Waziristan – Heaven of Extremists?

By Farman Nawaz (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

According to Express Tribune – the leading newspaper of Pakistan, on August 20, 2013 Prime Minister Nawaz Shahrif , while addressing the nation on television, has called for dialogue with militants to end a resilient insurgency that has killed and wounded thousands of Pakistanis over the past few years. In the same breath, he however warned that his government would also use force to stamp out militancy from the country.

Few days back Asmat Ullah Muawiya the head of Punjabi Taliban, while talking to the Asif Farooqi of BBC Urdu rejected the assertion of division among Taliban and insignificance of negotiations with Taliban, he said that it is a fact that Pakistani Taliban factions have no central leadership but their main leadership is hiding in the tribal belt and are in close contact.

The facts narrated in the above two paragraphs indicates that Pakistani government has made its mind either to make peace by starting negotiation with Taliban or then eliminating terrorism by force. Secondly, just like national and international media, Taliban too admit and that its leadership is present in the tribal belt mainly Waziristan. In 2006 the local Taliban declared Waziristan has “Islamic Emirate of Waziristan”. On 4 June 2007 the National Security Council of Pakistan met to decide the fate of Waziristan and take up a number of political and administrative decisions to control “Talibanization” of the area.

At present intelligence agencies’ reports reveal that most of the terrorist activities are planned in the Waziristan agency (North and South Waziristan). The website pakistansurvey.org copyright New American Foundation shows that 95% drone attacks are carried out in this region.

After the 9/11 episode Waziristan has become a hotspot in the war on terror. The escaping Taliban were either kept as hostages by local Afghani warlords or came to Waziristan. Since that time Waziristan has got the attention of national and international media. At one time Waziristan had got the status of fugitive land. Criminals of settled areas used to escape to Waziristan to save themselves from their enemies and police as well. The main source of income of these fighters was kidnapping people from the settled areas with the help of tribes of Waziristan. The same tribal heads has got now the shape of local extremist leaders. In the past Waziristan was a no go area for police only. Army could easily move to any of its headquarters and check posts but now Waziristan has got the shape of Emirates of Extremists.

Waziristan is not only located on strategically important location but it also a mineral rich region. The minerals like Chromite, Iron and Gold found in Afghanistan are in close proximity to Waziristan. A report “Another Riko Diq in North Waziristan” published in Daily Dawn – a leading newspaper of Pakistan, on December 4, 2010 reveals “According to the recent evaluation, he said, the copper and gold reservoirs in Baluchistan were worth US $273 billion while a similar kind of reserves had also been discovered in North Waziristan”. A similar report “Breaking the Safe Haven: Minerals in Waziristan” is published on April 6, 2010 by Washington based ‘Centre for new American security’. Islamabad based organization ‘FATA Research Centre’ has too published a report “Mineral rich Waziristan waiting for peace”. This report reveals that local people have started digging these minerals by blasting and resources were being destroyed due to non technical ways of exploration.

Waziristan is a link between the main districts like Bannu, D.I. Khan, Hangu, Lakki Marwat, Tank and Karak of Kyber Pakhtoonkhwa province and Afghanistan. The important Ghulam Khan pass between Pakistan and Afghanistan is situated in North Waziristan. According to The Frontier Post, The Nation, Express Tribune and The Business Recorder reports “Collector Customs Peshawar, Zulfiqar A. Kazmi had agreed in principle with demand of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KPCCI) of allowing rebateable export from Ghulam Khan check post in Bannu. In this regard, Collector Custom has also held out assurance of sending recommendations to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to declare Ghulam Khan Check post as `Export Station’ on immediate basis”.

The round realities show that Waziristan has to play a very important role in the geopolitics of the region. It is a mineral rich region. Its minerals are still not exploited but on its both sides i.e. East (Pakistan) and West (Afghanistan) minerals are found and exploited.  Presently its status as a safe haven for Taliban is the hot topic of international media. Both Pakistani and Afghan Taliban are hiding in this region.

However it is regrettable that neither international nor regional powers even Pakistani government have shown any signs to promote development in this region. The Cadet College Razmak is shifted from Razmak cantonment. The banks operational in Mir Ali and Miran Shah are shifted to Bannu District. The imposition of curfew on Bannu Miran Shah Road is also creating problems for trade and travelers.

Not only the Waziristan but in the nearby areas there are no sign of international investment. On August 16, 2011, according to Daily Dawn, “The Pak-China Economic Zone (CPEZ) is a dead project now and a part of the land acquired for it has to be used for some other purpose”. Such reports discourage the residents of this region. The educated and enlightened people of this region are either killed by the militants or have shifted from Waziristan to the nearby districts and the remaining expects to be rescued by the national and international community by investing in educational and industrial projects in Waziristan. Only military operation is not the solution. A back up plan of educational and industrial projects funded by wealthy countries in this region can change the destiny of Pakistan and Afghanistan.


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