By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Much awaited and much talked about military operation was initiated in North Waziristan Areas (NWA) on June 16. Ground offense code name of Zarb-e-Azb is the first ever full fledge operation against terrorists in NWA. This operation will continue till getting desirous results of eliminating all hide outs of terrorists across Pak-Afghan border. Lt. Gen Khalid Rabbani is leading the operation. He is Corp Commander of Peshawar and known for his professionalism. His son is also serving Army and is deputed in trouble Tirah valley fighting against terrorists.
This action was becoming inevitable for Pakistan after Middle East situation where Islamists ruined regular armies of Syria and Iraq and established a new country named Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). There was mounting pressure from China over Pakistan Army and the government of Mian Nawaz Sharif to root out camps of Chinese terrorists living in NWA. Karachi Airport attack by militants pushed government to the wall, leaving no option with government just to initiate the action or accept the writ of militants all over the country.
Federal government postponed this action many times in past on the advice of religious parties particularly Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) (both groups) and Jamaat-i-Islami and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) that rules Khybar Pakhtunkhawa. JUI of Samiul Haq and JI arranged peace talks between Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and government of Pakistan but talks failed to get fruitful results.
Situation before Operation
There was so must noise about expected Army operation in NWA that thousands of residents of NWA left this area much before the real operation was started. Around 600 families were registered in Khost province of Afghanistan in second week of May. Abdul Jabbar Naeemi Governor of Khost Province in Afghanistan shared with international media in the second week of May that there was a heavy flow of refugees from tribal areas of Pakistan and a camp was being set up on 2,000 acres of land for the refugees, who would be provided all essential facilities. Most of the 600 families who reached Afghanistan were from Miranshah. Naeemi claimed that a large number of the Pakistanis had settled in Gurbaz district. He promised the refugee students would be granted admissions in schools and the Sheikh Zayed University. Meanwhile Public Health Director Dr. Hidayatullah Hamidi of Khost province confirmed that refugees from Pakistan had been administrated polio drops.
“We have administered anti-polio vaccine to 1,200 children coming from North Waziristan, where incidence of the crippling disease is pretty high,” he added.
Operation and the Lack of Political ownership
PTI chief Imran Khan and Chief Minister KPK claimed after operation was started that federal government did not take them into confidence before initiating operation on June 16. This claim looks curious and interesting because everybody in Pakistan was expecting this operation except Chief Minister of KPK province where people were settling coming from NWA. This is also interesting to hear that KPK Chief Minister did not know that people from tribal areas were migrating to settled areas of KPK and even to neighbouring Afghanistan. Now operation is in full swing but there is a lack of understanding and ownership for this operation in the leadership of KPK government.
Facts on the Ground
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of North Waziristan operation are continuously reaching settled areas as curfew was relaxed on Friday and flow of IDPs is building up but they prefer to go to live with their relatives in settled areas instead of living in camping areas provided by provincial and federal authorities. According to administration only 20 families out of 20,000 persons are living in camp in Bannu FR areas.
The process of registration of IDPs of NWA operation is continue and Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and provincial government of Khybar Pakhtun Khawa (KPK) are collaborating for providing basic facilities to IDPs in camps like clean drinking water, fans, electricity, washrooms and security.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has handed over 2000 tents to Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) for distribution among IDPs. According to an NDMA official, transport has also been arranged to carry IDPs from border to the relief camps. He said that IDPs would also be given Ramzan Package during the holy month of fasting. Federal government is providing Rs.500 million out of which Rs.350 million have already been released to provincial government for accommodating 70,000 IDPs in settled areas.
PTI still has a different stance then Pakistan Army and Federal Government
It looks strange that government is planning and providing funds for the settlement 70,000 IDPs while PTI chief Imran Khan says that there are 700,000 residents of NWA displaced after operation. PTI official spokeswomen Shireen Mazari released an official statement of PTI reproduced hereunder:
The military operation started before proper evacuation of the civilian population which reflects the callousness of the PMLN government. Even worse is the continuing inability of the federal government to provide proper support infrastructure for the outflow of IDPs. PM’s casual approach to the military operation is reflected in his departure for yet another foreign jaunt a day after the operation commenced.
While PTI chief Imran Khan said:
“Have we thought about 7000, 000 people residing in North Waziristan? Where will they go during the bombing?” he questioned.
Federal government and Pakistan Army are confident to handle situation
Federal government looks optimist and confident that it is dealing with IDPs issue effectively and Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch on Wednesday said while talking to journalists in Bannu that tent villages have been established for the IDPs in settled districts near North Waziristan Agency.
Arshad Khan, Director General of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Disaster Management Authority who is looking after arrangements said as
“Some 30,000 people have arrived in Bannu from Mirali town of North Waziristan since this morning,”
He said 92,000 people had fled the region since the military began air strikes. Most have gone to the adjoining Bannu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Registration points and camps have been set up to deal with the influx of people.
Flow of IDPs towards Afghanistan is still on
There is still a large flow towards Afghanistan and the spokesman of Governor for Khost claimed that 3,000 more families had been registered in Afghan camps. The spokesman Mubariz Zadran said the Afghan government was trying to help the refugees while the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had also dispatched relief items for 500 families.
A thought for Nation
Pakistan Army is sacrificing much for saving Pakistan from the menace of terrorism and PTI that is the biggest stakeholder of this operation should accept responsibility of handling situation while forgetting past and its infighting with Federal Government. PTI understands that operation was not the decision of Federal government rather it was the Must for saving country for further disasters. The official statement of PTI:
“The military operation started before proper evacuation of the civilian population which reflects the callousness of the PMLN government”,
creates doubts and give negative impression against Pakistan Army that this operation has no love or respect for the people of tribal. We should accept that Pakistan Army is doing its best to clean NWA from terrorists for local residents who themselves failed to stand against terrorists during the last 35 years.