Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Pakistani army chief of staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani offered a rare apology at the weekend for a deadly air strike in the Khyber region in the northwest in which residents and local officials say at least 63 civilians were killed.
Tragically for the Pakistani military, most of the victims were members of a tribe that had stood up against the Taliban. Some of them were members of the army. Indeed as Dawn reported the first bomb was dropped on the house of a serving army officer, followed by another more devastating strike just when people rushed to the scene. Such actions defy description and an explanation is in order from those who ordered the assault, the newspaper said in an angry editorial.
But the question really is wasn’t it coming? The counter-insurgency strategy that Pakistan has pursued to wrest control of its turbulent northwest along the border with Afghanistan has consisted of heavy use of air strikes and long range artillery barrages in the initial stages before putting boots on the ground.
It’s the steam-roller approach that Lord Curzon, the turn-of-the century British Viceroy of India, spoke about when confronted with a similar challenge in Waziristan – except that it relies on stand-off weapons like releasing bombs from the safety of a jet aircraft to keep military casualties down, taking a leaf from the U.S. playbook in Afghanistan.