While newspapers and politicians fulminate against the terrorist threat to Britain that supposedly emanates from Pakistan, few British commentators have even noticed the large-scale state terrorism being practised in Pakistan by the US and Britain – and the Pakistani government (under pressure from Washington).
When referred to at all – usually in passing – Pakistani government actions in the border Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) are usually referred to, euphemistically, as the “vigorous pursuit of militants” or the like.
One million refugees
In a rare exception to this media silence, the Sunday Times (5 April) reported that: “As many as 1m people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army. In Bajaur agency [district] entire villages have been flattened by Pakistani troops under growing American pressure to act against Al-Qaeda militants, who have made the area their base.”
According to a spokesperson from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 546,000 people have registered as Internally Displaced Persons, but it is believed that many more have taken refuge with relatives and friends.
The Sunday Times piece included the powerful personal story of Baksha Zeb, who lost everything when his village, Anayat Kalay in Bajaur, was demolished by Pakistani forces. His eight-year-old son is a kidney patient needing dialysis. Baksha is almost destitute: “Our houses have been flattened, our cattle killed and our farms and crops destroyed. There is not a single structure in my village still standing. There is no way we can go back.”
Baksha sold his taxi to pay for food for his family and treatment for his son but the money had almost run out. “God bestowed me with a son after 15 years of marriage,” he told the Sunday Times. “Now I have no job and I don’t know how we will survive.”
While Pakistani forces say they killed 1,500 militants since launching “anti-Taliban” operations in Bajaur in August, locals who have since fled claim that only civilians were killed. Baksha saw dozens of his friends and relatives killed. Villagers were forced to leave bodies unburied as they fled.
Britain piles in
Britain is not just exerting pressure from the sidelines but is also directly involved in the military campaign in the tribal areas. For the first time since Pakistan’s independence in 1947, British soldiers are training the 60,000-strong Frontier Corps again. The MoD confirmed in late March that the 23-strong training team has been in Pakistan since last year, working alongside 30 US military advisers, thought to include special forces personnel.”
On 29 March, the Observer reported that: “Confirming that Britain was being drawn into a widening regional conflict, [British defence secretary John] Hutton said the time had come to target Taliban and al-Qaida havens inside Pakistan. In his most explicit statement of intent against Afghanistan’s troubled neighbour, Hutton said that the military objectives in the region must now have ‘an equal focus on both countries’.”
The newspaper reported that: “Britain has offered its full backing for a renewed military offensive inside Pakistan, as UK ministers confirmed the country was now ‘part of a single campaign’ alongside Afghanistan.” “An MoD spokesman said that Britain was ready to offer military, political and diplomatic support to a renewed offensive in Pakistan’s tribal lands.”