On 20 May 2008, the Pakistan Army conducted collective punishment against a village called Spinkai, located in the frontier province of Pakistan. The operation was called ‘zalzala’ which is Urdu for earthquake. At first, the Pakistan Army swept through with helicopter gunships, artillery and tanks that crunched across a parched riverbed. After four days of heavy fighting, 25 militants and six soldiers died. The rest of the militants retreated up the valley. After the capture of the village the army discovered bomb factories, detonation-ready suicide jackets and schools for teenage suicide bombers.
The Pakistan Army immediately decided to punish the village for harboring the Taliban and allowing the militants to operate in and from the village to conduct further terror attacks in Pakistan. Bulldozers and explosives experts turned Spinkai’s bazaar into a mile-long pile of rubble. Petrol stations, shops, and even parts of the hospital were leveled or blown up. The villagers were forbidden from returning to their homes.
Pakistani commanders, who were speaking to the media, insisted they had been merciful in their application of “collective punishment” – a practice invented by the British who demarcated the tribal areas over a century ago