Shahidullah Shahid (TTP spokesperson) and Taliban Commander Adnan Rasheed
My announcement of a one month ceasefire by the Pakistan Taliban on Twitter was cautiously welcomed by some yesterday as spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid stated,
“After taking into consideration appeals of religious scholars, the Tehreek-e-Taliban announces a month-long ceasefire in the best interests of Islam and the country.”
Shahid said, “TTP has initiated talks with the government with sincerity and for good purpose,” and confirmed that, “the senior leadership of the Taliban advises all subgroups to respect the Taliban’s call for a ceasefire and abide by it and completely refrain from all jihadi activities in this time period.”
I contacted Mohmand Agency TTP (who accepted responsibility for recent killing of 23 Frontier Corps soldiers). They shared a letter declaring that they were supporting the ceasefire despite the killing of their own men in custody. The attack on FC was claimed to be in retaliation for killing of colleagues while under state supervision.
My ceasefire tweets did however bring a string of abuse from lawyer and “political analyst” Sabena Sidiqi whose reaction was so deluded I was suddenly libelled as a “wicked Mossad agent.” (I dont think Mossad would be too pleased either to find me albeit fictitiously added to their ranks). She wrote “I am in favour of the army, this is my party. Love martial law…. this Goddamn government wants to have talks with TTP it deserves to be booted out again.” I was then referred to as a “two bit floozie” with Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaf (PTI) party that has supported dialogue with insurgents described as “a party of retarded people led by Im the Dim” (Imran Khan). After accusing the Taliban of being possible “rapists” because she alleged they were linked to RAW (Indian security agency) Sidiqi then said she “hoped there was an airstrike tomorrow to teach these sobs a lesson”.
It is unfortunate that with alarming regularity, political discussions in Pakistan deteriorate to paranoia, conspiracy theories and a distinct lack of logic and also worrying to think that such behaviour could come from a lawyer… I pray for Sidiqi’s poor clients.
The climate of fear is such in Pakistan that few dare criticise the security agencies or the military but if dialogue is to work, all sides must address with honesty allegations of abuse and stop burying heads in the sand. The Taliban tend to declare their killings whereas the state has a tendency to deny any wrongdoing. There does not appear to be any system in place to independently check the welfare of prisoners held by the state and document their concerns so claims of enforced disappearances, torture and unlawful killings are unlikely to be followed up. This must change as abuse by the state only leads to radicalize more of the population.
Only yesterday TTP made a further allegation which read, “Shaheed Qare Abdurrahman who belonged to BODI Cor Area of Mechani Mohmand Agency. He has been captured by security forces 5 years ago. On first March he was killed ruthlessly by Pakistani forces in Ghalanai jail”. Here is the photo below so from this information surely details can be checked.
If talks are to proceed all sides must be heard not closed down as suggested by one politician who advised media not to cover Taliban statements. It is time journalists were given greater access to report in Waziristan which is mostly off limits so hard to independently verify claims from all parties. We need to move away from polarization, the narrative that whatever the state says must be right and any allegations from insurgents automatically considered propaganda and report fairly. It is with this thought in mind that I am publishing an article from Adnan Rasheed detailing an army attack last December which I also covered at the time.
Adnan Rasheed is a Taliban commander who some will remember as the insurgent that penned a letter to schoolgirl Malala Yousafsai following her shooting by TTP. He was sentenced to death for the attack on former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in 2004. Rasheed was incarcerated at Bannu prison and later freed along with 400 inmates when militants stormed the complex in 2012. He was also the mastermind of the 2013 Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak in which over 170 prisoners escaped.
The Mir Ali Massacre and True face of Pakistan Army by Adnan Rasheed
Reprinted with permission from Azan Magazine, Issue 5 Page No 27)
Photos received at the time alleging Pakistan Air Force Attack
It was the 20th of December 2013. The morning was frosty, however no one could have anticipated the chilling events that were about to unfold. More than 25 truck drivers were sipping tea in the Sheereen hotel, waiting for the lifting of the curfew that the Pakistan Army imposes whenever it wills in Mir Ali, North Waziristan. Among them were two tribesmen who had just returned from The Gulf States after 6 years of hardships. They were travelling to their native villages in Miran Shah, a city close to Mir Ali. However, trapped in curfew, they decided grudgingly to stay in the hotel. They were eager to rush to their homes; impatiently waiting to give gifts to their children and loved ones, from the stuff they had bought from overseas. Maybe they were imagining the very moment they’d enter their homes… embracing their mothers and kissing their children… but alas it wasn’t to be…
Shereen hotel is on the roadside, situated near the Pakistan Army camp in Mir Ali. The convoys of the security forces used to pass from its front regularly. The hotel was not a security threat for the security forces; in fact, the soldiers themselves used to frequently visit the hotel for a cup of tea. Therefore, the truckers and other civilians who lodged in the hotel were satisfied that the security forces would not harm them.
One day, the convoy stopped and the Army officers and their men came into the hotel. The officers ordered their men to arrest all people inside, including the hotel staff. The innocent civilians were then handcuffed, blind folded and shot in their heads, one after another!
The only eyewitness who had managed to hide somehow in the hotel said that all of the truck drivers were begging for their lives. They pleaded with the soldiers, especially the two – just returned – expatriates, who were showing them their tickets and passports. But all their cries were to no avail and they were calmed with bullets in their heads. [Indeed, to Allah I, we belong and indeed, to Him we are returning]
The whole area of Mir Ali was heavily shelled with long range artillery from 6 am in the morning till darkness. Cobra gunships and machine gun-fitted Mi-17 helicopters targeted the homes of innocent civilians killing more than 70 men, women and children and severely injuring more than 100. Anyone who breathed was declared an enemy combatant. The Pakistan Army continued the operation for a week; homes, shops, mosques, markets, schools and hospitals all were targeted. The Army brutally and ruthlessly bombed down the main Mir Ali Jami’a Masjid located in the heart of the city, killing 6 worshippers in the process. The terrified population of Mir Ali decided to leave their homes in the dark of the night. They all went to the faraway valley of Khaisor by foot in the chilling cold. They had to leave behind their pets and cattle, which died after some days due to starvation. Mir Ali became a ghost town.
My dear brothers and sisters! This was not the first time that the Pakistani security forces played this bloody game – killing innocent and unarmed civilians. In fact, it is merely a repetition of their shameful history.
On 12 August 1948, in Ba Bara, a village in Charsadda district of KPK province a massacre happened. The then law enforcement agencies killed more than 650 innocent, unarmed civilians. The protesters were demanding that Jinnah fulfil his promise – that of imposing the Islamic system in Pakistan. However, their demands were answered with bullets. This massacre happened in the life and government of Jinnah, the so-called father of the nation and founder of this so-called Islamic state.
On the 6th of March 1953, the Pakistan Army imposed martial law in the city of Lahore in order to launch an operation against the anti-Qadyani protesters. The Muslim protesters’ demands were that the government declare Qadyanis to be non-Muslims. More than 1000 devout Muslims were brutally killed (the Red Cross counted 330 killed bodies that day) by the Pakistan Army and thousands were arrested. On the other hand, the Qadyanis were given full protection and security.
In September 1970, known as ‘Black September’, the Jordanian Army, under the command of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, then Brigadier, conducted operations against Palestinian refugees on the behest of the Jordanian government, and killed several thousand innocent Palestinian Muslim refugees.
Also, the Pakistan Army in the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, killed a huge number of Bengali Muslims, including women and children from March 1971 to December 1971. Furthermore, a large number of Bengali Muslim women were raped in front of their husbands and family members by the Pakistani security forces. Most of them were arrested and taken to army camps where the Pakistani Army used them as sex slaves for months until they got pregnant.
On October 30 2006, the Pakistan Army conducted an air strike against a Madrassa (seminary) in Bajaur killing more than 70 innocent young students.
In July 2007, Commandos of the Pakistan Army massacred more than 1000 male and female students, with white phosphorus bombs in Jamia Hafsa, a seminary next to Lal Masjid (The Red Mosque). Two soldiers among them who refused to take part in that operation were then sentenced and sent to jail where I met them.
More than 1000 Swati Muslim women with their children were arrested in various military operations in 2009. They are still missing.
When the Army regained Swat after military operations in 2009, the Pakistan Army used a new tactic; soldiers used to announce a list of some men every day and say that they are required for investigation. Their families were forced to produce the wanted men. The local Jirga used to be the guarantor that the men would be returned after the investigation, within a few days. About 6,500 men were picked up for a FEW DAYS and they are still missing. The families of missing persons staged a protest in front of the Army office in Swat.
Pakistan Army has killed more than 25,000 tribesmen (civilians) during operations in FATA from 2008 to 2012. This figure was officially admitted and submitted by the Pakistan Army to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in February 2012. The Pakistan Air Force, that claims to be the symbol of pride for the nation, is in reality a symbol of shame for the nation. They proudly claim that they have dropped more than 10,600 bombs in the tribal areas on terrorist’s compounds, but undeniably most of the victims were innocent tribesmen. The former Air Chief admitted that their bombing accuracy was only 15 percent. That means 85 percent bombs were dropped on civilians!
The Pakistan Air Force claimed that they targeted my house on January 20, 2014. By the Grace of Allah, I and my family are safe. However, the bombing killed four innocent civilians. They were Maryam (4 years old), her mother Ayesha (24 years old), her grandmother (80 years old) and her uncle Bakhtullah (17 years old). A young boy Shahzeb (7 years old) and his sister (14 years old) were taken to Peshawar for treatment; they had sustained burns and broken bones. The symbol of shame, Pakistan Air Force, killed innocent civilians of the Mehsud tribe in an attempt to kill me along with my wife, two year old daughter and infant son.
It was breaking news on TV that I, with my wife, children and mother were killed in an air strike by PAF jets. The government proudly made this claim but nobody in the Pakistani nation raised this simple question: Why were women and children targeted?
Why wasn’t the question raised: Which national or international law permits the killing of families? The media is biased and might is right! Our opponents term us as ignorant, wild, barbaric and uncivilized. On the other hand, a fighter pilot is regarded as highly educated, disciplined, and having high moral values. Nevertheless, when it comes to matters of war, then who is actually wild and barbaric? You can judge this yourself from the bombings on Faqir of Eppi to the killing of innocent Maryam!
The atrocities of the Pakistan Army in the Baluchistan Province are also widespread. According to ‘Voice for Baloch Missing Persons’, more than 18,000 Baloch Muslims are missing; among them are women. They also claim that they have found more than 3000 mutilated dead bodies of the missing persons. Recently, a mass grave was discovered in which the bodies of fourteen missing Balochs were found; they were known to have been kidnapped by the ISI.
In the 1970s operations in Baluchistan, the Pakistan Army killed more than 5,300 so-called Baloch separatists and 6,000 innocent Baloch civilians, under the command of General Tikka Khan.
It is ridiculous that an Army that has totally failed in maintaining peace in its own country since it came into being, is available for rent to the United Nations’ so-called ‘peace-keeping missions. When a Pakistani soldier dies, it brings money to the pockets of Generals. One of the primary reasons of Pakistan’s joining the war on terror (War against Islam) is money. It seems like the more soldiers die, the better it is for the Generals because with each soldier’s death more money comes in from the coalition support fund.
Pakistan’s security forces are ahead of everyone in human rights abuses, atrocities and war crimes. One can find every example of evilness in their past and present; of massacres more horrifying then Mai Lai, mass graves more than Bosnia, sex abuses more than North Korea, disappearances and mutilated dead bodies more than any country of Latin America, corruptions and bribery more than Russia, Military Coups more than Turkey, corporations and assets more than the military junta of Burmaand expertise in extraordinary rendition.
The Government of Pakistan has imposed an unprecedented law in the country. According to the Protection of Pakistan Act; any member of the security forces can kill anyone if he thinks this person may be a terrorist or miscreant. No authority can question the Army or secret services if they subject someone to disappearance for an unknown and unlimited period. No application or writ petition can be entertained or submitted in any court of Pakistan against the atrocities. Thousands of civilians have been arrested in Karachi during the last two months under this new law. Nobody can question who were they, where they are or when they will be presented to the court for justice? Earlier it was happening de facto now it is happening de jure.
Since the Mir Ali attack there have been further allegations of civilian casualties and I received these photos which claim that the persons shown were killed on 25th February, South Waziristan as a result of Pakistan army action.
All allegations of human rights abuses must be investigated, confirmed or denied and until the Pakistan government puts in place procedures to do so, there will be no trust from the people and little hope of dialogue being effective.
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”.