By Farhat Taj
The points that Ayaz Wazir (Oct 30) raised in response to my article (Oct 26) endorsed some of the arguments that I have been making in these pages -- i.e., the previous military operations in Waziristan were not targeted and the leadership of the Taliban terrorists was tacitly given safe passages to escape. The operations ended with suspicious "peace deals" with the terrorists in complete disregard to the people of Waziristan, who wished complete elimination of the Taliban. All this has been stage-managed in pursuit of foreign-policy goals in Afghanistan.
I have a comment on Ayaz Wazir's article, and an explanation. The comment is about the questions he raised. Who was responsible for the collapse of the three institutions around which the tribal system revolved? Was it done by the tribesmen themselves? Was it done by a foreign power or non-state actors within the country? Who elevated Nek Mohammad overnight to heights of popularity by entering into a deal with him? Who was threatening Waziristan's Yargulkhail tribe of dire consequences? It certainly was not the tribesmen to be blamed for the collapse of the system.
The time to pose these questions is gone. I would request the educated people of Waziristan to name those who engineered creation of the Taliban and imposed them on Waziristan. Privately, the people of Waziristan (and Pakhtuns in general) hold state elements responsible for that. Publicly, they do not speak out.
Coming to the explanation regarding my comparison between the educated people of Swat and Waziristan, the latter may not be as integrated in the state structure of Pakistan as Swat, but most educated people of Waziristan are just as integrated in the state and society of Pakistan as those of Swat. It is unlikely that lack of integration of Waziristan might have prevented them from doing what the educated people of Swat did: use of modern technological tools and interaction with the media to highlight the brutal Taliban occupation of Swat.
When the crisis started in Swat, many Swatis created blogs and constantly informed the world about Taliban atrocities in their area. Many composed poetry and songs about the human sufferings there, and put them on YouTube. Countless Swatis were in constant contact with media people and op-ed writers, including myself. They sent us information which they wished to be presented in the media. They were complete strangers. I often cross-checked their information with my sources in Swat and mostly, their information was correct. This is something that I have not seen coming from the educated people of Waziristan.
The Swatis made a world impact in a shorter time than Waziristanis: many people around the world came to know that the people of Swat were suffering Taliban atrocities. Many Swatis worked with fake names and identities, since there was no need to show bravado, given the security situation.
Because the educated people of Waziristan are silent, people around the world and in Pakistan have provided their own answers to questions like those raised by Ayaz Wazir. The answers are not only baseless but also ridiculous. Bizarre ideas have been attributed to the people of Waziristan by writers in western countries, who, in the words of a cynical Pakhtun, are engaged in "Google scholarship" to understand Waziristan. This means they Google Waziristan and write a whole book or research papers on the area. They hardly care to crosscheck their Google knowledge with the ground realities of Waziristan, an area not accessible for independent scholarly and journalistic investigation due to the security situation. The "Google scholars" hardly pay any attention to research ethics when attributing notions to people and culture of Waziristan. They could never assign such bizarre ideas to people in western countries with the same ease with which they do in the case of the people of Waziristan, because in the west research ethics applies to researchers. Who cares about research ethics when it comes to the people and culture of Waziristan.
The other group of people who spread lies about Waziristan are armchair analysts, and pro-establishment and right-wing journalists and writers in Pakistan. The lies and the Google-scholarly notions are: the tribes of Waziristan back the Taliban, actually the tribes are the Taliban, the tribes have given refuge to Al Qaeda terrorists under the tribal code of Pakhtunwali, Talibanisation in Waziristan is a reaction to US drone attacks in the area, the Taliban are Pakhtun nationalists, Talibanisation is an indigenous movement for social justice, the people of Waziristan are attacking Pakistan because the state is seen as siding with the US, the people of Waziristan are fiercely autonomous and abhor integration in a modern state structure, etc. Most books, research and news reports about Waziristan perpetuate such hilarious and baseless nations about the people and culture there.
Both Google scholars in the western countries and pro-establishment right-wingers of Pakistan have misinformed and misled the public about Waziristan in Pakistan and abroad. They both promote their careers by writing such literature and attending conferences about Waziristan and thus make money out of the sufferings of the people of this tortured land. Whose responsibility is it challenge this all? I have not seen educated people of Waziristan questioning this situation with facts of history and the current realities of the area.
The educated people of Waziristan should give a strong rebuttal to such writers in the west and in Pakistan. I wish to remind them that freedom is never given for free. One has to fight for it. They too have to fight for the freedom of their native land from not just the Taliban but also from the Google scholars and Pakistani right-wingers.