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 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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Mertze Dahlin   

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July 14, 2014

700,000 displaced as Pakistan Army
continues brutal operation in North Waziristan

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

About 700,000 people have been displaced in North Waziristan where Pakistan's mercenary army has launched a brutal operation at the behest of Washington.

After a week-long air bombardment and indiscriminate artillery shelling the army has launched  a ground operation. The military operation has created an alarming security situation. On June 24, a Pakistan Airlines plane was attacked while landing at the Peshawar airport. The plane landed safely but one woman passenger died while two others were injured in the attack. 

What is going on in the operation theatre is not known, since like the previous military operations in Swat and elsewhere, it is happening behind the smoke screen. No one knows what are the army targets and who are those people who are being killed as "terrorists." The military operation area is a no go area for the media and any observers. The only information about the brutal operation comes from the Press Office of Army which is known as the Inter-Services Press Relations (ISPR).

According to the ISPR more than 400 foreign "terrorists" have been killed in the operation launched on June 15. However, no dead body has been produced. There is no news about the civilian casualties.

On July 14, in an editorial The Nation Daily said: “Reports abound of the armed forces bombing new militant hideouts in various regions of North Waziristan. Reports that quantify the deaths of these militants however, are conservative. To this day, we cannot be sure how many militants died, how many militants fled, how many civilians perished as collateral. There is simply no way of knowing with any degree of certainty.”

According to Reuters news agency North Waziristan has been sealed off from outsiders and there is no way to verify the military's figures.

On July 9, the army arranged a trip to the operation zone where journalists toured underground tunnels and facilities that the army said were bomb-making factories and camps to train suicide bombers.

Of course the Pakistan army, as always, is completely unrestrained in its ability to manufacture facts about this operation, as none of their claims can be independently verified. So what can one actually believe?

The long awaiting military operation at the advice of the United States has created a humanitarian crisis with about 700,000 civilians displaced. Tellingly, the US-client government of Nawaz Sharif did not make any arrangement to evacuate the innocent people from the war zone.

According to the Dawn daily, a mass exodus from North Waziristan continued and thousands of displaced men, women and children were waiting in scorching heat on the Bannu-Miramshah road for security clearance. Security personnel give clearance to displaced people to cross into the settled area after verification.

AFP reported that the government-run children’s hospital in Bannu was overcrowded with children suffering from diarrhrea. Due to lack of space in the hospital, up to five children were being accommodated in one bed. Some children lying outside the hospital were being treated with drip bags hanging from tree branches.

Tellingly, the provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh have announced that the North Waziristan displaced persons are not welcomed in their provinces. Many political parties have protested the decision of the Punjab and Sindh governments.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari has accused the government of having adopted a “callous attitude” to the people displaced by the military operation.

According to press reports about 60,000 North Waziristan civilians have taken shelter in neighboring Afghanistan. However, the government of Pakistan is urging the Afghan authorities not to give shelter to these people who are escaping the brutal operation.

Taliban threaten retaliate

Meanwhile, the North Waziristan-based Taliban threatened to launch a counter-offensive in retaliation to the military operation.  The Taliban shura after a meeting decided to launch a war for self-defense against the government in North Waziristan, the News reported. 

Ahmadullah Ahmadi, a spokesman for the non-TTP North Waziristan Taliban commanded by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, told The News on phone from an undisclosed location that the shura had advised their fighters to retaliate against the use of force by the government in North Waziristan. 

In response to the military operation Zarb-e-Azb (Operation Zarb-e-Azb (Great Strike) in North Waziristan, the Taliban announced Zarb-e-Momin which means the strike of the true Muslim.

 He said they had no affiliation with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), led by Maulana Fazlullah who has taken refuge in Afghanistan.

The Hafiz Gul Bahadur-led Taliban, who until now were considered pro-government, had signed a peace accord with the government in 2006 and renewed it in 2007. Both sides under the agreement had promised not to attack each other.

Use of force no solution, says Fazl

Criticizing the military operation in North Waziristan, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Wednesday said that Pakistan had surpassed India, Sri Lanka and other countries in the use of force against its own people.  

He said that India was 10 times stronger than Pakistan but Pakistan’s institutions had surpassed India, Sri Lanka and other countries in using force against its own people to settle disputes.  

 “Thirty-five years ago when Afghanistan became the battlefield, the Afghans left their homes and took shelter in Pakistan but now 60,000 tribal people from Waziristan consider Afghanistan a safer place by shifting there. It should be an eye-opener for the policymakers,” he said.

US Senate committee approves $960 mn for Pakistan

As the military operation continues in North Waziristan, the US Senate Committee on Appropriations announced approval of a bill that allocates around $960 million in assistance for Pakistan in the 2015 fiscal year.

The US senate panel also acknowledged improved relations between the two countries since last year's elections which brought Nawaz Sharif in power. “The committee recognizes an improvement in bilateral relations following elections in Pakistan, and encourages continued commitment to shared security and development goals,” the panel said.

At the same time, the United States was releasing the next $380 million tranche of outstanding dues worth $1.6 billion owed to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) established by the US in 2001 to cover some of the cost certain countries incurred in the fight against terrorism.

Since 9/11, the US has disbursed over $12 billion on account of CSF to Pakistan. It has released $674 million since the government   of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came into power.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.