October 19, 2003


Tribes inflamed by Qaeda hunt: Waziristan is notoriously independent and shares an ideological bond with Osama bin Laden. (Owais Tohid, 10/20/03, The Christian Science Monitor )

Early this month, hundreds of Pakistani commandos, aided by helicopter gunships, fought a pitched battle with Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters amid the mud-walled homes in Baghar village, a few miles from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Eight Al Qaeda men were killed, and 18 captured; among the dead were Chechens and Arabs. Two Pakistani soldiers also died.

Since then, Pakistani troops have been patrolling the region in armored vehicles, and on horseback in South Waziristan, where troops and paramilitaries stand guard in new bunkers.

More than 50 tribesmen have been arrested in recent days, their shops sealed and warnings issued to turn over 13 locals believed to have provided shelter to Al Qaeda and Taliban "terrorists" fighting against the US-led coalition forces.

"We have told the tribal chiefs to immediately hand over the men who harbored Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists and assisted them in fighting against US forces across the border or be ready for a massive operation," says a senior administrative official, Pir Anwer Ali Shah. "We will not let anybody harbor terrorists in our territory."

Pakistan's tribal belt still follows the format established by colonial officers prior to the end of British rule in 1947. The federal government "administers" the independent tribal belt, but Pakistani laws do not apply to the tribesmen. The administration uses the dated British-era Frontier Crimes Regulations, under which tribal elders have to hand over wanted criminals at the request of the federal government. So far, tribal chiefs have handed over three alleged hosts of Al Qaeda to the authorities.

"It is a political game between the authorities and tribal chiefs," says Waziristan-based writer and sociologist Sailab Meshud. "The authorities are pressuring the tribesmen, and the tribal chiefs are buying time [for] Al Qaeda fighters and their local agents to slip away and prevent clashes between the tribesmen and the Pakistan Army," Mr. Meshud says.

But the tribesmen are enraged, and accuse President Pervez Musharraf of conspiring against the tribesmen at the behest of Washington.

If they're helping our enemy and share the same ideology, are they not our enemy?

Religious killings on the rise in Pakistan despite crackdown Killings among rival Sunnis and Shi'ites have left 76 dead, casting doubts over anti-militant drive (Straits Times, 10/20/03)

The resurgence of killings among the rival Sunni and Shi'ite sects of Islam, climaxing with the murder of Sunni icon Azam Tariq, has underscored long-held doubts about the direction of Pakistan's crackdown on Islamic militancy, analysts say.

Tariq's death 'was the most foretold in Pakistan', the Daily Times newspaper said, questioning how one of the most high-profile sectarian leaders could be gunned down in broad daylight as he entered the nation's capital.

To date, no one has been arrested for the Oct 6 killing, the most high-profile of at least 76 Shi'ite and Sunni deaths this year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2003 6:55 PM

They have given aid and comfort to terrorists and under the Bush doctrine are to be treated as such.

Maybe we should air drop some American Indian activists in their territory to explain how we handle savage tribes.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 19, 2003 9:01 PM

They may putatively be our enemy, but why unnecessarily widen the war ? We'd be hard pressed to maintain a Pakistani front. If we simply get Pakistan to chase them into Afghanistan, they'll eventually end up dead, anyhow.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 20, 2003 6:41 AM