Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Foiled Again

I was dubious about Pakistan's claims to have the Al Quaeda No 2 surrounded in Waziristan. Waziristan doesn't seem to be the sort of place where you can be sure of anything. If this detailed account is reliable the 'high value target' got away - whoever he was.

The Frontier region is where Charles Allen's Soldier Sahibs came of age in the 1840s and 50s. The armed units they created, the Guides and Frontier Force, still exist in the Pakistan Army, as do such romantic formations as Coke's and Wilde's Battalions, named after their Victorian founders.

But according to South Asia News, the tribes are up in arms, though I only see mention of the Afridis and Kyhberis.

"The Pakistani army is regarded as an occupation army. No wonder: it entered Waziristan for the first time in history, in the summer of 2002. These Pakistani soldiers are mostly Punjabi. They don't speak Pashto and don't know anything about the complex Pashtun tribal code. In light of all this, the presence of the Pakistani army in these tribal areas in the name of the "war on terror" cannot but be regarded as an American intervention. These tribes have never been subdued. They may even spell Musharraf's doom. "

Pepe Escobar is correct that the tribes have never been more than temporarily subdued - and the British Army only ever entered Waziristan on punitive expeditions. But I find it hard to believe that since 1947 no Pakistani soldiers have entered the area, that they don't speak Pakhtun, or that they're unaware of the Pakhtunwali code, with its obligations of honour, hospitality and revenge, which regulates tribal life. It was by an intimate knowledge of the language and culture of the people that the British not only preserved an uneasy peace on the Frontier, but were able to raise volunteer Pakhtun forces. When Nicholson captured Delhi during the 1857 Mutiny he was accompanied by Pakhtun cavalry.

UPDATE - the locals' view of the fighting is at khyber.org and a Pakistani view at hipakistan.

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