Pakistan’s FATA region – the tribal belt between Afghanistan and Pakistan may be a zone that could threaten the very integrity of the country!
This region, according to a report in New York Times, is under total control of Taliban now. On both sides of the formal border, the support for Talibs is very high and they have run into cross-hairs of US as well.
Many American and Pakistani investigators now believe that it was Baitullah Mehsud – the strongest Taliban leader in FATA region who sent assassins to take care of Benazir Bhutto.
The report in NY Times describes a battle that brings out the complexities of the fight and US-Pak relations in this region:
Late in the afternoon of June 10, during a firefight with Taliban militants along the Afghan-Pakistani border, American soldiers called in airstrikes to beat back the attack. The firefight was taking place right on the border itself, known in military jargon as the “zero line.” Afghanistan was on one side, and the remote Pakistani region known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, was on the other. The stretch of border was guarded by three Pakistani military posts.
The American bombers did the job, and then some. By the time the fighting ended, the Taliban militants had slipped away, the American unit was safe and 11 Pakistani border guards lay dead. The airstrikes on the Pakistani positions sparked a diplomatic row between the two allies: Pakistan called the incident “unprovoked and cowardly”; American officials regretted what they called a tragic mistake.
The question arose as to why did the Americans need to target the Pakistani guards? The reporter went to the region along with a local reporter and found out the reasons while talking to the locals who discussed on condition of anonymity.
The mystery, at least part of it, was solved in July by four residents of Suran Dara, a Pakistani village a few hundred yards from the site of the fight. According to two of these villagers, whom I interviewed together with a local reporter, the Americans started calling in airstrikes on the Pakistanis after the latter started shooting at the Americans.
“When the Americans started bombing the Taliban, the Frontier Corps started shooting at the Americans,” we were told by one of Suran Dara’s villagers, who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being persecuted or killed by the Pakistani government or the Taliban. “They were trying to help the Taliban. And then the American planes bombed the Pakistani post.”
For me, at least, this confirms the conviction that I have had for years now – that there is just a semantic difference between Pakistan Army, ISI, Al Qaeda, Dawood Ibrahim and Taliban. In most operations and on the ground, they have been functioning as one. The attacks by Pakistan Army in FATA are not natural and that is why they are leaving many in that organization very dissatisfied.
Clearly, there is a great upheaval in the offing in that region. And that is the reason I mentioned that a War with India – or at least starting of one (like Kargil) could be being planned right now. In my view, that is the only thing that could delay the complete takeover of Pakistan by Talibani forces in the coming years. Not that it will be good for India, because a war is the last thing India can afford to have given the World slowdown and business still booming in India due to Outsourcing.