What can possibly be worse than a country’s armed forces pre-emptively killing 83 of its own citizens in complete disregard of the established legal system?
The answer: When a foreign country does it for you instead.
As the dust begins to settle two weeks after the missile strike of the Ziaul Uloom and Talimul Quran Madrassa in the Chingai village of Bajaur agency glaring contradictions and inconsistencies remain with us.
The simple unchallenged facts that have emerged about the actual air strike so far are:
That the US carried out the surveillance of the madrassa before the air strike. According to the New York Times :
U.S. security officials have said that they shared intelligence of the target with Pakistan before the strike, which suggests that the surveillance footage came from a U.S. drone.
Pakistani intelligence officials have…released copies of infrared camera footage showing the compound and its inhabitants in the days before the bombing. In the film, men dressed in loose tribal clothes are seen exercising in the yard of the compound in the early morning hours.
The newspaper also informs us:
[As] the men would start their exercises at 4:30 a.m…The strike occurred shortly after 5 a.m., hitting the men as they were exercising in the open yard, causing maximum casualties.
Now when it comes to the identity of the slain there has been numerous contradictions:
'Anyone saying innocent people were killed in the air strike was lying…“They were all militants. They were doing military training there. We were working on them for last six, seven days and we know who they were and what they were doing.'
ISPR spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told a press conference:
- The religious school…was being used as a militant training camp.
- Up to 80 deaths have been confirmed.
- The compound has been destroyed
- Maulana Liaqatullah, the pro-Taliban commander who ran the madrasa, was among those killed.
- There were no women or children present.
On 6 November the team of six lawyers, accompanied by journalists and an escort of Bajaur tribesmen, while heading towrds Chinai found their way blocked by armed levy jawans. According to Dawn they were ‘manhandled’ and some journalists were actually beaten up.
A member of the legal team was quoted as saying, “The situation turned tense when levy jawans encircled us and asked us to return back. Tribesmen gathered there and told levy officials that the team would visit the madrassah at all costs”.
But in the end as The Daily Times reported, the levy jawans had to back off when hundreds of angered tribesmen threatened to ‘begin firing in reaction’.
At the site of the destroyed madrassa the fact finding team reported seeing the clothes and shoes of school children between the ages of eight to ten who were killed in the air strikes.
A week later the team of lawyers released a 4 page report which was based they said on their personal observations and on the accounts of eyewitnesses. According to The News the report made the following claims:
- ‘That the attack was carried out from Afghanistan by US planes. Pakistani helicopters appeared on the scene a good 20-25 minutes after the attack.’
- 'Madrassa Ziaul Uloom was a seminary where religious education was being imparted to the students. Most students were between 09 to 18 years of age. Most of the students were locals, a few of them were from Swat district. '
- 'The presence of any foreigner was vehemently denied by the local people. There was no evidence of combatant and militant training in and around the seminary.’
- ‘That the attack was aimed at and timed to derail the peace initiative and to sabotage the peace agreement that was to be reached later on the day.’
- ‘The seminary was only about seven kilometres from the office of the political agent and the headquarters of the levy force. The site is easily approachable by three ‘katcha’ roads.’
- 'That no evidence of combat or militant training was found in and around the seminary. No training equipment, scaling walls, ropes, trenches and obstacles were found at the site, the report added.’
- 'No live ammunition or any kinds of weapons were recovered from any part of the seminary after it was raided, the report concluded’.
__________________________________The point made about a Waziristan-type peace agreement scheduled to be signed on the very day of the attack is most revealing. As a leading Peshawar journalist notes:
- 'In fact, at the time of the attack, [the slain Maulana Liaquat] was negotiating his amnesty with the Pakistani army in return for a pledge to provide neither succour nor sanctuary to foreign fighters, including the Taliban.'
- 'The evening before the strike, Liaquat was preparing a tribal council for the signing ceremony with the government," says analyst Rahimullah Yousefzai. "So why would the Pakistan army authorise an operation that destroys the Pakistan government's main political strategy in the tribal areas?'
The highly reputableEconomist magazine suggests that the architect of the proposed Bajaur agreement, the NWFP Governor, retired Gen. Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai, was ‘stunned’. There are reports that he has threatened to resign because of his anger at being blindsided by the sudden attack.
Hmm...All this makes one think, doesn’t it?
Many appear to believe that the US carried out the attack to prevent the Bajaur agreement from taking place. The NATO commanders in Afghanistan, faced with a resurgent Taliban, were already hopping mad about the previous Waziristan deal.
According toone source NATO has three gripes with the North Waziristan agreement
- 'First, so far from being "anti-Taliban", as Musharraf claimed, it had been negotiated with the express approval of Taliban leaders. As early as May, Mullah Mohammed Omar had instructed his followers in North Waziristan to comply with a ceasefire since fighting the Pakistan army "served (only) the US interest". '
- 'The agreement was also skewed, a reflection of how strong the Taliban had become in the tribal areas. Thus in return for verbal pledges by tribesmen not to fight in Afghanistan or harbour foreign militants, the Pakistani government actually released prisoners, removed checkpoints and, astonishingly, returned arms to tribes known for their pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda loyalties. '
- 'The verbal pledges have also not been kept…A recent US Congress report, based on testimony from US NATO commanders, records a 300 percent hike in cross border militant infiltration into Afghanistan.
This is why the consensus is very strong in Pakistan that the US and NATO were behind the attack on the madrassa -- both had a clear interest in not allowing Bajaur to go North Waziristan's way.'
I will let my readers make their own judgment as to who actually pulled the trigger on Chingai that fateful day.
Is it merely a coincidence that the village of Chingai lies at a distance of only two kilometers from Damadola where 18 villagers were killed by a US Drone in January 2006?Previous related blogs:
Drones, Lies and Violent Deaths