Farhat Taj says Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency and the Army are backing the Taliban against the Salarzai tribe in the Bajaur tribal agency. From The News:
The tribe have collectively decided that there won’t be any Taliban on their soil. The Taliban have been driven out of the Salarzai area. The Salarzai lashkar, mostly made up of labourers and peasants, has successfully kept the Salazai area free of the Taliban.
Tens of Salarzail lashkar leaders have been target-killed. The Salarzai leaders informed me they hold the ISI responsible for the targeted killings. “The Taliban are just a facade. The real force is the ISI punishing us for our anti-Taliban struggle,” said one of the leaders.
The leaders said that Mamond Taliban headquarters used to be in Damadola, which is a few kilometres from the FC fort in Bajaur. The Mamond Taliban used to bomb Salarzai villages. The Salarzai tribal elders requested the Political Agent, the authorities of the FC [Frontier Corps] and the Pakistani army to stop the Mamond Taliban. None of these offered any help. Finally the Salarzai lashkar took positions on the mountains and for two hours heavily bombarded the surrounding villages of the Mamond Taliban. At that point the political agent and a colonel of the army asked the Salarzai lashkar to stop the bombing. They gave the same old logic: who will fight the NATO forces from across the Afghan border if you eliminate the Taliban? [emphasis added]
Following such encounters with the state authorities, the Salarzais decided to fire at any forces entering their area: be it the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the army or the US or NATO.
According to the tribal leaders, the military was ordered to shell anti-Taliban villages:
The Salarzai leaders also informed me that last year the army deliberately fired at those villages in Bajaur that were known to be staunchly anti-Taliban. They said one of their colleagues called Maj Gen Alam Khattak to ask him to stop the bombing of his village. “Major General Sahib! I will start a vendetta with you if you did not halt the bombing of my village immediately. I will make sure to kill you and your family at the first available opportunity,” they quoted one of their colleagues as saying. The major general asked him to meet Col Sajjad who was bombing the anti-Taliban villages from his base in Timergara. That colleague saw a big Bajaur map affixed on the wall in the office of Col Sajjad. The map had several encircled villages. Col Sajjad informed him that the map had been handed over to him by his commanders with the order to bomb all the encircled villages. “Our colleague’s blood boiled with anger: none of the villages had Taliban in them,” said the Salarzai leaders…
On the other hand, those Salarzai villages that had Taliban were not marked on the map or bombed by the army.
This does not appear to be an isolated incident. Back in the spring of this year, a lashkar in Upper Dir battled the Taliban after a suicide attack leveled a mosque. The members of the lashkar were infuriated when the military targeted the villages with artillery, and they demanded that the military stop the shelling. The lashkar then refused help from the military.
Couple this report with yesterday’s report that more jihadi terror camps focusing on the fight against India have opened, and it is clear that Pakistan’s military and intelligence services remain compromised and that they have refused to abandon the notion of keeping the Taliban and other terror groups in reserve against India as well as a hedge against a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. And not only that, elements in Pakistan’s military and the ISI are also actively aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan: “Who will fight the NATO forces from across the Afghan border if you eliminate the Taliban?” the colonel and the political agent in Bajaur asked.
The report also shows that some of the more rosy analyses of Pakistan’s counterinsurgency prowess are flawed. If you assume that the military merely made a mistake and shelled the wrong towns, the act of indiscriminately shelling towns is just what a military should not do when fighting an insurgency.
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