Peshawar, Oct 3: The battle between the Taliban and Pakistan Government is affecting the innocent Pakistanis. They are being sandwiched between the two sides, and have fallen victim to bullets of both. While the Taliban scramble for shelter in the tribal areas, the Pakistan Army continues to shower artillery on these areas in a bid to eliminate the extremists, killing innocent civilians, including women and children.
According to an article in the New York Times, many residents in the Bajaur Agency say they are fed up with both sides of the conflict. Hajji Sher Zaman, the father of two admitted in hospital after being injured in Army shelling, said he had no patience with the Taliban. He said he was furious with the government for not holding anyone responsible for the killing and wounding of civilians.
"In Bajaur, innocent people are being killed as infidels, the dead cattle are lying on the road, the roads are tainted with the blood of the people who have been killed," he said and added that on return trips in recent weeks his village was "full of the rotten smell of dead animals."
"Why not target the real people, the administration knows where they are," the paper quoted Zaman as saying.
In another ward of the same hospital, Amin Baacha (13) lay with only one arm, his right one had been amputated. A Pakistani Army helicopter had circled his family's pickup truck as they were fleeing their village and fired on them, the boy added.
In one startling case, scores of Taliban fighters confronted Iqbal Ahmed Khan, the brother of Waqar Khan, a member of the provincial assembly. The fighters ordered Khan, who was with two of his sons, to choose the son he wanted killed, said the president of the Awami National Party Senator Asfandyar Wali. After Khan was humiliated into choosing one son, the Taliban killed both boys, Khan and seven servants, Wali said.
On Thursday a suicide bomber blew himself up at Wali's home, killing four people and narrowly missing Wali, one of the best-known politicians in North-West Frontier Province and a national figure.
An estimated 250,000 people have fled the helicopters, jets, artillery and mortar fire of the Pakistani Army, and the assaults, intimidation and rough justice of the Taliban who have dug into Pakistan's tribal areas. Another 20,000 people have flooded the Pak-Afghan border areas from the Bajaur tribal area to seek safety in Afghanistan, and many others are crowding around Peshawar where staff members from the UN refugee agency are present at nearly a dozen camps.
Though no reliable casualty figures are available, but in the words of Marco Succi, the spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, "this is a war zone".
Even senior politicians in the country have started admitting that the country is soon turning into a hell to live in. "Swat is a place of hell," said Wajid Ali Khan, a minister in the provincial government who has himself taken refuge in Peshawar. He said he was so afraid that he had not been to his house in Swat for a month.