There is trouble in the North Waziristan Tribal Agency on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. This is the territory that the world thought Pakistan’s army was nursing as its post-US withdrawal launching pad for its non-state warriors to control Afghanistan. The army has attacked the warriors everyone thought were exempt from any state reaction to their presence.
The army in fact avenged a suicide-bombing against its troops at a checkpost, killing eight soldiers while they were praying, and killed “more than 30 foreign militants, most of them Uzbeks”. The targeted Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) posted a statement saying “the military responded with an air-and-ground attack after a group of frustrated fighters had bombed a military convoy.” In the North Waziristan Agency (NWA), terrorists and the Pakistan army cohabit under a compact that was broken last month.
The army said the “terrorists” were acting up since September: a total of 67 improvised explosive devices were planted around the checkposts, out of which 27 had exploded, resulting in deaths and injuries to about a hundred men. Immediately after the skirmish, however, the army said it was not an operation, meaning it was not what the world wanted Pakistan to do against elements that do cross-border mischief. Pakistanis who think the army should go in to wipe out this snakepit were disappointed.
The Taliban are there too in the NWA. After their old leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by an American drone, their new leader, Mullah Fazlullah, likely shifted to semi-tribal Dir north of Swat, meaning that, in the NWA, they were put at risk only by the Americans, not Pakistan, whose thousands of civilians and army officers, including generals, they had killed. A growing pro-Taliban community of politicians has not liked the army’s retaliatory attack and is accusing it of having killed innocent non-combatants instead of Taliban or Uzbeks.
Pakistan is juggling a lot of suicidal balls in the air in the NWA: it likes the Haqqani Network which kills inside Afghanistan. It likes militia leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur of the Dawar tribe who too kills in Afghanistan, and tolerates IMU Uzbeks.
Add to that the Taliban and the various non-state actors gathered there, conspiring to overthrow the elected government of Pakistan to proclaim a truly Islamic “emirate”. Clearly, Pakistan is worried about post-withdrawal Afghanistan and not about the coming “emirate” at home. Driven by this strategic myopia, the Pakistan army will not strike the non-state actors killing innocent Pakistanis because its strategic view is frozen on India after the American withdrawal. (Quaintly, Saudi Arabia too is strategically frozen on Iran and will not forgive the US for not invading Syria — knowing full well that Assad’s defeat would mean an al-Qaeda government in Syria determined to crush Saudi Arabia.)
With so many “friends” in the …continued »