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Pakistan: The mirage of stability
  • Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif
    Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif
A high-level meeting in Pakistan chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has given the green light to Operation Azm-e-Istehkam, or "Resolve for Stability": to "combat the threats of extremism and terrorism in a comprehensive and decisive manner" at both the diplomatic and military levels, officially. But most of all, they say in and around Islamabad, to convince the Chinese, concerned about the many attacks on Chinese citizens and infrastructure in Pakistan in recent months, that the military and politicians take the security of Rising Sun citizens and projects related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor seriously. And indeed, according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal, terrorism-related casualties in the first half of 2024 numbered about three hundred-the last five a few days ago in Kurram district on the border with Afghanistan. Islamabad blames the increase in terrorist attacks on Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which Islamabad says has its bases in neighboring Afghanistan. And, as in 2009, it concentrates its operations in the border provinces: tribal areas, Waziristan, Khyber-Pakhtunkwa. Exactly as in 2009, however, talking to the inhabitants of the area who have been taking to the streets for months with peaceful demonstrations of thousands and thousands of people constantly and knowingly ignored by the media, things are not quite as the government paints them. For years now, the people of the area have been protesting against Islamabad and have been regularly killed, disappeared or arrested without formal charges or trial. "We have been sacrificed for years on the altar of so-called strategic interests because of terrorist groups allowed to operate on our land. Our villages have been bombed and our people have been forced to abandon their homes in the name of anti-terrorist operations. Thousands of young people have been illegally detained or have simply disappeared. Many of our tribal leaders, many religious, political and student leaders have simply been assassinated," claims Manzoor Pashteen, one of the youths leading the protests. "The state has completely failed to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes in FATA and neighboring regions inhabited by Pashtuns, such as Khyber Pakhtunhwa and Balochistan." Waziristan, according to locals, is looking more and more like an occupied country every day. "The good Taliban," they say, "continue to recruit young people, harbor terrorists from other parts of Pakistan, and help them cross the border into Afghanistan when they need it. They all work under the patronage of the Pakistani army." Citizens have been reporting the presence of Taliban commanders in Waziristan for some time now: according to locals, the Taliban have been given land and sometimes entire districts. They administer justice according to Sharia law and have been put in charge of so-called "Peace Commissions," aimed at mending relations with ordinary citizens who hate them. One of the first acts of the Peace Commission was to burn five villagers alive. The citizens, squeezed between the harassment of the military and that of Taliban leaders (who in many cases fraternally share headquarters), see no way out: extortion and threats, are the order of the day as are reprisals against those who refuse to cooperate. Not only that: posters have appeared everywhere banning the same good, old things the Taliban regime has accustomed us to: women cannot go out alone, men cannot shave their beards, people cannot listen to music, and so on. So it should come as no surprise that in the past few months in Pakistan, in the areas of influence of these sad figures, a number of girls' schools have been attacked: some schools have been set on fire, some bombed with grenades and Molotov cocktails, and others rendered unusable by vandalism of various kinds. The result: the girls remain at home, just as on the other side of the border in Afghanistan. So much so, the outrage of intellectuals and well-wishers lasts barely a couple of days and is, unfortunately, largely cosmetic. Like that of the rest of the world, on the other hand. Since the United Nations will allow the Taliban to attend the third Doha meeting on Afghanistan on their own terms: that is, on the condition that no women or representatives of Afghan civil society attend the meeting. Since the time of the ill-fated Doha treaty, a surrender masquerading as a 'peace agreement' that returned the Taliban to power, the United Nations has been scrambling to join the dastardly chorus of those who called for (and call for) giving a chance to a pack of hired killers who violate every norm of civilization: in recent days, a boy guilty of talking to a young girl on the phone was caught, tortured and raped while his torturers filmed the whole thing and posted it online. An NGO report just published in the British Spectator documents rape and violence of all kinds against women in Afghan prisons.The United Nations expresses concern and willingness to investigate, but continues to treat the Taliban as if they were a normal government. And on the other hand, other news that has been circulating persistently for days, it appears that Iran, another bastion of human rights and democracy, is ready to officially recognize the cutthroats in Kabul. In exchange, it is said, for a substantial shipment of Taliban troops in the event of a full-fledged war with Hezbollah to defend and support its Hamas brethren. While Pakistan, which is Hamas' champion and supporter, blesses from afar by continuing to play the good old game of good terrorists versus bad terrorists: which are simply those, like Frankenstein's monster, that have escaped the control of their creator. 
Francesca Marino