Human Shield: The New Facet – I

By: Sohail ParwazPakistan Taliban Asmatullah Muawiya

“. ………. Particularly I thank our Muslim brethren of the tribal areas across the NWFP for their messages of good wishes and greetings, which have come in large numbers, and I take this opportunity to assure them that we shall, adjust and settle our affairs in a brotherly way. There is no desire on our part to interfere with their freedom. We shall be happy to meet them and enter into such arrangements with them, as would be the mutual interests of both, and the Muslims generally.”
These were the words of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah while expressing his thanks to the Muslims of the Tribal Area for their numerous messages of good wishes and greetings, through a statement on June 17, 1947. Mr. Jinnah was very clear about his views for the great Pashtuns but at the same time he had read the history thoroughly and who would know it better than the Quaid that in January 1842, out of 16,500 soldiers and 12,000 dependents only a solitary survivor was allowed by the Afghan warriors to reach back Jalalabad garrison on a stumbling pony. Pashtuns pride remains the same but geopolitical situation has diversely changed in the Pashtun belt transversely all along the Pak-Afghan border. The Pashtuns of Afghanistan are in search of a free land ever since Russian and later American invading, while the Pashtuns of tribal area, who were enjoying the freedom, had to face the disturbance in their lives, by the uninvited American guests in the region. The muck didn’t stop here hence the region became a thoroughfare and public passage. It disturbed the social life, norms and values hence all these vital signs of any reputed society and civilization were badly bothered. The awakening of extremism, wrongly labelled as Islamic extremism, made the lives of extremists in their respective countries as hell, leaving them with the only available option and i.e. to move to the Hub of Jihad. Eventually in the name of the Islamic movements, volunteers or oppressed lot from the Central Asian republics, Arabian Peninsula and even Europe moved to the Pakistani tribal areas as the Americans already had a hold on Afghanistan, disallowing Jihadists to put a foot on the Afghan soil.
With the passage of time the Jihad changed its shape and ultimately turned into a blend of Jihad and terrorism, thanks to the Americans who had by now penetrated the ranks of Islamic movements and were using them according to their plans, thus confusing and complicating the ‘Cause’. The Indians who were already diligently working on a terror campaign didn’t miss the chance. Thanks to their dozens of consulates turned training camps those were working along the Pak Afghan border, who managed the recruiting of central Asians and later infiltrating them into the ranks and files of Pashtun Taliban. What happened later is known to all and sundries.
The matter has reached to a point where suicide bombing, blasting, killing has become a common feature of our lives. Anyone leaving house is not sure for a safe return. Sense of insecurity is prevailing throughout the country. Those who claimed to be fighting a holy war are fearlessly killing the innocent and unarmed citizens. The Westerns and especially the Americans were demanding for a ground action in NWA since long however Pakistan was reluctant to take any such untimely action for the obvious reasons, especially amid lethal and inhuman drone strikes. The patience and tolerance of the army was conveying wrong messages to the pawns and the handlers, whereas the army’s reluctance was only for, to be sure between the peaceful residents of the agency and the warriors. At the same time knowing well that mediation won’t work, the army was supporting the government’s efforts for reconciliation through peace talks which were eventually blown off due to the Talban’s inside rifts and disputes at the eleventh hour.
It is learnt that while a couple of native warrior factions from the agency were strongly in the favour of talks and reconciliation, some of the alien groups mostly the one taking dictations from their masters were out rightly against the parleys. Hence couldn’t resist and reverted to the old saboteur activities. At the same time these elements, anticipating an army operation at any time warned the locals to leave the area but not for the IDP camps marked by the Pakistani government, instead for the Afghan bordering villages. The Pakistan government and the army when fully ensured about the evacuation of the majority of the civilians from the area and the hideouts of the militants decided to kick off the operation. It was a very complicated task as the army had to target the militants but to respect the Mehsuds and Wazirs who are always a great asset to the State. Finally on June 16, 2014 the operation ‘Zarb e Azb’ was launched and with that as expected the talks about the employment of human shield were also heard.
Human shield is a criminal and unlawful technique used by the nations those are signatories to the first, second, third and fourth Geneva Conventions. It’s a military and political term that explains the considered posting of unarmed civilians in or around battle targets to prevent the enemy from attacking these targets. It may also refer to the use of persons to literally protect and guard militants during attacks, by forcing them to march in front of the soldiers.
During the 13th century the Mongols pierced holes into the hands of their female Japanese captives and to connect the women together in a long line, the ropes were threaded through those holes in hands to make them march ahead of the Mongol soldiers as human shields. But that’s not the end of human shields horrifying tales. German SS General Gottlob Berger disclosed after World War II that the German areal warfare branch Luftwaffe proposed a plan which was approve d by Adolf Hitler to set up special prisoners of war camps for captured airmen of the Royal Air Force and the US Army and Air Force in large German cities, to act as human shields against their bombing raids. Realizing that this would violate the 1929 Geneva Convention, Berger argued that there was not enough barbed wire— hence; buying his logic this plan was not executed. Nevertheless, history suggests that in every case it would always be some army that would use human shield against the insurgents or militants, may that SS forces’ extensively use of Polish civilians as human shields during Warsaw Uprising when attacking the insurgents’ positions or the use of civilians as shields by the German army for crossing the bridge during Vinkt Massacre. How could Japanese remain behind? Hence during the Battle of Okinawa Japanese soldiers would often use civilians as human shields against American troops.

(To be concluded)

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