Imran-Khan-press-INP-670
PTI chief Imran Khan addressing a press conference. – File Photo by INP

Few people outside South Waziristan knew Kotkai — a mesh of small hamlets strewn across a hilly area — until, of course, PTI chairman Imran Khan announced his plans to hold his peace rally against CIA-operated drones in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands.

But long before Imran made up his mind to make the arduous journey to that part of the Mahsud’s heartland, Kotkai, in its own right, had become the cause célèbre for Pakistan’s law-enforcement and intelligence community. Hakeemullah Mahsud, who heads the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and his cousin, Qari Hussain — Ustad-i-Fidayeen — the teacher, architect and mastermind of suicide bombing in Pakistan, belong to Kotkai.

Also, it was at Kotkai that Ustad-i-Fidayeen had established his first camp to train suicide bombers who would unleash a reign of terror on the Pakistanis. Killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan in October 2010 — much to the relief of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies — Qari has left behind a faculty that will continue to churn out devout followers to haunt Pakistanis for many, many years to come.

So, had Imran thought about the political significance of choosing a venue for his peace rally to protest drones, he would certainly not have chosen Kotkai.

The Mahsud heartland is the birthplace of the TTP which has waged a relentless war against the Pakistani state, both within and from its sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

The military has been in the hold-mode and since the launch of its Operation Rah-i-Nijat in October 2009, the 2,419 square-kilometre area in the Mahsud territory officially remains a conflict zone, facing 1,144 incidents of fire-raids, rocket and mortar attacks and roadside bombings in 2011. Such attacks continue unabated with the military continuing to sustain casualties.

The entire Mahsud population was flushed out and displaced. Out of the approximately 350,00 Mahsuds, only 40,000 or so have so far volunteered to return after thorough screening and verification. The standing joke among the Mahsuds is that there are now more soldiers in their land than their fellow tribesmen.

It has been three years since the military entered South Waziristan but even now those entering the Mahsud land are required to get a ‘rahdari’ duly attested by two tribal elders and the political administration.

So, had peace been the motivation to stage the rally it would have made more sense for Imran to highlight the Fata conundrum that has embroiled Pakistan’s military and security establishment and the ravaging militants in a seemingly un-ending conflict that has seen the displacement of a close to a million tribal people from one end to the other.

Even on the drone issue, North Waziristan has borne the biggest brunt of the remote-controlled planes. Official statistics, more authentic than the ones being bandied about, speak for themselves. Of the 307 drone strikes till June this year, 238 have happened in North Waziristan. South Waziristan suffered 69 such attacks, two-thirds of which occurred in the Mahsud territory, more so in Birmal and Laddha.

The 69 attacks included the ones that killed Nek Mohammad in 2004. That attack, which had come on the request of and was received with gleeful acceptance, heralded the beginning of a long campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Years later, the Pakistanis would once again turn to their American friends to eliminate the TTP supremo, Baitullah Mahsud. The CIA obliged. On a starry night in August 2009, Baitullah was killed along with his wife while sleeping on the roof of his father-in-law’s house. The Americans shared its video with their grateful Pakistani counterparts.

Ever since, Pakistan’s involvement in drones has changed from requesting for it, to supporting and accepting, to acquiescence, to reluctantly accepting, declaring it illegal, yet allowing the CIA to continue to use the “box” to operate through.

So, had drone attacks been the motivation there could have been no other better place for a peace rally than Mirali or perhaps even Miramshah in North Waziristan. But Imran being smart – at least on this count – has chosen not to go there and for obvious reasons; and to his credit, he said it in so many words. It would have been risky.

No-one in his right frame of mind would dare to tread the dangerous path into North Waziristan – an area where the military, for a variety of reasons, is reluctant to mount an operation against foreign and Pakistani militants. This is one reason why the Americans say they would not, in the present circumstances, cease drone strikes – not until Pakistani forces moved in and asserted its authority.

Many analysts believe that PTI chairman’s poor understanding of the highly complex situation in Fata, particularly in the two Waziristans, borders on naiveté which makes things all the more dangerous for a man aspiring to be the next leader of Pakistan.

If choosing Kotkai as the venue was wrong, his statement and those of his party leaders’ that somehow the TTP would have no issues with and would provide security to his rally was foolhardy to say the least.

An over-sensitive military which has the absolute control in the Mahsud territory would never have allowed that, nor would have the TTP, who have warned their fellow Mahsuds to desist from returning home to avoid becoming sandwiched in the ongoing conflict in the yet-unstable Mahsud area. The TTP’s Friday statement, denying promising security to the PTI rally should not come as a surprise. Any hope within the PTI that it would play the Kramer vs Kramer drama has thus come to a naught.

Little wonder, the Ashangi Mahsud tribe, which dominates the area in Spinkay Raghazy, gave it in writing to the political administration in South Waziristan that they can neither protect nor undertake responsibility for providing security to the PTI rally. No-one is willing to take chances.

But having said this, the peace march would also test how far the government that takes credit for having extended the Political Parties Act to Fata, is willing to accommodate and allow PTI into South Waziristan.

Besides, the administration in South Waziristan says that it cannot allow the rally into South Waziristan on security grounds does not absolve it and security forces of their responsibility to protect its participants.

For now, there appears some sort of a tacit understanding between the PTI and the authorities that the rally will not proceed to South Waziristan or the “Waziristan” which its activists and leaders tried to twist to escape mocking sarcasm of chickening out of North Waziristan. The grand finale that Imran has claimed he would stage at “Waziristan” may thus end in a public meeting at Tank or Dera Ismail Khan.

But then politics is all that matters, a showdown and attempts to force entry against poorly-equipped Khasadars, is a possibility nobody is willing to discount. In the words of a senior government official, the PTI rally is fast turning into a political Wikipedia, Imran Khan has initiated the script but he will not be able to write its end.

Updated Oct 06, 2012 02:40am

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Comments (Closed)


Usman
Oct 06, 2012 11:32am
I absolutely agree with you, Mohammed. The article only seems to demonize Imran Khan (and hence hail crooked leaders like Zardari and Nawaz Sharif).
Mohsin
Oct 07, 2012 10:09am
Ouch..Ouchh..OUCH..the rally just passed TANK... enough said!
M. Asghar
Oct 06, 2012 09:01am
The write-up analyses well the situation on the ground that PTI has decided to face for the good of the area and the country as a whole. Everything should be done by everybody to make it a successful operation.
Aadil
Oct 06, 2012 11:01am
easy to say, it is a small feat, when the write "ismail khan" is writing from the comfort of his home or office, while PTI is in the conflict zone.
Shaheen
Oct 06, 2012 11:29am
LOV U IK,Negative articles cant stop you.We are with you.
Usman
Oct 06, 2012 11:29am
Once again Dawn has portrayed Imran Khan in negative light. I am sick and tired of reading Dawn news' negative spiral on Imran Khan. I am so disappointed now that I don't think I will ever trust any article written. Lastly, as Asif (in the comments section) said, 'what exactly is this article about?' Shame on your Dawn!
shafeeq
Oct 06, 2012 10:42am
Good step for peace.. We are with you imran khan. I wish I were in Pakistan I am very really emotion to join the pti peace march in Waziristan.
usman
Oct 06, 2012 10:45am
really poor article. Really not sure how did this make it to the front page of dawn
Adil Jadoon
Oct 07, 2012 01:06pm
So what does the writer want Mr. Khan to do? I think South Waziristan was a better choice as the security situation is better than North Waziristan and the locals wanted him to come (or whatever is left of the locals). At least this reminds the people in FATA that all Pakistanis are with them while their government has failed to live up to the obligations of the state to protect its inhabitants.
Raj
Oct 06, 2012 11:35am
if Imran Khan is doing something,it is definetly for the betterment of Pakistan and it has nothing to do with power and money.He is much better than the Zardaris and sharifs
ysk
Oct 06, 2012 11:49am
This is just a political and a publicity stunt....Everybody is already aware of what is going on, so there will be nothing that IK will discover there. Nothing will also stop happening due to his visit.....These long marches have become a joke recently. He can very well show his bravery by going on hunger strike in front of parliament......although I have doubts even that can produce something good these days
babar
Oct 06, 2012 11:46am
for the author of the article and those who agree to him, if you cant take a stand to save the innocent people dying every day in waziristan, at least appriciate someone who is caring. can you people keep aside your political motives for a while. BRAVO Imran Khan
Umar Khan
Oct 06, 2012 11:50am
Poor attempt to force writes own opinion of IK's motives, of which the writer is not clear of himself. IK is much appreciated for the effort, till wherever he can go, unlike the existing rulers who have the authority yet dont do a bit for the security of Pakistani nationals. The march is a big slap on their faces in itself, words not needed.
Ghani K.Niazi
Oct 06, 2012 12:02pm
Drone attacks have been going on with the tacit approval of present government of AAZ & coalition allies.No one knows how much collateral damage these attacks have caused because no minister of Zardari's government has ever visited Waziristan. Frankly, government does not care how many inhabitants are killed.Obviously,Waziristan is a matter of least concern for PPP government.Without questioning,Imran K's motive, he deserves credit to bring this issue to world's attention. Isn't Waziristan part of Pakistan ?
Shahid Masud
Oct 07, 2012 06:05pm
The real objective of this Drama is how to win forthcoming elections. PTI in my opinion is no different than PPP, PML ( all groups ), MQM , JUI ( all groups ) , JI or any other REGIONAL POLITICAL PARTIES of Pakistan
Ozan
Oct 06, 2012 08:28am
ill logical and ill-reasoned piece.
BEA
Oct 06, 2012 01:37pm
Good luck IK.
arif
Oct 06, 2012 02:07pm
You are right, "JUST" politics - not an unjust politics like the rest of our leaders have done so far.
SB
Oct 06, 2012 02:15pm
A very logical piece! Imran Khan needs to tread carefully as he is surrounded by a team of shortsighted people. Also his supporters needs to be a little more pragmatic. Thumbs Up to the writer!
atif
Oct 07, 2012 03:47am
as other political leaders to take same kind of steps if they are bold and courageous enough.
Ahmer
Oct 07, 2012 10:34pm
A far more meaningful peace rally was held by MQM in Karachi.
Asif
Oct 06, 2012 09:15am
What exactly is this article about? The writer tries to frighten the reader with the Suicide bombing and eventually gives the finishing touches by trying to downplay the heroic attitude of a leader who is willing to risk his life for the ordinary citizens living there..
S Hassan Ali
Oct 06, 2012 08:46am
just politics
Mohammed Irfan
Oct 06, 2012 08:59am
I think the writer has been very unfair to Imran Khan and such people deserve leaders like Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. One must understand the dangers and the responsibilities of going to Waziristan and try to ask any other party leaders of even thinking about going there. Imran in my eyes has the courage to go there and if the TTTP don't like the idea then that's too bad but why the writer has a problem with the idea I fail to understand.
Tariq
Oct 06, 2012 11:14am
Kudos to Imran Khan for trying to reach out to all inhabitants, length and breadth of the motherland! Unlike our other leaders who are happy only in their provinces'! Perhaps we may be a "one" nation if our current leaders and predecessors' showed the same tenacity as PTI chief is following. The FATA region, North/South Warizistan areas need to be strengthen as these form vital buffer zones for the motherland security.
Azmat
Oct 07, 2012 03:32am
Frankly, I only read this article because of the title but couldnt understand the message if there was one. All I feel is that today Pakistan needs a leader who will bring some hope to its people.(not the smartest one, who will steal their money but an average one who can give them some hope). Long live Imran......., I know most ordinary Pakistanis are praying for your safety today & I am one of them......
Hamza Dhedhi
Oct 07, 2012 09:12pm
And that's what happened. The public meeting ended.
umair khan
Oct 07, 2012 09:16pm
there can be hundered more reasons given for and against this march.south or north both have been burnt by the insugency and war.pakistanis are suffering there and atleast ther is a leader who has dared to go to fata.otherwise our brave leaders and ruler uses bullet proof glasses whilie adressing people from safe distances in islamabad,lahaore,peshawar.and the sole reson is to raise a voice for poor pakistanis (commonly known as tribals as trbals are not humans but some animal spicie)dying from drone attacks.ther can be a poltical motive but the overriding factor of caring for innocent country-men should not be over-sighted.imran has accted like a leader and deserves all praises for this.
Syed
Oct 07, 2012 05:07am
what exactly Mr Ismail Khan trying to explain here. These writers i.e journalists i.e part time ..time pass do they have any thing better to write or say for anyone? The subject and article does not co-relates with each other. It should be view or Mr Ismail khan about Wazirstan... Dawn is becoming a part of entertainment news unfortunately.
Salman Tariq
Oct 06, 2012 07:07pm
What a bogus piece of non-journalism. It seems like criticising Imran Khan is the new fashion statement amongst instant-fame seeking bloggers. Does any other 'leader' in Pakistan have the courage to even enter Quetta, let alone South/North/Whatever Waziristan. Reading and hearing people say rubbish things like these is like a man dying in the desert from thirst who refuses to drink a Nestle water bottle because 'THE SEAL IS BROKEN'. We deserve Zardari, what a nation we have become!
Muhammad Alvi
Oct 08, 2012 12:10am
The auther of the article is narrow-minded and is not looking at the bigger picture. Think of Pakistan, its problems and the solutions. Imran Khan is the only hope now - just support him and get rid of the corrupt ones.
Ahmed
Oct 07, 2012 04:41am
Yes, I have no doubt on him.
Fahad
Oct 07, 2012 04:43am
Agreed Ahmed, he is the only one who appeares on live interviews unlike other leaders
Furqan
Oct 07, 2012 05:32am
I think the author has some weight in what he's saying.
naz
Oct 07, 2012 05:40am
can you do what Imran khan is doing-------------not even in your dreams .
naz
Oct 07, 2012 05:44am
you think its drama???????????why dont you go and do as Imran khan is taking brave steps----------start with your locality ---go find needy people and help them just .talking is easy and cheap.
Muhammad Alvi
Oct 08, 2012 12:15am
Owais, if you like this action of Imran Khan, is it not enough reason to support him in his politics? Go ahead, do that, and don't be shy.
Ahmad Saleem Akhtar
Oct 07, 2012 12:07am
A very well written piece, which may have to be taken off , if this symbolic PEACE MARCH concludes successfully. One big motive for the march has already been achieved. All the western media- print and electronic- is covering the drone attacks in Pakistan, mostly in positive light for Pakistan. This has not happened before; so lets hope and pray that this bold and risky venture ends peacefully.
Tariq
Oct 07, 2012 12:12am
A poor piece of journalism. Aside from the clear anti-Imran stance, the author shows no sense of balance in his reporting. Not worth the read.
Ahmad Saleem Akhtar
Oct 07, 2012 12:19am
Concerned Citizen or a typical " consipracy theorist ?
Tauseef
Oct 07, 2012 06:47am
This is strange that the such writers like this one discourage people and criticize a positive move and frightening people, I have also seen on TV that all other parties are also in this or that way criticize the IK move for peace march. One should give credit for a good deed because no one else had the courage to or dare to do so.
Enver
Oct 06, 2012 08:18pm
Your Question...Is peace real objective of Imran Khan? My Question...What is your real objective in writing this article.... Dont come in the way of some one trying to make our country a better place to live in. If you are a journalist, be responsible and report facts. If you consider your self to be a political analyst, then let me know and we can have a debate.
Kashif
Oct 06, 2012 08:08pm
Cricket being the second religion of this country, the below tweets reek of nothing but hero worship. How disgusting. Can’t we behave more maturely and stop supporting hypocracy for political motives.
umair khan
Oct 06, 2012 08:07pm
any one who opposes the PTI stance over drones attack and spec this march,i dare to ask one question if CIA operators start killing pakistanis elsewhere in the country on any pretext then wll it be acceptable to anyone of us.even if a single person not involved in terror is killed it is highly objectionable and must be unacceptable to all of us as a nation.so all peace loving and sane pakistanis are requested to support this march and should stop giving lame excuses and reasons.
humane
Oct 06, 2012 08:01pm
if a march towards waziristan is politics then what is wrong with that. that is what politics for. your people have a problem and you are advocating it, for the last two days our media is talking about drones and its victims because of the attention diverted by PTI march. the people living in the settled parts of this country even can not imagine how it feels when a drone is hovering over your head and any time that can drop a missile on your innocent children by mistake. imagine it.
kdspirited
Oct 07, 2012 04:54pm
And your point is what. We should continue to sit in our drawing rooms drinking tea and biscuits. And let others solve our problems for us.
sheedabystander
Oct 06, 2012 08:57pm
Imran khan has experienced danger before, once he faced a furious fast bowler at the crease clad in just a helmet and body armour and only a bat in hand to defend with..
Salman Ahmed
Oct 06, 2012 09:18pm
I do not understand the point of the article! I have couple of observations: #1 - Which planet is the writer on? Has he not seen the already significant coverage in the local and foreign press that the march and the issue of drones has received? It doesn't matter where IK reaches or who stops him where. # 2 - Maybe the writer (who is trying to impress us with his local technical knowledge) is not happy with the idea of coverage that could help raise foreign public opinion and possibly stop drone attacks.
Zohaib
Oct 06, 2012 11:01pm
this writer and others like him are the reason why zardari is the President of Pakistan. IK is risking his neck for the ordinary, least we can do is support him
Mohammad Sayeed (Calgary,Canada)
Oct 06, 2012 11:12pm
You mean (the writer),Imran should not have ventured into the dangerous belt,then who would do it,Zardari,or Nawaz Sharif or one of the leaders of the Pathans Imran is a brave man and he is taken this step to prove to the world that Drone attacks will not solve the issue but going forward in a peaceful manner and embrassing our brothers in the devastated province
Nkhan
Oct 06, 2012 11:18pm
Mr.writer tell us what good thing you have done for Pakistan.
Akhtar Ali
Oct 06, 2012 02:52pm
I agree with the writer. The write-up is a dispassionate analysis of the situation.
Cyrus Howell
Oct 06, 2012 02:58pm
Advocating "peace" is a magnet to attract the young.
farid
Oct 06, 2012 03:04pm
mr zaradri has no courage even to go shopping in islamabad let alone going to South Waziristan.
citizen
Oct 06, 2012 03:32pm
whether one agrees with this move of PTI or not, it however must be said in no uncertain terms that this drone war is utterly inhuman. When war is reduced to no more then a video game where the person firing those missiles don't see first hand what it does to the recipients then for him or her it is as if nothing happened. He or she could at the end of the day just go home and have a normal life after having blown a few people to smithreens.
Hammad
Oct 06, 2012 04:55pm
Whether the march gets to its final destination or not, Imran Khan deserves respect and credit for raising this issue at international level. He is tackling a very sensitive issue which all politicians have including the writer of this article want to brush under the carpet. Stand up for your country and stop being bullied by Americans.
Kashif
Oct 06, 2012 07:48pm
Cricket being the second religion of this country, the below tweets reek of nothing but hero worship. How disgusting. Can't we behave more maturely and stop supporting hypocracy for political motives.
Abdullah
Oct 06, 2012 04:08pm
Brave step by PTI for this nation. Representing views of general public. Thank You PTI.
Agha Ata (USA)
Oct 06, 2012 04:07pm
I wonder how experienced people boldly predict about the future of others. Especially when the prediction is about near future of a party, like PTI. Just two years ago, who could have predicted where Imran Khan would be?
kdspirited
Oct 07, 2012 04:42pm
And what sir exactly is wrong with Hero worship. This country has been starving for a real hero for years. It is the clear lack of sincierity in our leaders that has led us to where we are today. I pity people like yourslef who are too cynical to open their eyes are see the silver linning in the cloud. They are content living behind the dark clouds of doom and gloom because opening your eyes is daring and takes courage. Something our nation has forgotten
Rizwan
Oct 06, 2012 04:16pm
It is a fact that our government has allowed the drones attack to take place. It was recently even acknowledged in the US. How shame full it is that people in the west have started rising to the atrocities being conducted by their governments and we are here arguing about as he has not been able to reach a certain city the whole thing is a political drama. Even if it is a political drama it is a drama for the right cause. Do note that Arab springs and all such revolution in the history were all political dramas. Do note the western government are democratic governments which are controlled by their voters. Until unless we make a big enough drama which can win their voters this war on terror is never gona finish. So for a change stop writing negative about this peace march and be brave enough to support this political drama as it is for JUST CAUSE.
YA
Oct 06, 2012 04:29pm
Nice article, also interesting the read the comments...... If the likes and dislikes have a true correlation to public opinion then I say our country deserves Imran Khan and I hope they get what they deserve....
Owais Khan
Oct 07, 2012 01:28pm
I was surprised to read about IK's peace march report in my local newspaper here in New Jersey and also listen about it on radio, while driving to work. Even some of my co-workers asked about it after they seeing it in news. General feeing I got from them that it was not right to kill 10 iinocent people to kill one terrorist and US need to stop this. I'm not IK supporter but there is no doubt that the march has achieved its goal of creating an awareness to the outside world. Even if this is a political move by IK, I think it is a positive action. Negative review by the writer was dissapointing.
Ambreen
Oct 06, 2012 05:30pm
Mr Ismail you tried and you failed in convincing your readers that Imran khan is doing any wrong by this peace march because you don't have any logical reasoning.
KKRoberts
Oct 07, 2012 10:27am
No doubt Pakistanis are seriously looking for a change.Especially youth....Let them decide.
sarmad basra
Oct 07, 2012 08:21pm
giving due respect to the writer for enlightening us with his views i'd like to add that its very easy to criticise people sittng in your tv lounge and mocking any serious effort being put up by anybody let alone imran khan against whom the writer clearly has a soft corner.. at least imran khan took a step, respected writer ..
Abdullah
Oct 06, 2012 10:37am
What comes around, goes around. Stop helping and aiding terrorists. Pakistani establishment must realise that they also live in a glass house.
Saleem
Oct 08, 2012 12:51am
Bro, forget cricket, move on. IK has moved one, we have too, so should you.
riasaf
Oct 07, 2012 06:31pm
atleast he dared to go their where no other party leader ever wanted to go...........
Concerned Citizen
Oct 06, 2012 07:09am
Just like so many other dramas in Pakistan, this should also be interesting and full of twists and turns in the upcoming days! Some years later we will be reading all about the intentions and who were the real people orchestrating these events in Pakistan!!