Pakistan, from Swat to Baluchistan via Waziristan

May 22, 2009

The Pakistan Army is engaged in what appears to be a very nasty little war in the Swat valley against heavily armed Taliban militants.  With journalists having left Swat, there have been no independent reports of what is going on there, though the scale of the operation can be partly measured by the huge numbers of refugees – nearly 1.7 million – who fled to escape the military offensive.

Dawn newspaper carried an interview with a wounded soldier saying the Taliban had buried mines and planted IEDs every 50 metres.  ‘They positioned snipers in holes made out of the walls of houses. They used civilians as human shields. They used to attack from houses and roofs,” it quoted him as saying. ‘They are well equipped, they have mortars. They have rockets, sniper rifles and every type of sophisticated weapons.”

Al Jazeera’s correspondent said that the battle was about to get worse as the army prepared to enter Mingora, the main town in the Swat valley. The BBC’s Urdu service managed to talk to a couple of people trapped inside Mingora, one of whom mentioned coming across an Arab among a group of militants.

President Asif Ali Zardari has talked of extending the battle into Waziristan, believed to be the hideout of al Qaeda, and now Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said a U.S. military offensive in southern Afghanistan could push Taliban fighters from there into Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. (To get a sense of the geographical scale of this, scroll down to the map at the bottom of this page to see how far Quetta, the main city in Baluchistan, is from the Swat valley.) Mullen said both U.S. and Pakistani forces were aware of the risk of a spillover from Afghanistan into Pakistan, and were planning measures to prevent it.

He did not say how they would do this, although the Wall Street Journal said earlier this week that the United States was sending 25 to 50 Special Forces personnel into Baluchistan to train Pakistanis, bringing U.S. troops deeper into Pakistan. The Special Forces would focus on training Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, but were not meant to fight alongside them, it said. But it added, “A senior American military officer said he hoped Islamabad would gradually allow the U.S. to expand its training footprint inside Pakistan’s borders. A former U.S. official familiar with the plans said the deployments would ‘get more American eyes and ears’ into the strategically important region.”

U.S. officials say Quetta is the base for the Afghan Taliban and its leader Mullah Omar, who are able to hide in the Afghan refugee camps that sprang up after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. (Mukhtar Khan at CTC Sentinel has a detailed report on the Afghan Taliban in Quetta which you can find by scrolling down on this pdf document.)

But taking on the Afghan Taliban in Baluchistan, while also chasing the Pakistan Taliban out of Swat, and pursuing al Qaeda in Waziristan would be a massive operation. It’s not clear whether there is some kind of masterplan and timeline for all this that we have yet to be told about, or if as Cyril Almeida worries in a column in Dawn, the Pakistan government is simply “steering blindfolded” with “a mix of lucky breaks and nonsense planning.”

Nor is it clear how all this fits into the plans set out by the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are looking more and more in need of revision every day.

(Photos taken at Baine Baba Ziarat mountain in Swat during trip organised by Pakistan Army/Mian Kursheed)


@What I understand all Umair’s comment (bad) are made out of frustration. If 10 people attack me I would do the same thing. If we all keep our prejudices at home and have constructive discussion and stay on the topic, may be we will be able to make a difference.
- Posted by babag

-Babag, if you say this, you should be in a good position to understand that Indians are frsutrated not from the bloggers–thta’s part of the game-Indians are frustrated from Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India. I know it is rhetorical statement, but a truth. Get your facst right about your this statement “Pakistan Govt is not going to tell terrorist go attack Delhi.”. Pakistani govt does. Let me give you a stinker, Pakistan’s actions have resemble those of a terrorist organization and thugs, top Paki scientist is a thief.

Myra: I undesrtand the repetition part of your statement. But on participation,if Pakis cannot come on the blog, it is just that they cannot face the logic. When I have suffered through 15yr Punjab terrorism, sponsored by Pakistan, I have everyright to whip a Pakistani who denies it.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

BagBag Writes:
“Let me repeat myself. Terrorism should be taken in global contest.”

Terrorism is only global when it happens in US UK or western world. Pakistanis do not believe whatever happens in India is Terrorism. For them its freedom fight. Who do you think supported Sikh terrorism in Punjab ?

“The Kargil issue should be considered with the Siachen glacier. India occupied that area which threatened Pakistan’s interest. To me, that was a tit for tat. Timing was wrong, but it was a good idea.”

Kargil is in Indian side, Siachen was a disputed area, do you see the difference. Besides this what did you get from it ? One more defeat added in Pakistan list of army failures and one added in Indian wins. You say it was a good idea, do you think Indians will let Kashmir go like this ? Ok give it one more try.

“Kashmir is a disputed territory, Pakistan does not believe it’s India’s “atoottang”. Oh boy, do I hate that word. Since India is a big democracy (sarc) and it believes that all Kashmiris want to be part of India, it has nothing to loose. Have Plebiscite as promised by Nehru and UN and I beleive whole Continent’s problems will be solved.”

If Kashmir is disputed and Plebiscite is yet to made, on what grounds Pakistan recognizes China’s claims on the Aksai chin areas. UN also told Pakistan army to leave Kashmir, which is not done till date. Even if its for argument, Pakistan is equally responsible as India is. Then why terrorist organizations like JuD, Let and JeM are not attacking Pak establishments and instead doing welfare in Pak.

“You wrote “as long as Pak behaves”. Now I am getting frustrated like Umair. Pakistan is not India’s Puppy. You need to understand that Pakistani people are very patriotic and they will not bend over to please India.”

If you dont spread terrorism in your neibour’s house and don’t try misadventures like Kargil every now and then, this does not mean that you are a puppy. India has defeated Pak in every overt war, it can also do it in covert war. Only thing is we feel its coward to kill civillians.

“Umair is not Pakistan, what he writes is not because of jealousy. You can be jealous of a person not a country and belive me I am proud to be Pakistani.”

Umair represents an average well educated Pakistani. If he say “if we go down, we will take you with us” You don’t need brains of Einstein to figure out what an uneducated countryman think about us. By the way its not Umair’s fault, if he is born in Pakistan after 1971, most likely he is venom fed child. See this link, this is report from SDPI Pakistan. tate%20of%20Curr&TextBooks.pdf

Have a great day.

Posted by punjabiyaar | Report as abusive

BagBag: tate%20of%20Curr&TextBooks.pdf

Scroll directly to page 37, its a bit long with too many credits.

Posted by punjabiyaar | Report as abusive

Babag writes: “The Kargil issue should be considered with the Siachen glacier. India occupied that area which threatened Pakistan’s interest. To me, that was a tit for tat. Timing was wrong, but it was a good idea”

Siachien is a barren glacier, just like Aksai Chin. Pakistan cedes this barren region to China from Kashmir that it calls as a disputed territory, yet to be settled through the UN. But Pakistan fights India on Siachien. Why is that? What gave Pakistan the right to cede a region that is not officially its territory yet? I just want a consistent answer. I am not asking this question from a tit-for-tat perspective. I see a double standard in Pakistan’s policy. I’d like an explanation from a Pakistani perspective.


“Pakistan cedes this barren region to China from Kashmir that it calls as a disputed territory, yet to be settled through the UN. But Pakistan fights India on Siachien. Why is that?”

I asked exactly same question in my earlier post, lets see if anybody from Pakistan comes up with a sane answer,but I doubt if they have something on it.

Posted by punjabiyaar | Report as abusive

Punjabiyaar writes: “I asked exactly same question in my earlier post, lets see if anybody from Pakistan comes up with a sane answer,but I doubt if they have something on it.”

You are never going to get an honest reply from Pakistanis. They parrot only one thing all the time. May be Myra or someone “neutral” might step in and admonish us Indians for being rude towards Pakistanis on this forum and using foul language. This is the cycle I see repeated on these biased blogs.


Guys, you are going way off topic again.

That would be ok if it advanced the discussion, but it doesn’t. Have you considered asking why Pakistan sees a link between Siachen and Kargil rather than assuming there is no answer? Or why it sees a difference between the Shaksgam valley (ceded to China by Pakistan pending a final settlement of the Kashmir dispute) and the Saltoro ridge above Siachen?

If you frame your comment in the context of “you can’t answer this”, you won’t get an answer.

I could answer those comments, being one of the few people to have been to both sides of Siachen, with both the Indian and Pakistan armies, and listened to both sides of the argument. But do you want a discussion or a platform?

I welcome the comments that take the discussion forward, particularly from those who add links and new ideas. But here’s my problem. If I ask you to allow space for Pakistanis to feel comfortable posting on this blog, you accuse me of bias. If I were to give the Pakistan side of the argument to make sure both sides get heard, you will accuse me of bias.

So what do you want to do? We can have an intelligent discussion that allows all sides of the argument to be expressed. Or I can close posts every time the discussion strays off topic and gets repetitive.


Posted by Myra MacDonald | Report as abusive

We try to answer the questions to the best of our knowledge and we don’t evade answers and we have accepted mistakes which India has made in the past.
Asking difficult questions is not akin to scaring people away. If you want a forum where Indians and Pakistanis co-exist then there will be difficult questions for both sides to be answered.
we are doing our bit to the best of our knowledge and expect the same from Pakistanis. It doesn’t matter who answers the questions. If you can send us links so that we may be able to find the answers ourselves then it will be better.
Also, I have tried and failed to understand the Pakistanis claim of the necessity to sponsor terrorism and use LeT and JeD as strategic investments to keep India in check. May be you can answer that too.
On second thoughts you can send us links which give us a nuanced understanding of the view points on both sides of the border. That will make you look impartial.
Anyways, I feel its useless to waste my time here. I would rather post something where Pakistan as a topic is not involved.

Myra, your questions on china and India relationship including the 1962 war and current economic and race to dominate Indian ocean doesn’t fit the title: Pakistan: Now or Never. Its bye from me.

@ Indian friends,
I really feel its useless to keep fighting here when the host itself is biased. You can’t change their viewpoint.
Something as simple as leave terrorism and come to the talking table doesn’t get appreciated.
I suggest all of us can move our energies to India: A Billion Aspirations, we will have varied topics, occassionally seasoned with Pakistan. Let others say and do what they want, we will do what is right. May be I will check this forum once in a while but you would like to participate in building our nation rather than care about smear campaigns elsewhere. Will see you in India specific forums, I don’t want to be hyphenated with Pakistan wherever I go.

Posted by Aman | Report as abusive


You should write a disclaimer on your blog that you’ll be taking sides when Pakistanis are either unable or unwilling to make a cogent argument that will move the debate forward.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive


“But do you want a discussion or a platform?”

—Set the ball rolling, we’re game. Set the platform for a perspective discussion & play the role of a catalyst, sort of umpire.

Posted by anup | Report as abusive

Many killed as suicide bomber targets police offices in Lahore (Times, UK, 29/05/2009)

The cycle keeps going.

Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive

I am an Indian and a regular reader of blogs on this website. This is the first time I have seen authors talking for one side of the argument. Myra always (before this article too) sounded like taking side of Pakistan, but this time she has said it herself. I hope she realizes her mistake and take corrective actions. So that she do not scare away good Indian bloggers from her articles.

Posted by Pravin | Report as abusive

Seeking a civil, intelligent discussion with space for all sides of an argument is not bias. Those of you who see it as such are indeed on the wrong forum.

Nikhil, your suggestion is a good one, but you will see from the comment above how it is open to misinterpretation.

Since this discussion is now well off topic and does not apear to be leading anywhere, I am closing the comments on this post.


Posted by Myra MacDonald | Report as abusive