“stop army operations, we want peace not War on Terror”
Death toll mounts this week as a result of army operations in Tribal Areas
A Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson, talking to DAWN media claimed that the militant group was behind a suicide attack this week on a military checkpoint which killed at least 5 soldiers and wounded 34 others. The attack was carried out to avenge (then) TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud’s death and took place while the security men were praying in a mosque on the site http://www.dawn.com/news/1075069/at-least-23-suspected-militants-killed-in-north-waziristan
A battle followed between security forces and insurgents. Journalist, Rasool Dawar posted that local tribesmen of Mir Ali subdivision of North Waziristan claim that more than 33 people have been killed during shelling from Pakistan army with gunship helicopters and artillery while another 40 sustained injuries on Thursday during the ongoing military activities. Those affected are said to include 4 women and 3 children.
Tribesmen carry coffins of family and friends and students protest the killings by Pakistan army
Such was the anger that students from North Waziristan agency took to the streets on Friday to protest against the government and ongoing military operations and what they alleged was the killing of innocent tribespeople during search operations. The photos in this article show alleged attacks by military during operations.
I received the following messages on twitter,
“worst ever, corpses are lying everywhere, movement is prohibited, life at standstill. All roads are closed for public transport.
Incomprehensible hardships and severe winter season are adding to the already beleaguered tribesmen in North Waziristan.
Permission is being continuously denied to bury the dead and move the injured to hospitals in Bannu and Peshawar.”
A hotel in Epi was said to have been targeted and local labourers believed to be among the dead. There were also reports of bodies lying in the streets with injured unable to be transported to hospital due to a curfew in place. A brief 2 hour lull in the curfew enabled some bodies to be removed for burial.
“three members of a family killed in firing at the hotels were buried in Dandy Derpakhel near Miramshah. Relatives said that deceased were bringing poultry from Bannu to Miramshah and stranded in Mirali due to clashes. Four brothers hailingfrom Haiderkhel village were also buried near Miramshah.
Residents said that heavy shelling by tanks, gunship helicopters, use of light and heavy artillery had caused widespread damage to private properties, including shops in Mirali bazaar”
The students have vowed to continue their protests until there is a halt to military operations.
Damage to animals affecting livelihood and to homes and shops
Anti-drone protestors have repeatedly warned that drone attacks incur more violence and radicalize youth both in Pakistan and in communities abroad. Drone attacks act as a recruiting tool for insurgent groups see my interview with British “jihadis” that have joined Pakistan Taliban https://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/special-report-interview-with-british-jihadis-and-what-you-wont-read-in-the-tackling-extremism-in-the-uk-report/
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution on Wednesday calling on states using drone strikes as a counter-terrorism measure to comply with international law. The resolution urges states the following,
“to ensure that any measures taken or means employed to counter terrorism, including the use of remotely-piloted aircraft, comply with their obligations under international law, including the Charter of the UN, human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality”
A Nation e-poll (Pakistan) ran the question “do you support the UN resolution against drones” 66% replied yes, 29% no and 5% don’t know.
Foreign Office spokesperson for Pakistan, Ms Tasneem Aslam welcomed the resolution stating that “our message is now becoming louder and clearer. The next step for us is to table a similar resolution at the Human Rights Council Forum in Geneva and we hope it will be adopted.”
Extensive damage to buildings hit by shells from tanks and artillery gunfire
Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaf (PTI) party continue to block the NATO supply line protesting against drones. Shireen Mazari, central spokesperson tweeted, “we welcomed the great breakthrough against drones through the UNGA resolution which strengthened international presumption against drones BUT we ignored a Pakistan sponsored UNGA resolution which was also passed with consensus, reiterating support for the principle of self determination.”
Imran Khan (PTI Chairperson) is now facing threats from militant group Ansarul Mujahideen because of his support to the polio vaccination campaign and there are calls from his party for increased security http://www.dawn.com/news/1075471/pti-expresses-concern-over-imrans-security
The Taliban won’t support polio vaccination as long as drone strikes continue, they told me,
“our enemies want to vaccinate our children before droning them.”
Referring to military operations they stated,” when your house is raided, you fight. Vaccinations and green tea afterwards.”
Homes collapse and a school is hit
In a press release today (21st December, 2013) Imran Khan demanded that the government must inform the nation if it intends to start a military operation in NWA. He condemned both the attack on the military and the military attack on civilians stating;
“if the military had intended to respond with an attack it should have cleared the area of women and children at least before they bombed Mir Ali through helicopter gunships and artillery. Already civilians, especially women and children, have been innocent victims of drone attacks and now military action is causing more suffering on these innocent victims of a war they are not responsible for. We cannot regard our women and children of FATA with the callousness and unconcern that is presently being displayed towards them by the state of which they are citizens.”
He slated the Nawaz Sharif government for inaction and demanded the President act to alleviate the suffering of the women and children especially by providing immediate food supplies and medical assistance as well as protection against military action.
“military operations in one’s own country do not resolve problems; instead they exacerbate them and the same will happen if a military operation is launched in NWA. Already there are reports of people fleeing the area and civilians being killed. With no civilian control or responsibility the country will be further destabilised, divided and weakened which is what our detractors are seeking. Our history should teach us the human and political costs to the nation of military operations”
Buildings still smoking and evidence of shelling
Drone strikes have generated a security nightmare in Pakistan, led to serious disruptions regarding the polio programme and killed many civilians whether directly or through retaliation attacks. People are also turning against the army which is seen to be carrying out the bidding of the US. Many in Tribal Areas have long complained that the government rake in the dollars whilst locals are sacrificed http://www.dawn.com/news/1075431
The government must now take the strongest action to stop the drone attacks once and for all if it still has any credibility left.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.