PAKISTAN: Military men demolish business centre after trader refuses to supply arms to the Taliban

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that in retaliation to locals refusing to supply arms to the international terrorist organisations Taliban and Al-Qaida, Army officers have blown up a two-storey business centre, which had more than 150 shops and four commercial halls. This incident has occurred in Wana City, the headquarters of South Waziristan, located in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where the Army claims to be conducting major operations (Zarb-e-Azb) against terrorists.

This is to be mentioned here that the business center belonged to the Mirza Alam Khan Wazir, ex-Chief of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe. He was the Chief of the whole of Waziristan, FATA. In his lifetime, Mr. Mirza remained staunchly against terrorism, particularly against the Taliban, at a time when the Pakistan Army was allegedly nurturing these terrorists and facilitating them to conduct cross-border terrorism. Mirza also did not allow Osama Bin Laden to stay in Waziristan; that is why Bin Laden had to settle in Abbottabad and other areas inside Pakistan.

The Army retaliated by dynamiting the business centre after Army Major Imran was killed and six soldiers were injured in the area. The major and the soldiers were in the area trying to coerce locals to continue supplying arms to the Taliban. However, from the information gathered so far, it appears the killing of the Major was not due to any act of violence on the part of locals, but due to a sophomoric mistake of the Major himself.

According to information gathered, it appears that the Major wanted a shopkeeper, Mr. Khan Kharoti, of Suleman Khel, to re-start delivery of arms and ammunition to the agents of Afghan militants from the Taliban and Al-Qaida. Mr. Khan had suddenly stopped delivery of arms around two months ago. Khan was delivering arms and ammunition to Angur Ada, a village and a border crossing straddling the South Waziristan Agency of Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Paktika Province. Khan decided to do business of carpets instead and hired a shop at the said business center in a quest to change his line of work.

On the day of event, October 29, when Khan was arranging carpets in order to open his shop, Major Imran arrived at his shop, along with around 15 soldiers, all in civilian outfits; the Major had a hand grenade in his hand and was playing with the grenade, tossing it from one hand to the other, threatening Khan that the hand grenade could be detonated if Khan were not to agree to continue his previous work of supplying arms to terrorists.

According to the shopkeepers and eyewitnesses, amidst the threats, the hand grenade fell from the Major’s hand, landed on the floor, and exploded. The Major ended up seriously injured. The soldiers panicked and began pointing their guns at the crowd, intending to shoot people. The injured Major, however, asked his soldiers not to shoot the people, telling them that the grenade had fallen from his own hands. The Major later died, either in hospital, or on his way there.

In response, the Military have arrested Mr. Khan and his son for “martyring” the Major and injuring 10, including six soldiers who were there with Major. The father and son have been declared as the Taliban terrorists.

Given the background to the incident, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the pubic relations wing of the Military, took two to three days to come out with its official statement, and even when ISPR did so, it came out with different versions. The Military spin-doctors have been at work trying to mask the true story, and the versions they have given are curious.

The Daily Pakistan included the following in their news report: “An army major was killed and six soldiers were injured after a roadside bomb exploded during a search operation in South Waziristan Agency on Tuesday, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) reported”.

Dawn had a different version of events:

“A statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations said Major Imran had ‘embraced shahadat’ and six soldiers suffered injuries when an improvised explosive device went off during a search operation in Wana Bazaar. According to officials, army and paramilitary forces cordoned off the area to search shops for arms and ammunition as local authorities had imposed a ban on their sale and purchase in the agency. The explosion took place in a shop belonging to one Khan Kharoti, killing Major Imran on the spot and injuring the six soldiers”.

The Frontier Post conflated the death with that of another in this way:

“Major Imran was killed during a cordon search operation in South Wazirstan Agency’s Wana area. Last week, an army officer was killed and another was critically injured after falling into a ditch on the Motorway near Hazro, ISPR said. The deceased was identified as Lt. Colonel Shahid whereas Major Jalal sustained serious injuries when they were going back to Nowshera from Rawalpindi in a military convoy. At around 8PM, the officers climbed off their vehicle as the routes were blocked with containers. Owing to darkness, they both fell off the road edge into a ditch along the Motorway. Lt Colonel died on the spot while Major Jalal was immediately shifted to the hospital”.

Even, the Army Spokesperson was not clear how Major Imran was killed in an improvised explosion device (IED) blast. All indications point to how the Army wants to hide the facts and mask the real reason behind the hand grenade blast.

After two days of his killing, the Army declared Major Imran as martyred. The Military then wanted to show residents of Wana, South Waziristan, and indeed the whole country, that they know how to take revenge for the killing of an officer, and this set up the Army’s need to bring the Market down.

On November 2, Military had called a Jirga, a council of tribals, which is a legal forum in FATA. It was at this time that the factual news about the killing of the Major went viral.

The Military officers insisted that the Mirza Alam Market, Rustam Bazzar Wana be demolished and they refused to make any conciliation. The political administration, under the Governor appointed by the President of Pakistan, tried to pacify the Military men and prevent such a harsh action. However, the Military were determined to blow-up the business center.

The Military took power from the Jirga, under an Article of the Collective and Territorial Responsibility of Frontier Crime Regulation of 1905, amended in 2011. Army persons, arrived in jeeps, and announced to all the shopkeepers that they should vacate the market, as the Army would soon dynamite the whole business center.

On November 3, a curfew was imposed throughout Wana City. Over 6,000 shops and more than 500 commercial establishments were shut down. The Army installed dynamites all around the building and quickly detonated the dynamite. The two-storied building, with 150 shops and other commercial structures, caved in. At that moment, the Army raised slogans of long live Pak Army, love live Pakistan, and Allah-o-Akbar (God is great).

Mirza Alam Khan Wazir, ex-Chief of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, who founded the business centre bore the brunt of deadly attacks from terrorists during his lifetime. In 2003, his eldest son Farooq Khan Wazir was killed by Al-Qaida and Taliban militants for opposing them and running a renowned Amn Jirga, i.e. a “Peace Jirga”. When killed, Farooq was sitting outside his gas station, which was also demolished by the terrorists. Later, the terrorists claimed responsibility of killing Farooq Khan. Despite this, Mr. Mirza, continued to clean up Waziristan, particularly South Waziristan, from Taliban and Al-Qaida. In 2005, Taliban and Al-Qaida attacked Mr. Mirza in Wana and killed him, along with his two sons, two brothers, three nephews, who had come there to visit him; in total nine people were killed by the terrorists in this one incident. The family members say that anyone can understand who was behind the terrorists; it is those who have nurtured and organized terrorists for decades that are behind such killings of peace activists.

This was the time of the military government of General Musharraf who has become a good friend to the international community after 9/11 by offering his insight into how to deal with terrorists, particularly Osama Bin Laden.

Getting and confirming information from South Waziristan is not the easiest task as there are many military check posts and hide-outs of terrorists; even journalists are not allowed to go to the affected areas where military claims to be killing terrorists. The FATA does not come under the provincial government of KPK and is also not under the oversight of Parliament; it is governed directly under the President and the Governor of the Province is in charge. It is also said that in Wana many innocents have been killed by terrorists and by law enforcement agencies, especially those who dare report to the Pakistan government about terrorist movement.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges the international community, particularly the Human Rights Commission of UN, to probe the killings of citizens of South Waziristan in the name of military operation, Zarb-e-Azb. The international community must put pressure on Pakistan to stop Zarb-e-Azb till the actions that are being taken in the name of counter-terrorism become transparent.

In this specific case, the government of Pakistan must pay compensation for the demolition of the business center, which would have been valued over Pak Rupees 200 million, and also compensate losses of the traders whose shops have been destroyed.

(Note: The information in this report is collected from, President, FATA Commission of Human Rights, Ali Wazir, the tribal chief of Ahmadzai, as well as eyewitnesses and peace activists from WANA.)