Saleem Safi is a television anchor and a specialist in issues concerning Afghanistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan’s tribal areas. He has been working as a journalist since 1995 and has authored a book in Urdu that discusses the role of Pakistan’s religious parties in Afghanistan.
On May 18, 2012, Herald asked him to hold a live blog where people could pose their questions about clashes in North Waziristan. The blog has been edited for space, clarity and grammar.
7:02 Comment from Jehanzeb. Pakistan has a tendency to poke into external security issues without paying much heed to its own domestic security issues. The result has been just short of a catastrophe for Pakistan internally (e.g. Balochistan, Waziristan). Are the people dominating the security apparatus short-sighted enough to carry on the same policies, or does there need to be a complete overhaul in thinking and policy?
7:05 Saleem Safi. I think there should be a complete overhaul in both thinking and policies as the current approach and policies are self-destructive in nature.
7:05 Comment from Nasi. Why do you think some of our people support this militancy and some are against it?
7:08 Saleem Safi. Those who have learnt lessons are not supportive and those who consider US and India a more serious threat to Pakistani security than militants, those people have a soft corner for them.
7:09 Comment from Fatima. Could it be just that Pakistan is so busy cleaning up everyone else’s mess that they don’t realize the mess that they are causing in the process? I think we have moved past a point where is a war with tribalism, I think we have reached the pinnacle of civil disturbance.
7:17 Saleem Safi. Yes,Fatima with some extent you are right. Our leaders have made Pakistanis more international than Pakistani. Instead of our own qualities, we try to live with talking about others mistakes. You are right that we are moving towards civil disturbance but at the same time some rays of hope and the trends of self accountability are also emerging.
7:17 Comment from Sikander Orakzai. Only an argument which focuses on the domestic aspect (criminals operating outside the bounds of Pakistani law) of North Waziristan can have the support of the tribal areas and all people and institutions of Pakistan. Latching on to foreign rhetoric will not do. Do you agree?
7:22 Saleem Safi. Yes, I agree but at the same time we have to address also the external aspects of the issue. The issue of militancy and extremism is multi-dimensional one and for its solutions we have to adopt a multi-dimensional approach.
7:23 Comment from MO. Can any military operation in North Waziristan or any other part of the country be successful without the full support of the Pakistani people? Instead of it being ridiculed as something to “appease the US” by the Pakistani people? Would you say the Pakistani population is in denial and not in touch with the gravity and reality of the current situation?
7:27 Saleem Safi. The military conducted so many operations in tribal areas and Malakand Division but the people ofPakistan are still facing the menace of terrorism. That’s why the people (including me) are against the military operation. Majority of the people ofPakistan are progressive and peace loving but they are confused.
7:30 Comment from Mikal. Is the area that constitutes North Waziristan and South Waziristan an area that can be controlled permanently? Is it viable for a local police presence to be established and eventually handed control of the area? And is it an area that can be governed without military involvement?
7:34 Saleem Safi. Before 2001 both the North andSouth Waziristan were under government control. In the whole tribal areas political agent were considered to be the kings. Actually this dirty game in the region resulted in anarchy and the writ of militant in the region.
7:35 Comment from Iftekhar. Can FATA be integrated with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, if not why? Are there any linguistic or racial differences? Thirdly, what do you think should be the road map for extending rule of law, i.e. fundamental rights and governance to FATA? Is there any indication that Pakistan going to reverse the policy of using tribes as veritable arm of itself?
7:43 Saleem Safi. Yes. Not only FATA can be integrated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but I think this is the only viable option. People of FATA and the adjacent districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have the same language, culture and religion. For health, education and other facilities FATA is dependent on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa resources. The people who are living in Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadda, Kohat, Banu etc belongs to the same tribes of tribal areas. The offices of some political agents are still operating fro the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. For example the PA Khyber Agency is operating from Peshawar and PA Aurakzai from Hangu. There are no indications that Pakistan is going to reverse the policy of using tribal areas as veritable arm but if we want to make Pakistan safe and secure then we must bring these areas into main stream.
7:43 Comment from Aqib Ansari. My main question is why can’t Pakistan army with its huge force and sophisticated weapons control the insurgency?
7:47 Saleem Safi. The Pakistan Army cannot control the insurgency because of the confused policies of the State. Still, it is not clear that who is the enemy and who is the friend. Who is the asset and who is the menace. Secondly, it is a multi-dimensional problem but our governments tried to solve this with only the use of force. No government gave any attention to the other dimensions like ideological, economic, political and social.
7:48 Comment from Iftekhar. Which narrative do you support about tribal areas, Farhat Taj’s or Imran Khan’s?
7:51 Saleem Safi. Both of these narratives are more simplistic and based one extreme or on other extreme. Although I have a lot of respect for Farhat Taj and Imran Khan but am not the supporter of their narratives on War on Terror.
7:52 Comment from Guest. Every local person knows that there are large number of foreign fighters in the NW but why our media hypothetically do not show this in there program or talk about this?
7:54 Saleem Safi. Because the media is not allowed to these areas. The second reason is threats to Media persons. You know dozens of journalists were killed in the last ten years.
7:54 Comment from GTM. The obsession with India and the resulting 4 attacks on India that have brought extraordinary economic and political setbacks to Pakistan. Do you agree?
7:59 Saleem Safi. I think Pakistan bad relations with India is the mother of so many problems of our country. I think this element is the root cause of Martial laws bad economy and also of militancy.
7:59 Muhammad Waqas. All our problems in FATA and Afghanistan started after the US entered the region. So I think till the time the US does not exit both militarily and politically there will be no peace. What do you think?
7:59 Saleem Safi. Thank u all for your questions. I have to leave for another commitment. So bye and take care.