As US Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) commonly known as Drones attacks have significantly increased in recent weeks and have killed a large number of insurgents, Pakistani military high command is mulling launching the long-awaited North Waziristan offensive against the Taliban insurgents. Although, Pakistani military authorities have clarified that no final decision regarding the NWA offensive has been taken as yet by the military high-ups. These authorities further informed the media recently that a decision would be made once political leadership asked for while keeping in view the security and political interest of the country.
However, according to recent reports by United States media Pakistan is pondering over the pros and cons of North Waziristan offensive and may arrive at a final decision sooner rather than later. NWA for years has been considered as the most important base and redoubt of Afghan and Pakistan insurgent groups as well as Al Qaeda fighters. US has been demanding Pakistan for launching a full-fledge offensive against the insurgents specifically Haqqani Network, which the former has charged for orchestrating most of the high-profile attacks in connivance with Pakistani intelligence agencies on the US and other international coalitions forces stationed in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been vociferously refuting the allegations and instead has asked Washington for proofs for its officials’ support to the Haqqani Network. However, Islamabad has not completely denied the presence of sanctuaries and hideouts of local, regional and global terrorist networks in NWA including that of Haqqani Network. Although it has simultaneously taken the position that as the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in North Waziristan and elsewhere in FATA is so difficult to man therefore, fighters of these networks have been moving to and fro across the border; indeed a rational position.
Failing to convince Pakistan so far to launch the offensive in NWA, the US has been making extensive use of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) or Predator drones to target the Al Qaeda and Haqqani Network fighters in NWA. The drone attacks making repeated violation of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty as well as on the ascendance insurgent attacks and their regrouping seemingly have pressured Pakistan military high command to rethink launching of the long-awaited NWA offensive.
Therefore, amidst the rumours of probable offensive in the tribal district of NWA a large number of people have already started fleeing their homes for safer places in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to escape losses of man and material. There are also reports that the main tribe of NWA Utmanzai Wazir elders have decided to migrate en masse to Afghanistan in case the military launch the offensive.
Now if Pakistan launches an operation in NWA there are many disadvantages than advantages of such an offensive. First, of all Pakistan would estrange pro-government Bahadur group. Secondly, as Bahadur group basically derives its strength from the Utmanzai Wazir tribe of North Waziristan, this offensive would further strengthen the alliance of the tribal militants with that of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribal militants led by Haji Nazeer in neighbouring South Waziristan. The centuries-old tribal and Pakhtoon solidarity would make the situation worse for Pakistan forces and they would have to fight the combined strength of Waziri tribes in both NWA and SWA. Thirdly and most importantly, in case of an offensive in NWA, Bahadur group would go close to the TTP, with which it has had turbulent relationship. This may result in the revival of stillborn Shura-Ittahdul Mujahideen, formed in 2009 by Haji Nazir Group, Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group and Baitullah Mehsud led TTP. As the aim of the first two and the latter were divergent the alliance, to the very fortune of Pakistan, could not take off. In case Bahadur group get the support of TTP, of which there are very strong chances as already the TTP spokesman, Ihsanullah Ihsan, has warned against the NWA offensive and has vowed to have prepared specially trained suicide attackers to strike Pakistani forces, this would be disastrous for Pakistan.
The only advantage of the NWA in the present situation would be that if the Pakistani security forces in case are able to trounce the different militant terrorist groups it would restore the state writ in the district which since long has been eroded. Keeping this in view it is now up to the military authorities what to do.
Here it may be recalled that Pakistani authorities entered into a peace deal with local militants in September 2006 after which there has been a relative peace in the region. However, the peace deal inked under the administration of former Governor Lt. General Ali Jan Aurakzai, the key man of President General Musharraf to deal FATA mess, almost recognized the control of the militants over NWA.
Before signing the agreement the militants called local Taliban had been at war with Pakistani security forces for years. At the time of the truce it was termed as an agreement for establishing permanent ‘peace’ in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). The terms of the agreement were kept secret but later certain journalists got hold of them. Under the terms Al Qaeda-linked militants had been allowed to live in North Waziristan as long as they pledge to remain peaceful; however, all foreigners had to leave the area including the Al Qaeda militants. Other key provisions of the agreement included that no parallel government of suspected Taliban militants would be tolerated and that the Utmanzai Wazir tribes would not attack security personnel or government employees and no target killings would be initiated; violator would have to pay a fine of Rs 50 million.
Taking a cursory look at the developments in the last six years in NWA the militants have violated all the provisions of the agreement almost at will. Foreign militants instead of leaving the area thronged in a large numbers. This could be easily testified by almost every resident of NWA as well as from the militants which got killed in numerous US drone attacks. These militants included many Al Qaeda rank and files. Although Utmanzai Wazir tribes cannot be held responsible for this sordid situation because they have been powerless in the face of very strong presence of armed- to-the-teeth foreign and local militants as these militants have had kept the whole population hostage and any resistance has been curbed ferociously.
Despite of these violations, Pakistan ill-afford to launch the NWA operation against militants due to the above-mentioned disadvantages.
(The writer is an independent political analyst and researcher specializing in Political-Economy and religious extremism and terrorism: email@example.com)
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