PKKH Exclusiev | by Shoaib Ahmed
It is the early hours of this battle named "Zarbe Azab", and I am sure that dust from the first round of bombs being dropped at terrorist camps would not have even settled by now, and I want a quick attention to the issue of collateral damage. War, battles, or for that matter, any armed conflict, is bloody in its nature. This does not mean that one should sit idle and allow a coward with the gun to assault and jeopardize your freedom and destroy your way of life. But when you reach out to neutralize that threat, the modern man has learnt a set of dignified principles to do so. Islam has taught us a comprehensive charter for the do’s and don'ts of war. Also, the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war. If Taliban have not read them or follow them, it doesn't mean that we do the same. Nobody has to become a terrorist in order to deal with the terrorist.
Whether directly killed due to aerial bombing or due to starvation, illnesses, or injury sustained while in flight from the war zones; more than 20,000 civilians died in only the first few months of aerial bombardment by the US in Afghanistan according to The Guardian. Since 2001, these numbers have only gone up. 13 years on, media and aid groups have reported of hundreds of gruesome stories about such atrocities. Ranging from soldiers opening fire indiscriminately on women and children in their homes to surgical strikes on wedding events, these cases have forced the Afghan leaders to protest to Washington several times.
Blinded by their military superiority and vengeance for terror attacks on the home ground, the US and NATO have written volumes of undue oppression in the memories of those they claimed in the first place to win the hearts and minds of. No such tall claims from our Armed Forces or government, but hey, wait a minute!
The terrorists attacked our civilians, our bazaars, our homes, our hospitals, mosques, roads and airports. In nobody's right mind; an equally brutal response should be acceptable. I trust my forces because of their ground knowledge and (hopefully) good intelligence that they will not go on dropping 250 kg bombs on any compound where apparently men of military age have gathered. In my neighbourhood, such gathering usually happens inside a mosque after the calls for prayer. Unlike the NATO, I feel that my forces are better capable of differentiating between a man sitting by the roadside planting an IED from a man who is there to answer the call of nature.
If we apply the same insensitive approach as the West and the NATO have tried for over a decade, of indiscriminatory aerial bombardment, it will only multiply the threat; not to mention that this civilian loss only helps the terrorists recruit fresh blood into their fighting force. Dropping bombs from thousands of feet in the sky on the so-called hideouts and compounds (leaving a legit argument of good or bad intelligence aside) will not only abuse human rights and cause heavy collateral damage, but also I am afraid will engulf my next generation in this stream of violence, death and destruction. Pakistan has lost billions in the hands of terrorism, but the loss of more than 30,000 lives is priceless. Justifiable elimination of the threat should not become a case of heavy civilian casualities. Isolated events are a by-product of any war, but repeated ruthless incidents dramatically decrease public support. Already, thousands of families are fleeing the war zone, and the issue of civilian casualties and loss is both sensitive and historic in terms of its local and international repercussions.
It is enlightening to see a wide spectrum of political groups united in their resolve for operating against the militants. I sincerely want us not to blow it up at any level, and that is why I could not help myself from not highlighting the biggest mistakes made by the West in dealing with the menace of terrorism. They failed to respect the human and cultural values and safeguard the loss of non-militant residents of a land.
The Pakistani government and forces should bear in mind that despite the fact that we may have many advantages in running an armed operation against the terrorists, unlike the US and NATO coalition, we can never avail "Pullout" or "Exit" options. We are in this to finish it (God willing)! We must not be intoxicated with our aerial or ground military might and supremacy and act like a violent aggressor. The judicial and humane merits of running this security operation should differentiate us from the barbarism of the terrorists.
In other words...
Nobody has to become a terrorist in order to deal with the terrorist.
Every bomb matters. So does every Life!
Long live Pakistan!
Author is a media broadcaster/writer/blogger. He is the only Radio journalist to have done coverage of the Army’s Operation Rah-e-Rast Swat 2009. He presents and produces a daily news syndicated live radio show from FM 105 Karachi.