The Pakistani Army recently carried out a military operation in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA) killing at least 40 people and injuring dozens of others in Mir Ali, one of the main towns in North Waziristan.
As there were reports of militants attacking and killing five Pakistani soldiers last Wednesday, the Army followed up with artillery fire and helicopter gunships, attacking dozens of people. According to the army, most of those attacked and killed were insurgents. However locals from Waziristan and other places in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are out on the streets, protesting in different areas, including Peshawar, claiming that “most people murdered in these attacks were local civilians.”
Around 300 people, mostly students from Gomal University and North Waziristan, protested in the northwestern city of Peshawar on December 20th against the military’s operation.
Chanting slogans of anger at the military – “Ye Jo Dainshatgardi hai, Iss kay peechay wardi hai” (translation: this terrorism has a military uniform behind it) – protestors condemned the unannounced attack. These attacks came right after a long curfew that had restricted locals in NWA to their homes. While many in Pakistan are condemning the attack on military officials by the insurgents, they are also condemning the military’s impromptu dealing with these attacks, without informing the local civilians or alerting them to stay within homes.
“We are already victims of the drone war and equally sick of these insurgents, but the Pakistani military is also not protecting us. They are as much our enemy as the insurgents. This attack has proven that innocent locals like us, are disposable. We have done nothing to deserve this,” Abdul Khalid, a local from Dera Ismail Khan told The Diplomat. His cousin’s wife in NWA is one of the victims killed in this attack.
When this correspondent spoke to some locals via mobile phone, she was told that the operation had stopped, but had caused a lot of infrastructural damage to residents in the area. “Most of our shops in this bazaar have been destroyed. Who will pay us back for this loss?” said a shop owner in the main market.
Although this correspondent could not get a direct statement from the military, according to Hammad Abbasi’s report for DAWN, a military spokesman said, “the military action against the terrorists in North Waziristan on 19th December was in response to an attempt by terrorists to ambush a military convoy.”
He also added, “the intelligence-based sting military operation later, was specifically targeted against foreign terrorists holed up in a nearby compound. Over 30 terrorists, mostly Uzbeks were killed.” The official ensured that the “security forces exercised utmost restraint to avoid any collateral damage.”
As of now, the authorities have once again imposed a curfew across the region and residents are unable to move.
Another local whose family was injured in the attack said, “They attacked us right after the curfew, they obviously knew that innocent people will get affected. And the worst came to worst, they were not letting us take the wounded to the hospitals. What is the meaning of this? The Pakistani military should be questioned in international courts for killing its own people. We disown this army.”
In a public statement to the media, condemning the attack, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s chairman Imran Khan said, “If the military has intended to respond with an attack, it should at least have cleared the area of women and children before bombing Mir Ali through helicopter gunships and artillery.”
Khan also condemned the attack on military personnel by the insurgents that killed five soldiers, but he said civilians, women and children have suffered from such military actions and they don’t deserve this as they are not responsible for this war. “We cannot regard our women and children of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) with the callousness and unconcern that is presently being displayed towards them by the state of which they are citizens,” Khan said in a public statement on Saturday.
Meanwhile, since the attacks, the Pakistani government has not reached out to the innocent civilians with any sort of assistance. Instead, while being interviewed by The Diplomat, some locals complained about being unable to take their injured to the hospitals due to the military presence in the area.
One local said to The Diplomat, “If this kind of behavior by the government continues, we – the locals – will inevitably turn against the government.”