The Uzbeki Question

With no independent figures to confirm or deny the validity of the oft updated death toll in North Waziristan by the ISPR, one would think that the operation was going extraordinarily well. However, it is much too early to declare anything conclusive. The armed forces seem to have discovered a large number of foreign militants and their sanctuaries, and based on what they say, it would seem that resistance on the ground so far, has been negligible. Five more militant hideouts and numerous terrorists were killed on Saturday, with the army claiming that they were mostly Uzbeks.
But where and when did our territories start playing host to such vast numbers of Uzbeks out in the open? Allegedly, there was a whole region the locals referred to as “the Uzbekistan of Waziristan,” where areas were signposted in the Uzbek language. Why did this not raise a plethora of questions before? If the ISI had caught wind, why then, was the government so surprised to discover that most of the perpetrators of the Karachi airport attack were in fact, Uzbek? We don’t share a border with Uzbekistan, so the movement of the militants would have had to be across two sets of borders. Such mass migration crossing a considerable distance, should have been picked up by the intelligence radars instantly. Though it is no secret that North Waziristan was hosting large numbers of foreign fighters from Al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), entire regions do not become taken over by immigrants overnight and the Uzbek presence raises concerns related to the financial channels of the militants, transport, border management, and intelligence.
Roughly 400 militants have been killed in Zarb-e-Azb so far, out which a large portion have reportedly been foreign fighters from groups other than the TTP. What is perhaps even more important to note, is that allegedly, the hoards of Uzbek fighters have fled from North Waziristan into Afghanistan; they did so immediately after the Operation was announced. No Uzbek activity, according to reports from locals, has been seen since. Who are the leftover Uzbeks our military is now fighting? Is it just more palatable to label militant deaths as foreign? Does it make this war sound more acceptable than the idea of Pakistani soldiers fighting Pakistani insurgents? Who can independently verify the nationalities of these people? If Uzbek, there must be a network of safe havens for them between NWA and Uzbekistan; these must be found, lest they are only biding time and preparing for their return, which will not be, one can imagine, without vengeance.

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