Tag Archives: waziristan

Short documentary: Wounds of Waziristan

Wounds of Waziristan Trailer from AJ Russo on Vimeo.

I’m sharing a trailer for my short documentary project, Wounds of Waziristan, on drone attacks in Pakistan. You can find it on Indiegogo here. As some of you may know, this is the result of a lot of work and trips to Pakistan. Rather than focusing on the numbers game or questions of international law, this project tries to record the voices of those directly impacted by the American “war on terror.” In particular, –and perhaps, this is my academic side coming out– I am interested in the question of haunting. President Obama said he was “haunted” by the loss of life. But, what does that mean, materially, in concrete terms?

Since the drone attacks began in Pakistan in 2004, much of the focus has been on the technology. And, although the borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan are endlessly debated and declared upon by journalists and pundits, the ordinary people who actually live there are rarely heard from. WOUNDS records the voices of those who have been either labeled “militants,” or summarily dismissed as “collateral damage.”

We’re actually almost done, but we need some help getting to the finish line. Every dollar helps: consider donating just $5 to this project. And, even if you can’t donate, please take a look and share it far and wide:

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Force and Neglect in North Waziristan

I’ve just gotten off the phone with contacts/colleagues.

Here’s another example of the fall-out from cycles of violence in FATA, particularly Waziristan–fall-out that goes largely unreported and undiscussed in the national and international media. That silence only adds to the prevalent image of “backward tribals,” enraged Muslims and inexplicable violence when people in these regions do resort to armed resistance and/or stubborn refusal to work with the state.

First, recall this little reported story: 17 Pakistani soldiers were killed and scores more wounded when a car packed with explosives detonated near two fuel tankers at a military post in North Waziristan’s capital, Miranshah. The blast at Esha checkpost flattened two residential barracks last Saturday evening (Mar 23rd).

This is what happened after: the army imposed a 24-hour curfew in all of North Waziristan, one that is still ongoing 4 days later. The curfew was announced by the political administration. Shoot-on-sight orders have been given.

No services–including emergency services like ambulances–are reportedly allowed to run. Students at Miran Shah College have been unable to leave their hostels and have therefore missed some of their matriculation exams. Until at least Monday, approximately 350 vehicles and their passengers were stranded on the road between Bannu, a settled area in KP and Miranshah (ET). People are running out of basic supplies while businesses and vendors suffer losses as perishable supplies like vegetables and fruit rot. Some families have been reduced to eating shaftal or alfalfa, the fodder they usually give their livestock.

It is these daily cycles of brute force coupled with rank neglect that fuel support for insurgents who can then pose as resistance against a brutal regime. In other words, a gaping political vacuum exists in FATA, to which drones seem like an absurd response.

And finally, this is the first time that political parties will be allowed to operate and to contest elections from the Tribal Areas. Residents of FATA did not gain the right to vote till 1996, and although they were able to elect representatives to Parliament, these candidates had to run as independents. This year, however, parties have been given permission to carry out activities within FATA. In either case however, the Pakistani citizens here are in the bizarre position of electing representatives to an electoral body–the Parliament–whose laws do not apply to FATA. That questionable democratic process was further stymied by the curfew because candidates were unable to submit their paperwork for elections by the deadline this Sunday (Mar 24th).

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Swat in Pictures

CopA friend, Moneeza Ahmed, and I recently travelled to see what Swat looks like after the war. Below are a few of the quick photos we took. Click on each to see the caption. I’ll be posting more stuff/ impressions in a few days.

Operation Rah-e-Rast is the fourth Army offensive in Swat in the last 2 years. The Army and the Pakistani liberals who supported the war swear that this time, it’s for real. This time, the Army gets it. But, in Swat, that’s not true judging by the way it ran its offensive. And the goverment has yet to make serious rehabilitation or reconstruction efforts. The only thing that moves quickly is business of killing. The Army has moved on to Waziristan and is repeating its cavalierly ruthless policies there.  I spoke with an aid worker in Dera Ismail Khan recently. That’s where most of the civilians have fled. No governmental or state institution has yet put up much needed refugee camps. It is also now likely that once Waziristan is over, Balochistan will be next. Under the pretext of hunting down militants, the government may try to wipe out the Balochistan insurgency which stems from their very legitimate demands for rights and access to their resources.

Swat, meanwhile, has been forgotten. Without reconstruction, it’s possible that militants could have the opportunity to return, as they have done every other time. But who gives a shit, right? I mean, Swat is so yesterday.

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Waziristan: What We Knew

I’ve been in Pakistan for about two months now, and the chasm between what is reported and what we know but goes unreported is deep and wide. But, here’s some stuff we knew about Waziristan:

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