The Writing(s) On The Wall

Jul 2014

At a time when the Pakistan Army claims to be waging a “decisive” and “long-awaited” battle against militancy in Pakistan–indeed one that has received support from many quarters–it is surprising to discover wall-chalkings on, among other, walls of the Bannu army cantonment. In the wake of Operation Zarb-a-Azb, an army offensive launched in North Waziristan on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border ostensibly in response to an attack on an international airport in Karachi, hundreds of thousands displaced residents have arrived in Bannu, a district in the neighboring Khyber-Pakhtkunkhwa province.

These wall-chalkings predictably applaud Pakistan’s military operation in North Waziristan. And, they ridicule the prime minister, praise the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Afghan Taliban, and curse Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder. Most of the wall-chalkings were signed off by a group called the Awaami Baghi Group, Bannu Waziristan (or Public Rebel Group, Bannu, Waziristan), and most had messages that bordering on hate speech.

These wall-chalkings were most likely not written by, or for, locals. All of them were in Urdu, a language that is neither spoken by the displaced from North Waziristan nor the residents of Bannu. The only person willing to give me a quote about these wall-chalkings–the rest were afraid, and even he wished to remain anonymous–said that the wall-chalkings “must have been written by the non-democratic forces who have historically derailed democracy in this country: The Pakistan Army.”

These pictures were taken during my second trip to Bannu after the operation (the first time around, I did a story on militant aid camps.) I did not see these writings on my first trip, and locals I spoke to said they were recent additions. With watch towers and military personnel on every corner, I had to take these pictures, in secret, on my phone and from my car.

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1. The Writings on the Wall

Location: Wall of the army cantonment or compound in Bannu.

Rubble surrounds the army cantonment in Bannu. That is why anyone who wants to cross it to scrawl long messages on the wall of the cantonment will undoubtedly be seen by the two watch towers that flag the cantonment wall. This wall showcases all the statement’s that I saw around Bannu.

PIC0

 

2. Salutes to the ISPR, ISIS, and the Afghan Taliban.

Location: The boundary wall of the army cantonment or compound in Bannu.

Many wall-chalkings saluted Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public relations arm of the Pakistan Army, ISIS and the Afghan Taliban. Most of the locals I spoke to had no idea what the ISPR was.

PIC1

Translations. From left to right.
a.
Tehreek-e-Islami Afghan Taliban. Rus, Amrika, Britanya Pareshaan. Awami Baaghi Group, Bannu Waziristan.

Tehreek-e-Islami Afghan Taliban, Russia, America and Britain’s Agony. Public Rebel Group, Bannu Waziristan.

b.
Hum mehnat karne walo ne daulat waalo ko lalkaara hai. ISPR ko salaam. Hamid Mir Laanat. Awaami Baaghi Group, Bannu Waziristan.

We, the hardworking, have called on elites. We salute the ISPR. Curse Hamid Mir. Public Rebel Group, Bannu Waziristan.

c.
Nawaz Sharif  geedar. Tum ne kab se puri qom ko apne qabu mein samajh rakha. Jo hamari izzat loot gai us ka badla le ge. Pervez Musharraf sher tha. Aur tum ujardi besharam geedar. Awami Baagi Group, Bannu Waziristan.

Nawaz Sharif. You are a jackal. You have held the people hostage. You have stolen our our honor and we will get revenge. Pervez Musharraf was a lion. And you [Sharif] are a hired, shameless and cowardly jackal. Public Rebel Group, Bannu Waziristan.

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Also read: “Black Like Charcoal” by Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud

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3. Attacking politicians: Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and Aitzaz Ahsan.

Location: The boundary wall of the army cantonment or compound in Bannu.

The wall-chalking directly to the right of the motorbike attacks the former Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, the current prime minister Nazaf Sharif, and the supreme court lawyer and prominent member of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, Aitzaz Ahsan. It also attacks Hamid Mir, the Pakistani journalist who was shot in April. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Mir said the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s premier spy agency, was behind the attack.

The last wall-chalking, which is barely visible behind the motorbike on the far left of this picture, pays tribute to ISIS leader Abu Bakar Baghdadi.

PIC2Wall-chalking directly to the right of the motorbike.

Zardari Arf daku ke haato qom ka loota huwa 650 million dollar hum Nawaz Sharif aur Aitzaz Ahsan ke jeb se wasool kar lege. Article 248 ke tehet  [Unclear]. Aur Hamid Mir khamosh raha.

The thief Zardari stole 650 million dollar from the people and we will retrieve it from the pockets of Nawaz Sharif and Aitzaz Ahsan. According to article 248 [unclear, though this article grants elected members of the government immunity]. And Hamid Mir remained quiet.

4. All Hail Raheel Sharif!

Location: A wall in Bannu city.

This wall-chalking praises General Raheel Sharif, the Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army. And, the ISPR.
PIC3
Raheel Sharif hum sab ka bhai hai. ISPR ko kharaaj taheesh pesh karte hain. Awaami Baaghi Group, Bannu Waziristan.

Raheel Sharif is a brother to us all. We pay tribute to the ISPR. Public Rebel Group, Bannu Waziristan.

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5. Abu Bakar Baghdadi, ISIS…

Location: On a wall across from the army cantonment or compound in Bannu

This wall-chalking pays tribute to ISIS and its leader.

PIC4

Shaami daish tanzeem ke sarbarah Abu Bakar Baghdadi kharaaj taheesh pesh karte hai. Awaami Baagi Group, Bannu Waziristan.

We pay tribute to the leader of ISIS Abu Bakar Baghdadi. Public Rebel Group, Bannu Waziristan.

6. … and the Pakistan Army?

Location: On a wall across from the army cantonment or compound in Bannu

In the same handwriting, and just next to the message praising ISIS and Abu Bakar Baghdadi (# 5), I found another wall-chalking praising the Pakistan Army.

PIC5

 

Zarb-e-Azb ki himayat karte hai. Pak fauj ko salaam. Awaami Baaghi Group, Bannu Waziristan.

We support Zarb-e-Azab. Pakistan Army we salute you. Public Rebel Group, Bannu Waziristan.

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7. Go Army! Go away democracy?

Location: On a wall in Bannu city.

This wall-chalking praises General Raheel Sharif, and ridicules the prime minister.

PIC6.

Raheel Sharif hum sab ka bara bhai hai. Zarb-e-Azb mein hum un ka saath dete hain. Nawaz Sharif ujrati hai. Besharam, zaalim aur buzdil geedar hai. Awaami Baaghi Group, Bannu Waziristan.

Raheel Sharif [COAS of the Pakistan Army] is our elder brother. We stand with him in the Zarb-e-Azab operation. Nawaz Sharif is a hired, shameless and cowardly jackal. Public Rebel Group, Bannu Waziristan.

8. Expanding Zarb-e-Azb into Bannu.

Location: A wall in Bannu city.

This wall-chalking calls for an expansion of the North Waziristan operation into Bannu. Someone has blacked out the words that were cursing Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder.

PIC7

Zarb-e-Azb FATA tak nahin is ka daira Bannu tak waaseye hona chahiye. Ippi Faqir zindabaad. Quaid-e-Azam par hazaar laanat.

Zarb-e-Azab should be expanded beyond FATA to include Bannu. Long live Ippi Faqir, [Thousand Curses on] Quaid-e-Azam.

 

Taha Siddiqui is an investigative journalist based in Islamabad. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor and several other international and local news organisations. He tweets @TahaSSiddiqui

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87 Responses to The Writing(s) On The Wall

  1. Christena ellie on Nov 2016 at 11:58 PM

    Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further post thank you once again.

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