent Shaukat Aziz, his prime minister, to Washington on January 17 to assure the Americans that Islamabad will remain faithful to the US no matter how many civilians are killed. Neither Musharraf nor his government can imagine any existence outside the US cosmos. Even the Pakistan army has been killing Pakistanis, both in Waziristan and in Baluchistan. Since March 2004 the Pakistan army has been waging a vicious war against tribesmen in North Waziristan at the behest of the US. And since last November Baluchistan has been on fire, the army again doing what it does best: killing the citizens of its own political masters.

There is now great resentment against the army throughout Pakistan, although this was not always the case, because of its constant interference in politics. Because of their officers' total subservience to the US, hatred of the US has begun to spread through the rank and file of Pakistan's army as well. Nor has the army (or indeed the navy or air-force) given a good account of itself on the battlefield, despite consuming most of the country's resources. In several wars against India, the Pakistani military machine has been badly mauled, despite official propaganda in which the government claimed that the military had won imaginary battles. After suffering repeated humiliations, it has decided to surrender totally to India under the guise of the peace process. People trained all their lives to wage war and kill or be killed have suddenly become ‘peaceniks'. They sate their lust for killing by turning their guns on their own people. Never before has any military betrayed its people as profoundly as has the Pakistani killing machine. History will pass a very harsh judgement against it, but people who have sold their souls do not care for history's verdict. They live for today; now even that is no longer assured. Such is the plight of those who have lost all self-respect.

The Bajaur missile strike will not be the last of its kind; Pakistan is now as much under US military occupation as are Iraq or Afghanistan.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 12

Muharram 02, 14272006-02-01

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