Under pressure from the US, the Pakistani military has launched massive strikes on North Waziristan in what is termed as going after “foreign terrorists” from Uzbekistan. How do they distinguish between foreign and local militants? Thousands of people--women, children and the elderly--have started fleeing their homes and have been turned into refugees. Many have fled to neighboring Afghanistan.
Tuesday June 17, 2014, 15:53 DST
Following the Taliban’s brazen attack on Karachi Airport, the Pakistani government has launched a fierce attack on North Waziristan. According to media reports, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan’s top military brass (including Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan) agreed to military operations in a meeting.
The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing, reported that Pakistani fighter jets struck nearly eight militant hideouts in North Waziristan “killing over 50 suspected foreign militants.” Fresh air strikes early on Tuesday (June 17) targeted three Taliban strongholds in the town of Mir Ali in the North Waziristan area and killed 25 of the militants, according to official statements, raising the total insurgent death toll to 201.
ISPR sources declared that the suspected mastermind of Karachi airport attack had been killed during the operation and a huge cache of arms and ammunition were destroyed. The strikes took place in the Boya tehsil, Degan forests and Datta Khel tehsil of North Waziristan.
Pakistani media reports on the strikes 0said the casualties have been identified as “foreign-born, Uzbek” militants who were operating from camps set up in North Waziristan. No doubt this supports the narrative of a strong Pakistani military that is countering threats led by dangerous foreigners inside Pakistani soil (since the Pakistani army signed onto the “terrorism narrative,” the dangerous foreigners are represented as ‘terrorists’ rather than Indians etc.
The US has been urging Pakistan to step up operations in North Waziristan, and took the lead on this renewed military assault on the region—on Wednesday, June 11, the US carried out its own drone strikes in the region.
Despite the glowing reports of “Uzbek foreigners” who have been killed on Pakistani soil, it is far more likely that the casualties included a high number of civilians and villagers. Thousands of people have fled across the border into the Gorbaz district of Afghanistan’s Khost province, according to local officials there, and are being given food and aid.
Others have made their way to the town of Bannu in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 10 kilometres to the east of the border with North Waziristan. Local security officials in the area report that the death toll is far higher than the numbers being cited by the Pakistan army. Refugees from this latest bout of state-inflicted violence are anxiously waiting for news of family members left behind in North Waziristan.
To add to the drama, Nawaz Sharif has urged current Afghan President Hamid Karzai to seal Afghanistan’s borders with Pakistan in order to prevent people from fleeing across the border. In the narrative being given, this will stop terrorists from escaping over the Afghanistan border. However, it is clear that this move is calculated to increase the terror being inflicted on the populations of Pakistan’s battered tribal region in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.