Posted by Chris
Finally arrived in Pakistan last week and began work. Let me begin by giving you a quick snapshot of the situation here.
After a relatively calm couple of months, the past two weeks have seen a marked increase in violence. Nearly 200 people were killed in a spate of militant attacks, including many civilians. This recent wave of attacks began with the bombing of the World Food Program office in Islamabad on 5 Oct.
A few days ago, the Pakistani military began its long-awaited offensive into the militant stronghold of South Waziristan. Folks around me in Islamabad were right to be worried about retaliatory attacks, given today’s suicide bombings at the University. The mood is tense. Security checkpoints have grown and are more thorough, roads have been blocked, and many schools have been closed.
The Pakistanis I speak with all express dismay and anger with the situation. For them, this level of violence is new. Terrorist attacks in the cities, like Islamabad and Lahore, were unheard of before last year.
There is very little information about what is going on in Waziristan. The offensive is all over the newspapers and television, but because of its remote location, the insecurity and restrictions on access imposed by the military, information is very hard to come by. What is known is that there is intense fighting and tens of thousands of civilians have already fled, while many more remain within the conflict zone. Some are predicting the operation to last two months.
Civilians will undoubtedly suffer. We know that from thousands of years of war around the world. Hopefully with improved access and information, we can do more to bring attention to the plight of displaced civilians and those within the conflict zone. And if history is any lesson, providing civilians with the assistance they need to rebuild their lives will be critical to the Pakistani government’s long-term success in Waziristan.