South Waziristan operation: The fallout worsens

“With blood and terror all around, the public and the government might want to consider yet another deal with the militants – just to stop the bleeding, if nothing else.”

By Qurat ul ain Siddiqui

(November 02, Karachi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Pakistan is in a state of war – a war which is likely to continue and cause more and more casualties across the troubled state. While Pakistan’s fight against terrorism rages on in Waziristan, a region known for being a ‘valley of death’ for whoever has wanted to invade it in the past, two blasts in the cities of Rawalpindi and Lahore have broken the relative lull in terrorist activities.

Monday’s blast in Rawalpindi has killed at least 30 people, mostly civilians, in the garrison city and at least 45 people have been injured. The blast that struck a police check post in Lahore has injured at least 20 up till now.

While the average Pakistani citizen tries to struggle through the conflict that is slowly becoming a way of life in parts of the country, the war between the militants and the Pakistani state has now entered a rather advanced phase – a phase in which targeting civilians has become kosher. The recent suicide attack in Peshawar that led to 118 deaths is testimony to this.

The relatively new face of this insurgency is the emergence of the Punjabi Taliban, most of whom come from southern Punjab, the province’s poorest and most under-developed region. It is also in this region where Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), Lashkar-i-Taiba (LT), Jaish-i-Mohammad (JM) and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) have been thoroughly entrenched for many years. And in the current context, the nerve centre of the Punjabi Taliban leads directly to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in Waziristan. And now that the seat of the insurgency is under attack, the terrorists’ sleeper cells elsewhere, including in south Punjab, have been activated.

As terrorists continue to inflict casualties on the state and the citizens, the army is continually claiming gains inside South Waziristan. While many believed the government and the military – clearly inefficient at ensuring internal security – would strike a deal with the Tehrik-i-Taliban militants, the security forces have secured Kotkai and Kaniguram. The town of Kanigurram has been an important operational centre for the Waziristan Taliban. But while its capture to some extent signals toward a success that the military operation may eventually achieve, the army’s capability to eliminate the militants and thereby sustain that success is what many have been hoping for.

(Photo: A policeman in a bullet-proof vest stands as he controls people, fleeing a military offensive in South Waziristan, as they queue at a distribution point for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dera Ismail Khan, located in Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province, November 2, 2009. Pakistani soldiers are zeroing in on two major Taliban sanctuaries in their South Waziristan bastion as government forces pressed ahead with their offensive in the lawless tribal region on the Afghan border. - AFP)

“We should leave all other fronts and focus completely on making the operation in South Waziristan a success,” a source in the military, requesting anonymity, opined. “There is no going back now. There can’t be. The country no longer has a choice in the matter. We no longer have a choice in the matter.”

What’s troubling is that as the fall out from South Waziristan worsens and takes its toll on the average Pakistani, the public support that the government managed to accomplish in
this regard may change its course. With blood and terror all around, the public and the government might want to consider yet another deal with the militants – just to stop the bleeding, if nothing else.

(Qurat ul ain Siddiqui is a journalist based in Pakistan. Her work focuses on terrorism and separatist movements inside Pakistan. She can be contacted at )
-Sri Lanka Guardian