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US bombing campaign in North Waziristan is sowing sympathy for Al Qaeda and other militants.
Pakistani and U.S. intelligence sources said that when the drone struck Khan’s compound — in the village of Machikhel — militants had been hiding inside.
“There was no terrorist or militant hiding there. It was my house, not a hideout,” he said. “The CIA simply killed my son and brother and dubbed them as Taliban just to hide the crime.”
Amirullah, 15, a mechanic who used to work in Mir Ali, has — like many people here — a similar story.
Hailing from Bannu, a district adjacent to North Waziristan, Amirullah had been working at a mechanic’s shop, where he made $8 a week until four missiles fired by a drone hit a compound in a nearby village where he was sleeping at night.
“I am not able to do hard work because of a permanent fault in my leg and hearing loss. My father is already dead, and I am worried about bread and butter for my younger sisters and brother,” he said. “I don’t want to go back [to Mir Ali], there is nothing except fear.”
Amirullah said he had no plans to avenge the attack.
“It (revenge) will leave me nowhere. I have to take care of my sisters and brother. As far as revenge is concerned, I leave it up to Allah. He is the best judge,” he said.
Political analysts said that a surge in anti-U.S. sentiments was likely to increase, especially given that the victims themselves — not politicians or militants — were now beginning to speak out.
“When the victims of drone attacks protest or march on the roads of Islamabad or Karachi, one does not have to be a genius to figure out how provocative that would be,” said Abdul Khalique Ali, a Karachi-based political analyst.
In just a few short years, the conflict has destroyed nearly all facets of life in the North Waziristan.
Most Pakistanis interviewed here said that insecurity rules their life. Everyone here speaks softly or not all for fear of being branded a sympathizer by one side or the other.
Nowhere is safe, they said.
A drone attack in March of 2010 on a school in the town of Tappi, also considered a militant stronghold, reduced a local school building to rubble, leading many parents to take their kids out of school altogether.
“There have not been any further attacks on schools, but people are still panicked,” said Mohsin Dawar, a local tribal elder.
An exodus of qualified teachers, meanwhile, has left many of the region’s schools empty. And no professors from outside North Waziristan are willing to take the risks to teach here.
Entry to North Waziristan itself has become a hassle. Travelers have to wait in long lines and pass through multiple checkpoints before entering the region, forcing teachers and other essential school staff to resign or transfer to other regions.
“There hasn’t been a single class held in the college here in the last year. No one is ready to be posted here under these conditions,” Dawar said, referring to the local Mir Ali College. “We are very much worried about the education of our children because, if they don’t go to school or college, they could be an easy target for militants.”
According to tribal elders, school-age children make up 35 percent of the population of North Waziristan. Without school and other activities, they said, the children spend their time aimlessly in the streets or sit for long hours in cafes where they are susceptible to militant recruiters.
“If they (young people) do not have positive activities like education and sports, they can easily be coaxed or influenced by militants,” Mohsin said. “But, unfortunately, the government is not paying any attention to this serious issue, which is a matter of life and death for our next generations.”