Bring­ing FATA to the Fold

FATA has been rav­aged as a con­se­quence of an in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to root out ter­ror­ism from the world. It is time the re­gion is paid back.

Southasia - - FRONT PAGE - By Shahzad Chaudhry The writer is a re­tired Air Vice Mar­shal of the Pak­istan Air Force and served as its Deputy Chief of Staff.


nsur­gen­cies re­late to spa­ces – both ge­o­graph­i­cal and no­tional. Phys­i­cally they seek a base from where the in­sur­gents can es­tab­lish their con­trol and writ. It is like a mini-state where they en­force their own laws re­plac­ing those that have ex­isted be­fore. Th­ese can be po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic and im­pact how the peo­ple of an area or a re­gion ex­ist and un­der what con­di­tions. The in­sur­gency in FATA was just that where a ge­o­graph­i­cal space was ceded by the state, as in­deed the laws that were re­placed with what the Tal­iban wanted to en­force to run their af­fairs.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary has been in a war all along to sweep th­ese in­sur­gents away from the seven agen­cies that con­sti­tute FATA, with North Waziris­tan be­ing the last one in the se­ries where a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion is go­ing on un­abated.

In­sur­gen­cies could use ter­ror as an in­stru­ment to aug­ment their war and to im­pose their phys­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal con­trol over the peo­ple. Ter­ror on its own though is a sep­a­rate branch of ir­reg­u­lar war­fare. It is aimed to achieve mul­ti­ple ef­fects: de­liv­er­ing tac­ti­cal ad­van­tage to frighten the tar­geted peo­ple and make them amenable to ac­cept­ing the long-term strate­gic dom­i­nance of the per­pe­tra­tors. It is akin to soft­en­ing the bat­tle­field be­fore a full-on as­sault. Coun­terin­sur­gen­cies and coun­tert­er­ror­ism, there­fore, re­quire a sep­a­rate set of tools to deal with th­ese chal­lenges.

As the Pak­istani army clears North Waziris­tan, it has set into mo­tion a process where full-spec­trum coun­terin­sur­gency ac­tions will be needed. Th­ese will in­clude re­gain­ing the phys­i­cal con­trol of the area through mil­i­tary ef­forts as well en­forc­ing the ac­com­pa­ny­ing po­lit­i­cal, so­cial, eco­nomic and le­gal mea­sures that should give the no­tional and ide­o­log­i­cal con­trol back to the state of Pak­istan. Our politi­cians and the mil­i­tary will need to be on the same wave­length to de­liver a whole­some re­sponse. In all ap­pli­ca­tions of the mil­i­tary, the in­tent is to cre­ate space for pol­i­tics to act. This re­mains the most cen­tral re­la­tion­ship of the mil­i­tary and the pol­i­tics that proves the only cer­tainty – it is only pol­i­tics that must de­liver in seek­ing abid­ing so­lu­tions to prob­lems that will in­vari­ably al­ways have po­lit­i­cal roots. Con­flict man­age­ment and res­o­lu­tion are built around this cen­tral the­sis.

A good model is Swat, both for its omis­sions and com­mis­sions. When the re­gion was lost to mil­i­tants be­cause of the weak­ness of the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, it was left to the mil­i­tary to re­gain con­trol. How­ever, the steps that were needed as a follow-up ac­tion after the evic­tion of ter­ror­ists sadly re­mained miss­ing. The civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion re­turned to the re­gion al­beit after much re­luc­tance – still fear­ful of the mil­i­tants’ re­turn. The po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship only made some cos­metic vis­its with­out deal­ing with the more com­plex so­ciopo­lit­i­cal and so­cioe­co­nomic do­mains that would have needed clearcut poli­cies with re­source al­lo­ca­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion mech­a­nisms to achieve the in­tended ob­jec­tives. The ab­sence of whole­some, well-in­te­grated poli­cies with clearly de­fined ob­jec­tives meant that lit­tle was done beyond the army op­er­a­tion to con­vince the peo­ple of their gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to serve their needs.

Although coun­terin­sur­gency the­o­rists will posit the essence of ‘win­ning hearts and minds’ as the un­der­ly­ing strat­egy to win against an in­sur­gency, the roots of such in­sur­gen­cies will im­por­tantly de­ter­mine the ex­tent of such a need. Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture does not en­vis­age fight­ing a

coun­terin­sur­gency in Amer­ica, but its mis­sion does en­tail such an ac­tiv­ity abroad in other coun­tries, where the in­sur­gents, and surely the Americans, are aliens to the na­tive peo­ple - hence their com­pul­sion to win the hearts and minds of the na­tives. All the same, when two ide­olo­gies are com­pet­ing to take con­trol of a tar­get peo­ple, it re­mains im­por­tant for the par­ent na­tion to con­vince the tar­get group that their stakes lie with the larger majority. Th­ese stakes per force must in­clude po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic con­sid­er­a­tions; and, even more im­por­tantly, a sense that their safety and se­cu­rity re­mains the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of the gov­ern­ment, which it will en­sure at all costs.

The on­go­ing flux in FATA and es­pe­cially North Waziris­tan may be an op­por­tu­nity for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in Is­lam­abad to re­view its poli­cies which may have brought about such dev­as­ta­tion in the first place. There is a press­ing need to de­bate the is­sue of po­lit­i­cal re­struc­tur­ing. For ex­am­ple, should FATA con­tinue to be treated as a ret­inue of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in Is­lam­abad with the aim to pre­serve its out­dated tra­di­tions and its way of life built around trib­al­ism? Or should it now be reg­u­lated ei­ther as a sep­a­rate prov­ince or in­te­grated into Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa? Should its so­cial and le­gal sta­tus be still run by ri­waj (cus­toms) or should reg­u­lar laws with the ex­tended au­thor­ity of the Supreme Court gov­ern its so­cial func­tion­ing? Putting it more suc­cinctly, should FATA re­main mired in the 18th cen­tury ex­is­tence, or is it time now to bring it at par with the rest of Pak­istan? That will mean re­peal­ing the Fron­tier Crimes Reg­u­la­tions ( FCR) and re­plac­ing it with the new set of laws com­pat­i­ble with the Con­sti­tu­tion, the Pak­istan Pe­nal Code and the Code of Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure.

Another fac­tor of equal im­por­tance is the ex­ten­sion of the Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties Act which en­ables po­lit­i­cal in­te­gra­tion of the peo­ple of FATA in the reg­u­lar po­lit­i­cal sys­tem of Pak­istan. Dur­ing its last term in power, the Pak­istan Peo­ple’s Party had en­abled the ex­ten­sion of the PPA un­der a le­gal frame­work, but an ac­com­pa­ny­ing change in the laws of the land will pro­vide a more uni­form so­ciopo­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment for po­lit­i­cal par­ties to prop­erly en­gage with the peo­ple. So­cial and po­lit­i­cal in­te­gra­tion with the rest of Pak­istan will trans­late into a whole­some sim­i­lar­ity en­abling more rec­og­niz­able com­mon­al­ity of stakes.

Eco­nomic support to the FATA re­gion en­tails a more de­lib­er­ate study and care­ful plan­ning. There is a need to strengthen the lo­cal econ­omy, build­ing around what suits the lo­cal busi­ness­men. The Pash­tuns are known for their sharp trad­ing skills. It will help them greatly if the state can en­able more trans­par­ent and bet­ter man­aged trade ac­tiv­i­ties even if it is trade across the bor­der. A con­trolled duty struc­ture spe­cific to the fre­quently traded items can grad­u­ally bring the ac­tiv­ity un­der a le­gal­ized frame­work. It is al­ways use­ful to build on ex­ist­ing pa­ram­e­ters.

In­fra­struc­ture, schools and hos­pi­tals are the most es­sen­tial and vis­i­ble av­enues of build­ing com­mu­ni­ties in FATA. It will give the peo­ple of FATA a sense of in­te­gra­tion with the rest of Pak­istan. De­ploy­ment of law en­force­ment agen­cies to en­sure the se­cu­rity of life and prop­erty will also be a key to main­tain the so­cial or­der in the area.

The gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan should de­clare a few ge­o­graph­i­cal zones as ded­i­cated zones for de­vel­op­ment across the coun­try. A FATA fund for both in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal en­dow­ments and aid pro­grams must be cre­ated for a cer­tain pe­riod of time, per­haps 10 years, and the state must be an equal contributor. Sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ment zones can also be con­sid­ered for Balochis­tan. Both FATA and Balochis­tan will need spe­cial al­lo­ca­tions to re­al­ize an ac­cel­er­ated pace of de­vel­op­ment to bring th­ese re­gions at the same level of ex­is­tence as the rest of Pak­istan. A Con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion must en­sure suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ment’s ad­her­ence to such a plan for a fixed pe­riod of time. An in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence to seek as­sis­tance may also be con­sid­ered. A broad con­sen­sus of politi­cians is needed on this is­sue.

FATA has been rav­aged as a con­se­quence of an in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to root out ter­ror­ism from the world. It is about time FATA was paid back for the losses it has suf­fered due to this armed ef­fort. Even if the rest of the world does not con­trib­ute, Pak­istan’s own in­ter­nal fo­cus should be on bring­ing the peo­ple of FATA back into the fold, en­sur­ing them rights sim­i­lar to those en­joyed by their fel­low coun­try­men. This is the need of the mo­ment.

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