NationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 14

A new wave of terrorism in Waziristan

A new wave of terrorism has started since the beginning of the last month or so in the formerly volatile region of Waziristan, raising alarm bells regarding the regrouping of merchants of violence. In a recent spate of violence, several people, including women, were killed by terrorists, sending shock waves within the region as peace had been restored after over a decade of violence by terrorists, resulting in the killing of hundreds of thousands of local people.

In the most recent terrorist attack on February 22, four women workers of a vocational training centre, run by a Non-Governmental Organisation, were killed while travelling in a vehicle in Ipi village of the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan district. The women, Naheed Bibi, Irshad Bibi, Ayesha Bibi and Javeria Bibi, worked as handicraft trainers for a local NGO, Sabawoon. On the same day, eight people were kidnapped while one was killed when he resisted the bid in the Shewa area of North Waziristan. The kidnapped included a government official, a lawyer, an engineer and an official of the Health Department. Earlier on February 18, five soldiers were martyred and another was injured when terrorists attacked a security check-post in the Sara Rogha area of South Waziristan tribal district late in the night. The martyred soldiers belonged to the 223 Wing of Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force, which has been fighting militants in the tribal districts. Officials said the terrorists had used light and heavy weapons in the attack. No group accepted responsibility for the attack. However, after some time, the defunct Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for it. It may be mentioned that Sara Rogha had been cleared of terrorists after the security forces conducted Operation Rah-e-Nijat in 2009. It is also important to note that the recent attacks have taken place on the security forces in the areas of Ahmadzai Wazir and Mehsud tribes of South Waziristan district. These are two largest and influential tribes of South Waziristan. On February 11, four soldiers were martyred after terrorists opened fire on a security forces post in Makeen, South Waziristan. The Pakistani troops also responded promptly and killed four terrorists.

The situation in South Waziristan got so volatile that the district administration had to clamp a curfew on February 16 on Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan tribal district, and surrounding areas for an indefinite period amid a search operation for the perpetrators of the attack on the security forces.

Noticeably, armed men had set up a den in Wana, naming it a “peace committee.” After the imposition of the curfew, armed men of the “peace committees” had to close their offices in Wana. The residents of Azam Warsak near Wana demonstrated against the search of houses and the curfew. Importantly, the law-enforcement agencies carried a house-to-house operation in villages. According to media reports, local officials said the security forces also raided a settlement of Afghan nationals in the northern parts of Wana town and recovered weapons and ammunition. Hundreds of Afghan families had been living in the area illegally. The government had closed registered and unregistered refugee camps in the erstwhile FATA in the first half of 2000 and refugees were left on their own to relocate to the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This is a clear proof that Afghan citizens in Pakistan are a grave security threat to the country and its people. In fact, we have been consistently analyzing in these pages and lines that Afghan refugees have been a grave security problem for the country. A large number of refugees have been used as “tactical assets” by anti-Pakistan Afghan and India intelligence agencies to create conflicts and problems in Pakistan, particularly in Pakhtun border areas.

This is high time that the government authorities and security forces came up with a comprehensive strategy and one believes that they must be working on it. Consistency in stability and peace in Waziristan is critical for the overall security of the country. If we look at the history of terrorism in Pakistan, it was the Waziristan region in 2004, wherefrom the first incidence of terrorism had started. In fact, it was the Azam Warsak area of South Waziristan where the first terrorist attack on Pakistani soldiers had been made. Since then, it has been an extremely volatile area where a lot of bloodshed has taken place. Above all, South Waziristan was the birthplace of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the deadliest terrorist group in Pakistan history. Both Baitullah Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud, the most ferocious terrorist figures of Pakistan, belonged to South Waziristan. Military operations, including Rahi-e-Nijat, Radd-ul-Fassad and Zarb-e-Azb, killed many terrorists and dismantled their networks. However, it is a fact that not all terrorists and their foot soldiers, who have been part of the TTP or other terrorist or militant organisations, like the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group of the Taliban, could be eliminated. They returned to their normal life after the restoration of peace in Waziristan. In the situation, the governmental authorities should have concentrated on the de-radicalisation and re-integration components of anti-terrorism strategies along with the developmental component of the anti-terrorism strategy. The authorities have focused on the development aspect of the anti-terrorism strategy and in this regard several development projects have been carried out in both South and North Waziristan districts. However, what has been lacking on the government’s part is the de-radicalisation and re-integration of the former members or militant and terrorist groups. A successful anti-terrorism strategy is all-encompassing and holistic. This is what we have learnt from such strategies across the world. Unless the militants and terrorists are demobilised, de-radicalised and re-integrated they would continue to be a threat as they can regroup and resurge any time. This is what appears to be happening in Waziristan.

It is also important to note that demobilisation, de-radicalisation and re-integration must be meaningful. In this regard, psychologists must be used extensively along with Ulema to tell the members of terrorist and militant groups that their former ways of life were self-destructive and profoundly sinful. Therefore, they have to mend their ways. Development projects are just part of the strategy for consistent peace and security in Waziristan. The state authorities have been focusing on it because such projects are more visible and concrete, however, human actions, including terrorism, have a lot to do with their internal psychological make-up and this has to be concentrated upon.