The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘South Waziristan

Pakistan gets surveyed III: No major surprises

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Welcome to another edition of Pakistan gets surveyed! This time, its via the folks at Gallup Pakistan. The survey was conducted for the Gilani Research Foundation (not to be confused with the current Prime Minister of the country, Yousuf Raza Gilani).

The survey of 2700 people, conducted last week, proves the same old points.

51% of people surveyed support the current military operation in South Waziristan, while they also don’t think this is a Pakistani problem – 35% blame the USA and 31% blame the Pakistani government and politicians. Only 25% blame the Taliban. Though the way the question was framed was rather ridiculous too.

Gallup 03-11-09_Page_2

Oddly enough, when asked whose war this was, 39% responded that it was America’s war, while 37% thought it was Pakistan’s. Now if only they had included a question on that other great bone of contention, the Kerry-Lugar/Berman bill..

Previous posts about surveys on Pakistan:

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Written by Saba Imtiaz

November 5, 2009 at 12:30 am

Islamic University attacked in Islamabad

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Pakistani security officials collect evidence from the site of a suicide bombing in Islamic University in Islamabad. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Pakistani security officials collect evidence from the site of a suicide bombing in Islamic University in Islamabad. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Two suicide attacks took place at the International Islamic University in Islamabad – Pakistan’s capital city – a few hours ago. The attack on the university, which was established in 1980, has seen 5 students killed and several injured. (The figure is changing every minute, so cannot confirm)

The images being aired on news channels are absolutely horrific – blood spattered walls, gore, damaged walls. Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher reported “We can see bits of clothes, scraps of books and a lot more worrying, very thick, dark red blood.”

The attacks happened within minutes of each other. One attacker blew himself up outside the women’s cafeteria and the other in another block of the university. Witnesses told Dawn News that at least three to four thousand students were present at the university at the time of the attacks.

Rehman Malik, the country’s interior minister, has blamed the attack on the university’s security failings, saying a guard let one of the attackers in on the assumption that he worked at the university.

The Pakistani army is currently fighting a war in South Waziristan so this attack in Islamabad is widely being cited as a reaction to the army’s offensive. Educational institutions are being closed in the province of Sindh till Sunday – several cities already had done so as the South Waziristan operation started.

The horrific attack  comes after a series of attacks in Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore and Kohat. The only odd factor I find is that an educational institution was attacked, which seems out of the TTP’s usual pattern. As of late, extremist organizations have attacked security and intelligence installations or colonies where security officials reside, not civilian targets per se. Yes, the TTP and their affiliates have attacked girls’ schools in FATA, and  if they are to blame for this attack it is a truly – for lack of a better word – ominous sign. Yet this is the ‘odd one out’ in the pattern of events, as a Dawn editorial pointed out on October 10 after a car bombing in Peshawar killed 48 people.

Is yesterday’s Peshawar bombing another grim incident in the long war against militancy here or should we also look elsewhere for the culprits? What is striking about the Peshawar blast is the lack of an obvious target. In the past, when the militants have struck it has generally been possible to discern the target: offices or check posts of security personnel; offices or personnel of foreign aid agencies; a branch of a bank belonging to the army; members of the Shia or Barelvi community, etc. This is in keeping with the militants’ strategy of waging a savage war, yes, but not widening it to include indiscriminate attacks against the general population. The norm, therefore, has been to attack the state and its allies, foreign and local, real and imagined, and sectarian targets. But yesterday’s attack has no obvious, or hitherto known, target; it appears to have been indiscriminate and meant to sow terror generally.

I hate it when people point out the ‘foreign hand’ theory, so I’d like to make that clear that that is not what I’m implying. But terrorism just doesn’t have one face in this country; so the fact that Pakistan is facing multiple threats from different organizations and groups  needs to be made clear.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 20, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Day One: South Waziristan operation begins

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And so it begins. Hakimullah Mehsud, center, poses with his deputy Waliur Rehman, left, and spokesman Azam Tariq in Sararogha (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)

And so it begins. Hakimullah Mehsud, center, poses with his deputy Waliur Rehman, left, and spokesman Azam Tariq in Sararogha (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)

And so it begins.

An approximate 28,000 Pakistan Army troops – with air support – have launched the ground offensive into South Waziristan. Reports of initial skirmishes have already begun to come in, as well as one of a bomb attacking a security convoy. 11 militants are reported to have been killed so far. The ratio of troops to militants appears be 2.8:1 , as there are an estimated 10,000 militants in the area. As far as the territory the army offensive is aiming to control , it is the the TTP stronghold. In an older interview with AP,  Maj Gen Athar Abbas – spokesperson for the Pakistani army said:

..the assault would be limited to slain Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud’s holdings – a swath of territory that stretches roughly 3,310 square kilometres.

The plan is to capture and hold the area where Abbas estimates 10,000 insurgents are headquartered and reinforced with about 1,500 foreign fighters, most of them of Central Asian origin. ‘There are Arabs, but the Arabs are basically in the leadership, providing resources and expertise and in the role of trainers,’ he said.

The ground operation has been preceded by a series of attacks on security facilities in the country, notably last weekend’s attack on the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Of course, all isn’t as easy as it seems.

Tick tock, tick tock

For one, the army has a limited amount of time before temperatures dip and the first snow hits, which means they’ll be back to air strikes, if that.

Another IDP crisis?

Secondly, the internally displaced persons. One of my major issues with the ground operations has been the lack of planning and thought that has gone into taking care of the residents that have to flee targeted areas to safer ground. News reports say that atleast 90,000 150,000 families have fled the area.

Given how badly the IDPs crisis was managed by the government and opposition parties during the Swat offensive, one can only hope that aid agencies will be better experienced from the Swat IDPs and cope with the likely humanitarian crisis. On the other hand, as with the Swat offensive, once the South Waziristan operation is over: what will the area’s residents be left with to come back to?

This is a vicious cycle that Pakistan seems to keep repeating. Pakistan  should have learned its lesson with the Afghan war, or with the other battles that Pakistan has been fighting in the FATA region for years now, that it is as important to build an infrastructure for innocent civilians as it is to destroy the infrastructure of militant networks.

Crisis, what crisis?

Perhaps its just me but I feel that there’s a certain blasé attitude in the air. For a country that should technically be in a state of war, everything seems to keep going on as usual, including as Newsline magazine’s Nadir Hassan pointed out, the focus of Pakistan’s parliament.

Battle specifics

Image credit - BBC

Watch out for the battles in Ladha and Makeen. Image credit - BBC

Region: South Waziristan. Home to training camps for suicide bombers, cited to be one of the areas Al Qaeda’s top leadership operates from, the stronghold of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan which is responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on the country’s security facilities.

Manpower: The Pakistan Army is sending in 28,000 troops. The number for the militants varies between 10-20,000. Accrding to The National, “a senior military official said the initial objective was to establish footholds, but that three divisions of the military, paramilitary and police would be mobilised, eventually numbering up to 60,000 troops.”

Arms and ammunition:

From Reuters:

  • The army is likely to attack from three directions, with ground troops backed by jets, attack helicopters, tanks and artillery.
  • The militants have had years to prepare their defences and hold rifles, machineguns, anti-tank weapons, especially rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and longer-range rockets.
  • They are also experts in the use of roadside bombs and have been churning out a stream of suicide bombers.

For more on the battle specifics, BBC has a good Q&A on what lies ahead in South Waziristan.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 17, 2009 at 11:45 pm