Burying us Alive in Bara

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Still, it was not over. Before leaving, Muneer had laid the foundation for another group, Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI). That organization was now headed by Mangal Bagh, a man who began as a bus driver and morphed into a leader of LeI. Bagh had started operating in Khyber Agency, first abducting, torturing and persecuting Peer’s followers and then kidnapping for ransom in the provincial capital, Peshawar. Peer’s allies sought help from Maulvi Mehbook ul-Haq, and the groups went to war with each other. Meanwhile, Namdaar, who had begun the whole mess, was killed by his own guard, but his organization still operates, in all likelihood, with the help of the Pakistani state. And LeI’s rival organization, Ansar-ul-Islam is also intact.

In the virtual absence of a functioning state, Mangal Bagh established an uneasy peace through terror, in the areas around Bara Bazaar. Criminals and drug dealers eliminated. Disputes were dealt with swiftly.  It was a pattern that has occurred again and again with militant groups in FATA—a moment where they provide what the state has not, before turning wild.

After a few surgical operations by the military (which people largely believed to be cosmetic), a curfew was imposed on Sep 1st, 2009, and Mangal Bagh—who had limited himself to kidnapping rather than targeting security forces—finally turned against the state. There is no approximate figure of the deaths that followed. Some escaped to Peshawar. Many of those who remained were either poor or optimists or both, awaiting the return of the good old days before death ended their agony.

The pattern is common to any other area in FATA where the military has been after militants. This is not to oppose military operations entirely, but it is to question why the military is failing so badly, and that too in its own land? Since 2002, FATA has literally been under military rule, but somehow, it failed to stop illegal FM stations or the work of these Islamist groups. Is it the state’s complicity, or is it incompetence? And why is it that the people of FATA pay the price?

The Pakistan Army owes its failure in FATA, because of its own shortcomings and actions. Pro-government lashkars (militias) were formed and repeatedly abandoned, after they had been publicized leaving them to be vulnerable to militant attacks. Innocent civilians have been shot by the army more accurately and abundantly than militants.

The Bara Killings

Of the bodies brought to Peshawar for a protest this month, seven were from one family alone; another five belonged to a second family, a father and four sons. A

Shabbir lost 5 members of his family. He serves in paramilitary Frontier Corps himself.

Shabbir lost 5 members of his family. He serves in paramilitary Frontier Corps himself.

brother belonging to the same family was killed last year by the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC). Another brother, the one crying in this photo, is Shabbir. He works for the FC himself, and was on duty when the attack happened. And, in a final twist, both families live not more than 200 yards from the Dogra check post.

Would militants live in such close proximity, or hide in their own homes after attacking security forces?  Now, the military claims that these people were killed by militants, in which case, we must ask: were the units on duty at Dogra check post sleeping? The military has similarly told us that the 22 men from the Levies who were killed last month were also kidnapped by militants, but nothing has been done to investigate who killed them. Those men fought for the state, but it seems that because the levies’ soldiers are drawn from the local tribal areas, their lives do not matter. So, we Pashtuns from the tribal areas must ask: are we not Pakistanis? Do our sons’ lives matter so little?

This photo shows the close proximity at which the family of the dead were living to Dogra checkpost.

This photo shows the close proximity at which the family of the dead were living to Dogra checkpost. The yellow pins on the left represent the homes; the pin on the left is the checkpost.

Yes, army soldiers are dying too, but we are not the ones killing them. Seniors in the military should be questioned about the lives lost including those of the FC, the Frontier Constabulary, the Levies, the police as well as civilians—all our brothers. But, instead the military has been busy smearing Amnesty international’s report on its abuses in FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as “baseless.”

And, it has been busy humiliating the families of the dead. They stopped them from protesting and entering Peshawar. They took the bodies of their dead forcibly away from them in the middle of the night. They baton charged the grieving relatives. All this, and the KP’s Information Minister, Mian Iftikhar, claimed he didn’t even know who had ordered the crackdown.

It is time for the military to own up to its mistakes. Tell us what is going on. It’s ok if you blundered, but it would be suicide now if you don’t admit your crimes and correct your strategy. This is not to fret, blame and live in the past. Let’s look forward. Wars are not won without public support and a clear objective. That purpose should not include Afghanistan: let Afghans decide what’s best for them. You have already alienated them. You have already alienated the Pashtuns. You have already alienated the Baloch. Your Turkish and Egyptian counterparts have already given up. Retrieve gracefully. Wake up before nothing is left to guard or to rule.

Rashid Khan Aurakzai is an electrical engineer and a concerned citizen. He hails from Hangu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

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6 Responses to Burying us Alive in Bara

  1. […] in the dead of night and their relatives dead bodies forcibly taken from them. Rashid Khan Aurakzai delivers a devastating critique of the government and the Pakistan […]

  2. Irfan Khan on Feb 2013 at 5:19 AM

    Harsh and apt questions raised. Army has to answer the questions raised. Why has the army failed to curb militancy even after military operations being conducted for the last 9 years? Is the army complicit and is it incapable of protecting the citizens of the country?And if military operation is not the solution then find a durable solution to get rid of this menace and stop the blood shed of the Pukhtoons; who are as equal Pakistani’s as anybody else.

  3. mehrin on Feb 2013 at 1:33 PM

    your verbosity and the attempt at instigating the ethnic pride of pashtuns and thus leading them towards a wrong and biased thinking pattern will surely fulfill your purpose of degrading the military, the state and in a way go to the level of supporting the terrorists’ cause.you have yourself described how a one man show by a KSA returnee, turned into a potent terrorist force and ultimately led to armed battles between various factions…all with the help of the very locals of that area. People like you were actually sleeping at that time and now they are busy in distancing the masses from the military without cognizant of the facts. you have raised many issues in your article………in my opinion few of the reasons for the current situation are as follows: religious intolerance,the fact that pashtuns live and die for their traditions and religion has transformed into a tradition, madrassas from opposing religious factions functioning in the area, hosting of absconding terrorists from other militancy hit areas and Afganistan by the locals, failure of the govt in understanding the tribal culture and devising means to deal with it, bringing the military by the civil administration to operate in such areas once the situation has gone real bad, and so on……
    Bara Killing Facts:- It is a proven fact that militants have successfully blended with the locals of Bara and even have gained sympathies of many locals.When the killings took place, a simultaneous operation was in progress in the area.the troops present at Dogar post were out in the area fighting against the terrorists.In a preplanned way the terrorists killed and mutilated the innocent people and then moved their sympathizers to manipulate the grieved relatives to protest with the dead bodies of their dear ones ……the brazen faced terrorists just wanted an end to the military operation in Bara and have heartlessly used the sentiments of the locals to their own ends…………….I hope that will serve you and one more thing ….you have very wrongly portrayed the death of levies soldiers to create hatred in the locals and have not mentioned so many other such accidents which have happened to the Army,FC and Police.God help you…..

  4. Rashid Aurakzai on Feb 2013 at 7:58 AM

    When was the last time you were in Peshawar or talked to any native from Bara, Mohmand, Bajaur, Orakzai or Waziristan, Mehrin. Cool down and answer the questions instead of telling tales. Start from anywhere since 1947 and we shall prove how not the military is behind Pakistan erosion. Like it or not, there is only one party and one state in Pakistan and that it the military.

    Why did the military let militant close road to Parachinar for more than three years for Shias, who had fought bravely against the TTP. The same roads were open for the military itself and it has a cantonment in Parachinar as well. Bibi, Baat niklay ggee tau pher dooor talak jaye ggee but I advise you read the last paragraph again. It’s not about blame game here. Today, the tribes are suffering, tomorrow it shall be Islamabad and Karachi and the next day it could be Lahore. Remember the story of the boy who called wolf.

  5. […] Source: http://www.tanqeed.org/2013/02/burying-us-alive-in-bara-rashid-khan-aurakzai/ […]

  6. […] Burying us Alive in Bara […]

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