On Saturday April 10, the Pakistani army bombed villages in Tirah in the Khyber Agency and killed more than 70 civilians. While the military denied the incident, local government confirmed compensation payments for civilian deaths and injuries. “All of those killed were civilians, 100% innocent,” said Ikramullah Jan Kukikhel, a tribal elder. He further elaborates that a house with women, children and elderly was bombed and as villagers rushed to rescue those caught in the rubble, they were also attacked, killing many more.
Given the lack of transparency surrounding the many operations it is safe to say this is not the first time civilians have been killed by the army. The media has, in some cases, been strong-armed into publishing only ISPR approved stories, while independent news from the conflict regions has been systematically suppressed. Civilian deaths and army’s conduct are not reported or questioned in the mainstream media at all. Stories criticizing the army are virtually non-existent because the army does not permit them. After the bombing in Tirah, a BBC reporter was not allowed access to the wounded brought to Peshawar’s Hayatabad Hospital.
Fahad Deshmukh, a reporter, writes about covering the operation in Swat, “We came across countless civilians whose family members or friends had been killed in the conflict.” After talking to many affected civilians, he attempted to file a story that talked about people who welcome the army operation and also those who have suffered and opposed it. When the story ran, his editors censored out all army inflicted casualties. Upon questioning he is told, “Sorry, the management has told us that we can only run pro-Army stories. These are orders from the top”. He wonders what the impact would be if the media shows the true visuals behind the airstrikes the same way bombing of hotels in larger metropolitans are shown.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has provided a list of 249 suspected extra-judicial killings from July 30, 2009, to March 22, 2010, mostly in Swat. They go on to say that independent journalists and locals widely believed security forces were behind these executions. According to estimates by Institute for Peace Studies in Pakistan, in 2009 alone — 3,021 were killed by insurgents, 6,329 in Pakistan army operations, 1,163 in army-Taliban battles, and 1,419 in other violence, including drone missiles.
Since March 2010, the military has started a new operation in Orakzai. By some sources, in just 21 days 423-558 “militants” have been killed. Given the opacity of these operations, the reports coming in from independent sources and the army’s attempts to black out all negative news, we need to understand and question the army’s conduct in this war and its role in these killings.
Peoples’ Resistance does not accept the official ISPR versions of this conflict and demand openness and accountability from the army and the media. We do not condone the human rights violations and war crimes being committed by our military under the guise of clearing the region of insurgency. We condemn the Pakistan military giving logistical support to the US to carry out drone attacks since 2004. The UN Human Rights Council has been sharply critical of US drone attacks and their failure and lack of interest in tracking civilian casualties, and finds that these violate international law.
We demand that all military actions in these operations, whether direct or indirect through support to the US drone attacks, be brought before tribunals. We also demand that the media fulfill its duties and monitor this war boldly and truthfully. Only truthful and uncensored news can bring about an end to the war and the insurgency – when the people are able to judge from facts and form authentic opinions that can lead to viable solutions to the insurgency and the war.
We express solidarity with all the victims of this war, and especially the people of Orakzai, Khyber, Swat, Buner, South and North Waziristan – people who have borne the brunt of these operations.
Your grief is not unnoticed.