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IN THE EARLY HOURS of 25 December 2012, the paramilitary Frontier Corps of Pakistan’s Balochistan province launched an operation in the small, remote village of Mai. The operation went unnoticed by all save a handful of local newspapers. According to residents of Mai, which lies deep inside Balochistan, six helicopters and up to two hundred cars carrying soldiers arrived on that winter morning. The soldiers went door-to-door pointing guns, and were surprised when people answered their accusations of being foreign spies with recitations of the kalima. “They thought we were Hindu agents,” said Muhammad Amin, a wrinkled farmer who witnessed the soldiers’ arrival.
Three helicopters circled above the village, and shelled some mud homes. A few abandoned huts with mortar holes still dot the landscape. “It was as if the earth was on fire, and the sky was raining bullets,” Amin said. Three other choppers landed in front of a mosque, where the village’s women and children had hidden themselves. “Soldiers pulled us outside to stand in the cold for several hours,” Mahnaz, a peasant woman, said. Other villages nearby underwent similar attacks. By the time the operation ended, the Frontier Corps had set up 12 checkpoints controlling every entry and exit around Mai.