Sararogha: Heading out to Shabozai village, 12km from Sararogha, Gulf News visited a Pakistan army military base on the front line in South Waziristan. Located at 6,000 feet (1,828 metres) the Shabozai base is only accessible by a steeply inclined rocky track.
The base falls under the command of Brigadier Hassan Hayat who commands the Sararogha side for the 40th Division that is in charge of an area comprising at least 40 per cent of South Waziristan.
The breathtaking mountainous terrain that stretches on all sides beyond the narrow valley of the Tank Zam River is also a security nightmare. Peak after peak that was wrested back from insurgent control now has military posts. At least four of these posts come under the supervision of the Shabozai base.
Base commander Lieutenant Owais spoke to Gulf News about the routine monitoring by the soldiers and officers. “Walking up to the other posts is a daily routine, we do this at night also”, said Lt Owais. Those soldiers sent on night reconnaissance are equipped with night vision goggles to detect any insurgent movement. While the area is now clear of insurgents there is round-the-clock monitoring.
Gulf News met some of the soldiers stationed at the base in the bunkers and also got to see their living quarters made of rocks collected from the nearby mountains. Usually food consists of lentils and fruit for lunch and mutton or chicken for dinner unless it is during an operation which it’s then what’s called an MER or ‘Meal Ready to Eat’.
There is also a special bunker for donkeys — they are a prized commodity in the area for the transportation of goods — especially water that is brought from the river down in the valley.
A vantage point, the base offers a sweeping view of the landscape that is dotted with small villages comprising clusters of unusual mud-coloured houses dominated by a square shaped watchtower at the entrance. The area is predominantly Mehsud, the tribe that constitutes 63 per cent of the population in South Waziristan.
Northwards, the terrain stretches into North Waziristan and the international border with Afghanistan which is distinctly visible because of the snow-clad peaks.
Only by visiting this remote outpost can one appreciate the difficult task these brave men have of ensuring security. Cut off from the comforts we normally take for granted they live a life that is both hard and fraught with dangers.