By Ammarah Rabbani Rao
Waziristan is divided into two “agencies”, North Waziristan (NWA) and South Waziristan (SWA), with estimated populations (as of 1998) of 361,246 and 429,841 respectively. The two parts have quite distinct characteristics, though both tribes are subgroups of the Waziri tribe, after which the region is named, and speak a common Waziri language. They have a formidable reputation as warriors and are known for their frequent blood feuds. Traditionally, feuding local Waziri religious leaders have enlisted outsiders in the Pakistani government, and U.S. forces hunting al-Qaeda fugitives, in attempts at score-settling. The tribes are divided into sub-tribes governed by male village elders who meet in a tribal jirga. Socially and religiously, Waziristan is an extremely conservative area.
It’s an indication for necessity of military operations against militants and Pakistan’s willingness for such a venture in North Waziristan. This exaggerated overdrive of speculations and expectations have made the whole scene clouded by rumors and contradictions about operations in North/South Waziristan leaving the masses worried and concerned. In such fragile and uncertain environment dispelling the impression of any possibility of “joint operations” by the Army Chief himself endowed the masses with most needed assurance. Although the nations stands unified in support of the belief that elimination of the menace of terrorism remains essential; albeit expects adoption of methodology best suited for Pakistan. Having created such obtaining environment, a relatively less daunting operation would be required, that too in an enabling environment, allowing Pakistan to eradicate the remaining elements through selected targeting procedure. This approach would cause least bloodshed and violence, exhibit Pakistan’s resolve for elimination of negative elements and allow gaining the support of masses due to easily acceptable justification for limited operations.
While the operation on both side of the Durand Line are a primary necessity to curb the nefarious activities of militants, better border management and close cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the eventual obligation to control terrorism and establish the writ of the state in border areas. Pakistan should avail this opportunity and involve the US and international community to develop efficient border management system across the Durand Line which would cease the prospect of continued insurgent attacks from across the Durand Line.
Learning lessons from its past, Pakistan must take concrete measures to avoid political, military and humanitarian crises in the country against the backdrop of a military operation in North Waziristan. Pakistan should also convince the US and NATO to share the burden caused by the influx of huge number of displaced people and other economic losses. Only then the people may begin to trust the policy makers, something missing so far in the decade-long war on terror. If militancy can truly be wiped out, this would genuinely brighten the future of Pakistan. The future generations of Pakistan deserve this. We have suffered greatly as a result of the Taliban threat. There is a need to search for a durable solution with least bloodshed. Successful operations in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009 would not have been possible without public support. So it would be a wise thing for Pakistan to realize the need for building political consensus within the country for such a critical impending military campaign.