The unanimous resolution at the All Parties Conference on September 29th made it clear to the United States that Pakistan will not succumb to the increasing American pressure for launching a military operation against the Haqqani network which they say is involved in attacking US interests in Afghanistan from the Pakistani soil. The declaration that carries the signatures of the representatives from the 58 political parties, on the other hand, seems a mild confession of the past flawed military operations that were launched against the militants from time to time. These military operations could hardly serve the cause. Rather, it added more to the miseries of the people by inflicting heavy damages to their lives, property and honor. Beside the human losses that has reached up to 36000 with more than five thousands security men, the material losses has crossed the figure of 68 billion dollars. In October 2007, a military operation was launched against the militants in North Waziristan that forced close to 80,000 people to flee the area for safer places in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Kohat and Peshawar, however; the operation that lasted for one month was followed by a peace agreement. February 2008 saw another operation against the militants in South Waziristan. The operation Zalzala (earthquake) against the Baitullah Mahsud-led militia displaced over one hundred and fifty thousand people from their homes. The later half of the year saw another military operation against the Maulana Faqir Muhammad-led militant Taliban in Bajaur agency. Launched in August 2008 with 8000 boots on the ground, the operation Sherdil (lion heart) made a huge population of the densely populated Bajaur agency entered into the refugee camps in Dir, Peshawar and Nowshera. Out of 350000 displaced persons, more than half of its total was able to find places with host families in Swat, Mardan, Peshawar, Dir and Buner districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. After the prevailing tension on its borders with Bajaur Agency and specially the Lal Masjid episode in July 2007, the militants in Mohmand agency too came to the surface. The militants in the agency with Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid in the lead, were next to get its authority recognized by seizing a mosque in the area and naming it after Lal Masjid. This made the army launch an operation in the Safi tehsil of Mohamnd area making around 230000 people to flee the area that was followed by another small scale military operation with IDPs rushing to the Danishkol and Nahaqi camps inside the agency. The neighboring Khyber agency witnessed a series of military operations during the last few years. The consecutive operations named Daraghlam (Here I come), Bya Daraghlam (Here I come again) and Khwakh Ba De Sham (You will like me) against the mighty Mangal Bagh (Lashkar-e-Islam) and his rival militant groups – the Ansar-Ul-Islam and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice by Qazi Mehboob Ul Haq and Haji Namdar (now its new Chief Haji Niaz Gul) respectively forced thousands of the people to flee the troubled Bara area, the base of the Bus conductor-turned militant commander, and settle down in the Jalozai camp to share the bitter experiences of life with their fellow IDPs from Mohmand and Bajaur Agency. Rah-e-Nijat was the next spell of military operations that was launched in South Waziristan in October 2009 to displace close to 300000 residents. These people were mostly accommodated in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan. A handful of them preferred to move towards Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Karachi. Over 200000 people were displaced as a result of the on-going military operation in Orakzai Agency initiated in December 2009 following the influx of the militants from South Waziristan. The tension-riddled Kurram Agency that attracted boots for a crackdown on the miscreants saw a military operation in the picturesque valley that ended up with no good results. The leader of the TTP Kurram agency chapter, Fazal Saeed Haqqani was able to save his skin by parting ways with the parent organization and forming his own faction, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Islami Pakistan (TTIP) just a day before the launch of the military operation in June this year. Most of the people from the lower and central Kurram who got displaced are yet to be relocated with the prime objective of the operation – the opening of the Thall-Parachinar road – is yet to be achieved.
The critiques of the military operations believe that these military offensives have never been focused and targeted hence causing more damage to the civilians than the militants.
The critiques of the military operations have welcomed the shift in the government’s policy to give peace a chance through the dialogue process.
Though, the past experiences show that the policy of engagement too had hardly any success towards attaining durable peace in the area. A glance at the previous deals reveals that it only provided a breathing space to the militants to groom with confidence and get their authority recognized by the party to the issue. The Shakai Agreement of 2004 with Nek Muhammad Wazir followed by the February and October 2005 agreements with the Baitullah Mahsud-led militias and then in North Waziristan, all ended up in recognizing the militant’s strength and authority. The breathing space gave the militants an opportunity to build new training camps, recruit young zealots and prepare fresh armed brigades for launching fresh offensives.
However, the fault does not lie in the agreement itself, the fault, rather lies in the mechanism of the agreements. The main reason behind the failure was that these agreements were signed between the army and the militants instead of the government and the tribes. So the militant commanders who were instrumental in striking these deals became the monster characters and the tribe’s role went into the background. This made a number of militant commanders like Maulvi Abbas, Maulvi Sharif, Javed Karmazkhel and Abdul Aziz get themselves registered as the leading militant commanders.
This move encouraged many more to raise armed groups and enjoy power, status and recognition. For example Sra Skarwata was a group of the hashish users who got organized under its head, Ilyas Khan, a drug addict, to start their activities as a militant group in South Waziristan to enjoy status, authority, power and respect in the traditional tribal society.
Giving peace a chance through the dialogues is a welcome move. But before embarking upon this, a well defined, well designed and well thought-out plan and program and of course a clear line of action be kept in place with a consistent approach ahead. Secondly, there has never been enforcing machinery in the past to get the deals implemented in letters and spirit. Each time each party has broken the deal on its own sweet will.
Forceful machinery, acceptable to all the parties to dispute, should thoroughly oversee the progress made in the process to make sure things are moving in the right direction.
The author heads FATA Research Center (FRC) in Islamabad. Email; firstname.lastname@example.org