Setting Waziristan Ablaze

Tribesmen gather during a protest against military operation in North Waziristan, [Photo January 24, 2008]. Pakistani forces cleared militant strongholds from three areas in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border. According to military sources 40 militants and eight soldiers were killed in the fighting. In North Waziristan where militants are also active, about 2,500 tribesmen protested against the military’s attacks in South Waziristan. Photo by




by Roedad Khan


Note for WoP readers: The extremism in Pakistan especially in the name of sharia’h, jihad, solidarity with Pashtun brethren in Afghanistan, whatever you may call, by whomsoever and whatsoever reason, cannot be exonerated. Yet the way the Zardari government opens a new front in Waziristan too, cannot be called a wise step. The logic of such a move when the military is already tied up in Swat, Dir and Bajaur (from where the news of partial victory do emanate but no confirmed reports that the areas have completely been flushed out of the insurgents) cannot be appreciated on whatsoever ground or reason.

This scribe is neither a military expert nor claims anything doing militaristic, but commonsense dictates opening too many fronts always divides strength and without strength nobody can win. Patriotic valor OK but the price of such valor is too high and only a fool will second such a high cost. This is specially so when the war on terror is taking the shape of Pakistanis-versus-Pakistanis.

The war in Swat, Dir and Bajaur needs to be analyzed in this very perspective. We do recognize this war has to be won and won it must be. To think of losing this battle is not even conceivable; however, we must not forget this battle needs top rated intelligence, intelligence which can help our armed forces to clearly distinguish between a friend and foe. Intermixing of the two would not only make this battle unwinnable but will also create more militancy ultimately forcing our military getting bogged down in different small wars, a task which will outstretch the forces beyond its limits.

We at Wonders of Pakistan raise our voice with fellow blogger and strongly support the military operation against the terrorists in northwest Pakistan who are disguised as ‘Pakistani Taliban’ and are killing Pakistanis while claiming to fight American occupation of Afghanistan. In the post that follows, Mr. Roedad Khan, a former senior bureaucrat, (a Pashtun himself and a staunch Pakistani patriot), makes a valid point here. The high standard of proficiency that the Pakistani military has shown in Swat is not matched by the elected government in Islamabad which fails miserably in handling the influx of refugees.

Considering this yardstick, a military action in Waziristan to flush out a foreign agent like Baitullah Mehsud and his local as well as his reported foreign allies is necessary but the way the matter is being handled, we might end up with a similar or probably even a worse situation.  This article raises a central point: The original problem is not the sanctuaries inside Pakistan. It’s the American failure to achieve peace among all warring factions inside Afghanistan. [ Nayyar ]

Why doesn’t our military leadership learn from history?

They are certainly making history on our western border by waging war against their own countrymen.

The nation is beginning to see the rapidly unfurling consequences of Gen Musharraf’s fateful decision to join the “coalition of the coerced.” Dragged into a proxy war at gunpoint, America’s dreaded war on terror has indisputably arrived on Pakistan’s soil. Pakistan is slipping into a Dantean hell. The belle époque days for us Pakistanis are over. Pakistanis cannot continue deluding themselves by the romantic notion that they could go on living happily and peacefully under the American umbrella. Pakistan stands on the brink of civil war. A perfect storm is looming on the horizon. Fasten your seatbelts. It will be quite a ride. 

The irony is that far from being an autonomous power waging its own parallel war, Pakistan has been reduced to no more than a lackey. Jinnah’s Pakistan, I regret to say, has ceased to be a sovereign, independent state. Today it is not just a “rentier state,” not just a client state, it is a slave state with a puppet government set up by Washington.

 Euripides said: Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.” At a time when Pakistan is extremely ill-prepared for adventurism on any serious scale, with the war in Malakand still not conclusively won and over three million internally displaced persons–men, women and children–living under inhuman conditions in Mardan and Swabi, this government decided to open a second front against its own people in Waziristan. The match is lit, the blaze will soon spread like wildfire throughout the tribal areas and beyond. That is for sure. The decision to launch a military operation in this highly sensitive border region is ill-conceived, ill-advised, ill-timed, and would almost certainly turn into a prolonged bloody conflict and, in time, prove a massive self-inflicted wound.


Today the killing or capturing alive of Baitullah Mehsud has become a top priority for the Pakistani government. Anybody who knows anything about Waziristan will tell you that looking for Baitullah or Osama bin Laden in the rugged mountains is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Baitullah, the central focus of the current American and Pakistani military operation in Waziristan, is not the first warrior to confront the administration in the mountains of Waziristan. The Faqir of Ipi led a similar revolt against the British in Waziristan in 1936. It set Waziristan on fire, and this lasted until after 1947. The British failed to capture Ipi and the operation had to be called off.


(Left) The Fakir of Ipi who led a campaign in Waziristan against the British on the Eve and during the Second World War

In the early years after Waziristan’s annexation, the British maintained only a skeleton administration in the agencies. All this changed in 1919 when they decided to build regular garrisons in Waziristan. Consequently, troop movements became routine, which caused resentment among the tribes. Then came the fateful decision to send troops into the Khaisora valley in November 1936, which transformed Ipi’s agitation into a full-scale uprising almost overnight.


The judgment displayed by the British and the poor intelligence upon which they based their decisions were chiefly to blame for the disasters that followed. This was the last major rebellion in Waziristan which stemmed from an abrupt change of policy. The tribesmen’s unrivalled fighting record, their ability to intervene in Afghan affairs and to involve Afghans in their own affairs, were factors ignored by the British that made Waziristan different from other Frontier areas. This disastrous attempt to “pacify” Waziristan was the last of several major incursions into tribal territory during the hundred years of Britain’s presence in north-west India.


Left: The Flag of Waziristan resistance (1930s).svg

When the British left, Pakistan had reason to be glad that it had inherited a secure North-West Frontier. In September 1947 Mr. Jinnah took a bold decision to reverse the “pacification” policy, withdrew regular troops from Waziristan and entered into new agreements with the tribes. Cunningham, the new governor of the NWFP appointed by Mr. Jinnah was a Frontier expert. His disillusion with the “pacification” policy was complete. “I think that we must now face a complete change of policy. Razmak has been occupied by regular troops for nearly 25 years. Wana for a few years less. The occupation of Waziristan has been a failure. It has not achieved peace or any appreciable economic development. It ties up an unreasonably large number of troops, and for the last 10 years there have been frequent major and minor offences against the troops.” The change in policy produced dramatic results and paid rich dividends.

All this has now changed. Mr. Jinnah’s Waziristan policy, which had stood the test of time, has been reversed under American pressure. Our troops are back in Waziristan in aid of American troops looking for Baitullah Mehsud and bin Laden! The result is a totally unnecessary and avoidable state of armed confrontation between the Army and the tribesmen. Those who know the Frontier are deeply concerned. Our civil and military leadership is playing with fire. By reversing Mr. Jinnah’s Waziristan policy, at the behest of the Americans, they have alienated powerful tribes in Waziristan and unsettled our western border which had remained peaceful since the birth of Pakistan. Pakistan would be well advised to profit from the mistakes of its forerunners in Waziristan and to avoid any shift of policy which cares only for immediate advantage and takes no account of the ultimate effects.

It all started when Gen. Musharraf  succumbed to a telephone “ultimatum” from Washington and promised “unstinted” cooperation to the Americans in the so-called war on terror. The Afghans never stabbed us in the back when we were in trouble and at war with India. No Afghan government was as friendly to Pakistan as the Taliban government. By allowing Americans to use our territory as a platform for bombing Afghanistan, we antagonized the Afghans, especially the majority Pakhtun tribes who live in the Pakhtun belt along our border. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a military government laid the foundation of permanent enmity with the Pakhtuns across the border. A civilian government has now compounded the problem by taking on our own tribesmen in Waziristan.

Map of FATA, a conglomerate of tribal regions called agencies (a legacy of the British Empire). Having remained independent during the British Raj, the Pashtun tribes of FATA fiercely fought for their independence and remained so throughout the Raj. In 1947, after creation of Pakistan, the Qaid offered these tribes complete autonomy as a result of which they pledged their allegiance to Pakistan.

Said Voltaire: “I fear that in this world one must be either hammer or anvil, for it is indeed a lucky man who escapes the alternatives.” Waziristan has been on the anvil for centuries. The Mehsud and Wazir tribes living there are no strangers to foreign military interventions in their country. On each occasion the tribes and the mountains won a strategic victory, the troops were forced to withdraw back into the plains of the Indus Valley. The British soon learned that you can annex land but not people.

As they say, “it is a wide road that leads to war and only a narrow path that leads home again.” In the early 1900s, a crusty British general, Andrew Skeen, wrote a guide to military operations in the Pakhtun tribal belt. His first piece of advice: “When planning a military expedition into Pashtun Tribal areas, the first thing you must plan is your retreat. All expeditions into this area sooner or later end in retreat under fire.” Let us hope the current expedition ends differently.

Decision-making in today’s Pakistan is bizarre. Many questions swirl. Were other options available, only to be peremptorily rejected? Who decided to plunge Pakistan into a guerrilla war raising the spectre of a war on two fronts dreaded by military strategists and the general public alike? Who took the final decision to open a second front in Waziristan? The president? The prime minister? The cabinet?  The Parliament? The Army? Who decides questions of war and peace in this country? In public perception, everything points to one inescapable conclusion: that the decision to open a second front in Waziristan was not an internal decision. It was taken in response to irresistible pressure from the United States.

Today we are experiencing a failure of leadership that bodes ill for the country. Nobody knows who is in command. The result is the mess that we are in today. How will it turn out to be tomorrow? “The morrow, as always, is with the Fates.” One is reminded of Stalin’s angry expletive which he uttered when the German army was only a few miles from Moscow and the very survival of the Soviet Union hung in the balance.

“The great Lenin left us a great country,” Stalin told Mikoyan, “and we, his successors, have … up.” This is precisely what we have done to the great country left behind by Jinnah.

 The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.



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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] This cup of tea was served by: Wonders of Pakistan […]

  2. […] Setting Waziristan Ablaze « Wonders of Pakistan Tags: arrived-on-pakistan, handed-out, keeping-the-prizes, pakistan, pakistanis, poque-days, […]

  3. Tomorrow what is going to happen but it is very clear that today we are in a very difficult situation. Pakistan and America both have to take action in a right direction for ensuring peace in the region and finally peace for the rest of the world. Loss of life has to keep at lowet edge as the operation will last many more years. There is no immidiate sollution to the problem. In the mean time they should also take serious initiatives to resolve Israiel and kashmir problem as well

  4. You hypocrites – you hate the Pashtun people. Pakistan will have order and there will be no more Taliban. Criminal Taliban operating out of Afghanistan should beware: JUSTICE is coming also to Afghanistan.

    You cannot hide from your own bloody murders and extortions. You send bombers to kill innocent Pakistanis because you hate all men.

    Your twisted words and propaganda will not stop the noble army of Pakistan.

    • you are supposed 2 luk in the historyof waziristanies then it will b easy 2 understand their nature 4 u

  5. Chawala ji !……. jai Ho to going to a noble army?

  6. ……to going to be a noble army. This is the turn in our history in making.

  7. There are about a million Pashtuns in Pashtunistan who are armed to the teeth and the Pakistani army has never been able to face them direclty like face to face; therefore the Pakistani army and its ISI and its puppet government are all for dollars and willing to kill innocent Pashtuns anytime. The British might think that they were the best empire in the world and that one of their achievements was a creation of a new state – Pakistan, but they don’t see the reality – and that is the Pashtuns. No matter how much you bomb the Pashtuns in Afghanistan by the US/NATO army or by the Pakistani army and their smile to the Pentagon’s programme – unmanned drone war – they will never win the war nor will they make it a positive outcome for the West nor for Pakistan. Taliban are winning in Afghanistan and Pashtuns in Pashtunistan slowly creeping on their real enemy which is the dollar-hungry Pakistani army.

    • I‘m sorry, I have to differ with you. Its neither the army nor the ISI who get dollars. Its either the political government in Islamabad or the military head & the generals who forcibly occupy the state and take dollars. Having seen so many military governments in Pakistan, I like any other Pakistani abhor a military government in our country, yet ironically its with the blessings of the west chiefly the USA that our political leaders be they the civvies or in the khakis, that they come to power. Once they are there they serve in the best interests of their paymasters. A poor Pakistani, whether he is a civilian or an ordinary soldier in the Pak army doesn’t get a single cent out of this. As regards your contention that they created the state of Pakistan, there might have been geostrategic considerations that some circles in the British Empire indirectly supported the Pakistan movement, yet by and large, the policies of the All India Congress rather thrusted the Qaid towards an independent state called Pakistan.

  8. waziristan

  9. @ mr farooq khan , Convert the entire Pakistan as an independent sovereign State called Waziristan .We are here to recognise it first as the Pakistan in the present state can not co exist with us .

  10. The above conclusion has been arrived at after judging ground realities associated with radical Islam and its impact on the librals of all religions Its cirtainly not merely an Indo-Pak or Pak-US problem but having a global dimension ,therefore has to be handled at any cost .We can not ignore it any more Pak army should be given all required support to serve the interests of librals .

  11. iam sadam hussain wazir of wana mughal khel .I condole with mian iftekhar hussain on death of his son. i give message to asif kaka khel,rafiqe and my friend akhtar

    • I never met Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister of the Govt. of Khyber PK province (KPKP); have however, seen him often on local TV channels, making lengthy speeches against religious extremists; who rightly or wrongly call themselves the followers of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
      Frankly speaking, his lengthy speeches on electronic and the print media appeared to me more as rhetoric from a “mouthpiece” of the ANP Govt. of the KPKP than a statesman’s statements. BUT with the great personal tragedy that he met – losing his only son to the murderous lust of a brutal lot in the TTP and the way he so courageously faced this tragedy saying it had been all a part of the overall tragic loss of so many fathers in the KPKP who likewise lost their sons; and vowed to fight these murderers whatever the cost.
      ”We would not surrender to these barbarians who call themselves Muslims. “Its shame for all of us that these so called Muslims don’t even spare the children, the women and the old”, said he. “No Pakistani, no Muslim, no Pakhtun, never would or could ever think of killing the young sons of their fellow Pakhtuns, fellow Muslims or fellow Pakistanis”, continued the KPKP information minister. He further said, he would not have deterred from sacrificing more sons if it only could have saved our country, our homeland.
      Interestingly, in contrast to culture infested with nepotism and a dynasty style of politics in Pakistan, nobody had ever known about his only son who was working on quite an ordinary post in the Peshawar Dev. Authority. I know it could have never been a problem for him to get his son accommodated at a high slot job because here in this land of the pure, it is the privilege of a chosen few to get the high perk jobs, contracts [carrying extraordinary profits] and other favors from the state because ours is a country where individuals in power prosper at the expense of the state. Not only are they the blessed ones of the earth but enjoy their life as ‘demigods’ too.
      Seen in this context Mian Iftikhar seemed to me from another planet and that’s what makes me offer him this tribute for we in Pakistan are so disappointed from our earthly men in power that only the creatures from other planets seem to us the singular ray of hope. Mian Iftikhar is definitely one such creature who can perhaps be the harbinger of some light in this age of darkness, darkness that has befallen over dear homeland almost everywhere.
      His stark exposure of TTP barbarism, the murderers who do not spare even women and children, and that has earned him an unwavering respect of not only the people of the KPKP, but also of the whole of Pakistan. The barbarism exhibited by these hard core criminals [who unfortunately pose themselves as “flag bearers of Islam”] has put the head of every Pakistani in shame. We tolerated these criminals under the guise of “holy warriors of Islam” and not only did we tolerate, we nurtured them too.
      Unfortunately this Frankenstein, these holy warriors of Islam were created by our great friend and ally, the United States of America and we as agents of our Pentagon masters, ourselves acted as America’s surrogates to nurture, train and enable them fight a holy war against the former USSR. In the post 1991 period they started holy wars amongst themselves and now they are fighting their holy war against us
      There are exceptions though, and there are such freedom fighters too who are sincere in their fight for an Islamic Afghanistan [Personally I do not appreciate their hard version of Islam, yet I do feel they are not the monsters that the western media try to portray them before us].
      Pity that our friends in the west do not understand the difference between the Taliban fighting against their country’s occupation by the United States and its allies and the Taliban of Pakistan who have their agenda of killing Muslims [Shias, Ahmadis, Barelvis and even the Deobandi sect adherents also who like these TTP walas are believers in the same sect] and non Muslims alike and that too in the name of a peaceful religion such as Islam.
      Our western friends always ask the Pakistan Army to kill every Taliban irrespective of the fact who are the Taliban fighting against their occupation of Afghanistan and the one of TTP who kill their own brothers in faith. [Or may be they don’t even want to understand the difference!] It is this inability of theirs that makes them demand from Pakistan always “TO DO MORE”.
      At this grave hour of our history when one tragedy after another befalls us, either in name of terrorism or in the shape of deadly floods that have eaten more than 1400 lives all over Pakistan, Mian iftikhar Hussain is the one who has set an example for our big three.
      Dear Mian iftkhar Hussain!
      In these moments of despair and distress, not only have you raised our head in pride, as a Pakistani, as a Pakhtun and as a Muslim, but also put our big three to shame, [it’s another matter whether shame for these shameless would have any value at all!
      Mian Sahib!
      The whole nation salutes you from the core of its heart, for you have done what neither could our president, the prime minister not even Mian Nawaz Sharif could do [to take the trouble of visiting the hapless, helpless people fighting for life all over Pakistan.
      P. S.
      Just after I had completed writing this comment, I watched on the TV Mian Nawaz Sharif visited Nowshera, which is one of the worst affected districts in the KPKP. For Mian Nawaz Sharif, I would say
      “Dair lagi aanay main tumko,
      Shukr hae phir bhi aayay tau”.

  12. Dr. Sahib , the only way left before Pakistan to get out from the present mess is to facilitate the army in its mission to unarmed all the all citizen of Pakistan in one strok. The army should be given power to deal firmly with all those who are not willing to surrender .No one are serving the interests of Islam . Dont allow any one to interefear in the internal affairs of India including Kashmir ,it is only then your army can move in a right direction with the help of international support .

  13. […] 1. It is time we changed the bowler 2. Death from the sky 3. A star has arisen 4. Years that the locust hath eaten 5. Between Hope and Fear [2 of 2] 6. At a fork in the road 7. Revolution’s domino effect 8. Supreme Court – The only Ray of Hope 9. Cry, The beloved Pakistan 10. Democracy in Pakistan 11. La Patrie en Danger. Time to Speak 12. August 14, 2009 – What was there to Celebrate? 12 Setting Waziristan Ablaze […]

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