Pakistan, military, Taliban, refugees, Naeem Sahoutara

Since June 18, the Pakistani military has bombarded the North Waziristan tribal area in an operation that officials say has flushed out militants responsible for attacks on both sides of the Pakistani-Afghan border.

The Pakistani government has named it -- Operation Zarb-e-Azb – after the sword of the Prophet Muhammad. The aim it says is to destory Taliban militants hideouts in the mountainous region.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken to the nation’s airwaves telling his people it had to happen.

“We have decided to make Pakistan a land of peace. I believe this operation will open up the new era of peace and tranquility in the country. For the last decade a war has been waged by the militants against our armed forces and security agencies. Our places of worship places, houses, markets, schools and airports and important installations are unsafe because of them. We’re facing international travel bans due to terrorism, which was cost the economy 100 billion dollars and has also tarnished the country’s image.”

It’s a dramatic change to his message earlier this year proposing ‘peace talks’ with the Pakistani Taliban. In return for an end to military operations the militants announced a month-long ceasefire.

But, this rocky peace ended last month when militants attack the country’s important airport in the southern city of Karachi.

The country’s aviation network was badly hit and some foreign airlines stopped flights into Pakistan.

The Prime Minister lost his patience.

“Our sincere effort to resolve the issue through dialogue were not taken seriously. On the one hand we were talking about peace but on the other hand our security personnel and civilians were being killed.”

In 2008 a similar operation was launched in the Swat Valley in the South Waziristan Tribal Agency. It has been largely described as a successful but many militants fled the area and took refuge in North Waziristan.

Security analyst Ikram Sehgal says the army should have attacked the area earlier.
“A couple of years earlier, but maybe the army didn’t have the resources or there was no political will.”

The Pakistani military says they have killed more than 400 Pakistani and foreign militants and have destroyed dozens of bomb-making factories and confiscated large quantities of explosive material from Miram Shah, the regional capital.

Twenty-six soldiers have been killed, according to military officials, who will not say how long the operation will last.

Shazia Naeem lost three members of her family in a suicide bomb at a Church in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

She is happy the government is now fighting back against the militants.

“They were playing with the lives of the innocent people. Even, they carried out bomb blasts during the peace talks, so what else well could be expected from them?”

The northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhawa has suffered more than other parts of the country at the hands of the militants.

Haji Adil is a senator from the Awami national party who has lost dozens of leaders and activists to in militant attacks.

“We support the army operation on a condition that their is no discrimination between local and foreign militants because there are no good or bad Taliban.”

There are reports however that hundreds of Taliban militants have already fled to the neighboring Afghanistan.

One million residents, most of them women and children, are also fleeing to other parts of Pakistan or to Afghanistan.

Tens of thousands of children are among those who are currently on the move.

Several refugees say they feel angry at the military for bombing their homes. Many more admitted they had no faith that the Pakistani government could help them.

Media is flooded with such stories.

This man, who left home in the Mada Khel town with his family is angry.

“We are rolling just like the footballs from here to there. I left my home after the military operation, but the government has made no alternative arrangements to shelter the refugee families. It is their duty to give us shelter, food and water. But, nothing is available. I ask the other people to better get killed in their homes rather than taking refuge and then sit idle this this.”

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