Pakistan: collateral damage


The current international terrorism calamity is leading its way into global attention once again. In the past, Afghanistan has been habitually accused for much of the terrorist activity around the world, with many of the world leaders considering it to be the hub of terrorism. The situation has since changed. Attention now has been diverted to Afghanistans brotherly neighbor country, Pakistan.

With a population of just over 160 million, Pakistan has for the last 40 years been an integral player in the Asian capital market, exporting large amounts of rice, wheat, cotton and leather goods every year. More significantly, Pakistan has the worlds seventh largest military and was internationally recognized as a nuclear state in 1998, when prime minister at the time Nawaz Sharif launched the Ghauri and Shaheen nuclear missiles in response to Indias own Prithvi missile.

Pakistans governmental system has always been a chaotic structure with constant internal conflicts brought about by overpopulation, heavy international interference, and the actions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan (FATA) in the western provinces.

The FATA area consists of some popular cities such as North and West Waziristan, Bajaur, and Kara Kurram. These are cities which boast some of the most attractive sceneries one can imagine, comparable even to the beautiful landscape of Interlaken, Switzerland. But all that picturesque beauty has recently been sacrificed to make way for anti-aircraft gunships, burnt buildings, and floored rooftops. There is no longer any sight of human life or natural greenery.

The FATA area is suspected to be under the influence of the terrorist organization of Al-Qaida. Due to the recent American invasion, the organization is suspected to have migrated to the FATA region, just a few hundred kilometers from the Afghan border.

The American War-on-Terror has already caused a global crisis not just for the nations attacked by America, but America itself as they experienced a huge economic setback. Sherard Cowper-Coles, a British Commander in Afghanistan, was reported as saying we have no alternative to supporting the United States in Afghanistan, but we should tell them that we want to be part of a winning strategy, not a losing one.

When the attention diverted to Pakistan, General Parvez Musharraf, Pakistani president and chief of army staff at the time, promised the Bush administration that he would not require any assistance from NATO forces, and would rather settle the dilemma with alternative tactics. Those alternative tactics later proved to be the ultimate collateral damage for Pakistani soil. The diagram drawn by Musharrafs hand-picked government officials was to take military action against their own Pakistani nationals in the FATA region. In December 2003, almost 60,000 Pakistani troops were transferred to the FATA region border to demolish the tribal code.

The tribal areas and their code of governance go back to the ruling times of the Mughal dynasty in the South Asian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperor, who ruled the entire region at that time, was unable to impose his authority within the tribal areas lead by the Pashtun tribes. The Pashtun tribes were immensely popular within the entire constituency and known as warriors who would give their lives to protect their territory.

It was not just the Mughal emperors who faced difficulty occupying the Pashtuns tribal areas. During the colonial invasion, the British rulers had a tough time bringing the tribal areas under British control. The British lost over 300 soldiers before they gave up on their efforts of invading the Pashtun tribal areas.

The Pashtuns have always maintained their code of governance and have managed to govern their areas with peace and orderliness; reacting only once when their territory was threatened by the outsiders . This time, the outsiders were their own fellow citizens — the military uniformed soldiers who held the highest regard for the tribal people but were enforced to take action against the innocent Pashtun children and women due to the orders sent by the general headquarters of the Pakistan military. General Musharraf was now officially contributing to the American led war on terror by slaughtering his own fellow Pakistani nationals on one side and Pakistani military soldiers on the other. The Pakistani army has lost more soldiers then American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

Following from this, the Pakistani public reacted vigorously against the Bush administration as well as General Musharrafs regime, which later developed into the cause of disintegration for Musharrafs government.

Pakistan has spent a little over $23 million on ammunition in FATA, but was aided only $12 million by the Bush Administration. Clearly, its not just the citizens and soldiers being sacrificed, it is also a huge economic set back for a country which has claimed huge amounts of IMF loans this year.

The current government in Pakistan is led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) which is co-led by the widower of Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari who was formerly imprisoned for corruption and manslaughter charges. The tribulations inherited by this government has not reached any conclusions. Asif Ali Zardari is famous among the Pakistani population for being a western romancer and he is not just supporting the war on terror but also taking a step forward by allowing American gunships to operate within the sovereign state of Pakistan. Thousands of innocent civilians are killed every day, in comparison to just a few hundreds of terrorists every month.

This FATA invasion of American troops could lead to a much higher conflict, and before things fall out of control, I would suspect yet another martial-law in Pakistan, as there are already visible conflicts between the military and the government of Pakistan. The collateral damage continues until one side calls for a ceasefire, which if history serves right should be the Pakistan army as the Pashtuns have never called for a ceasefire before. Pakistan, as a country, is suffering on all three fronts: the civilians, soldiers, and economically.

  • neelofer asghar fari

    Well written and balanced approach towards the conflict zone in tribal areas.An already underdeveloped area subjected to further tyranny of war and terrorism will not assist any government in eradicating the menace of terrorism. A human approach towards these impoverished people will win their hearts and minds. Sift out the black sheep by garnering human and material development in the impoverished area of the North West Frontier and its tribal areas known for its non violence in pre independence era.

  • Dennis Heny

    Did you attend Queen’s University between 1974 and 1978?