Rampaging terrorism and bubbling militancy have menacingly plagued Pakistan since 2001. Parliamentary Secretary of Interior, Mariyam Aurangzeb, explained on 5 December 2014 that more than 50,000 people including army, police, and civilians had lost their lives in the war on terror, and the country had also lost 80 billion US dollars in this war. Before the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb, the government was sincerely immersed in perusing peace talks with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) leadership but then out of the blue seven gunmen affiliated with the TTP conducted a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December 2014 killing 145 people, including 132 school children aged between eight and eighteen years.
At that critical juncture, both the civilian and military leadership agreed to vigorously conduct a counter-terrorism and counter-militancy operation against terrorists aimed at permanently flushing out terrorists of all strides particularly the outlawed TTP. The first year of the operation was completed on June 15, in which Pakistani security forces cleared the North Waziristan tribal areas. According to Inter Services Public Relations Director General, Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa, since the launch of the operation 2,763 terrorists had been killed and 837 of their hideouts had been destroyed (with 253 tonnes of explosives recovered). On the other hand, 347 army officers and soldiers were martyred in the operation.
According to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), prior to the operation militant attacks had peaked to 154 a month in Pakistan, but this count has now dropped more than 50% to 71 attacks a month. In this post, I argue that in order to maintain this reduction in terrorism, fanaticism needs to be uprooted by building civil society and abolishing the male dominated system of control in the tribal areas: backward decision-making must be eliminated for progress to occur and democracy to take hold in FATA. According to the military spokesman, the operation has been very effective and apart from a few terrorist hotspots all the important areas have been cleared. The military has commendably performed its constitutional job and has yet another feather in its cap.
Before the ongoing operation, similar operations were also successfully carried out in Bajaur, Swat, Waziristan, Orakzai and Mohmand. Now the time has come for civil society turn to discharge its constitutional duty and maintain law and order through activism and anti-radicalisation techniques geared towards eradicating the menace of terrorism at its very roots. Some vexing questions nonetheless remain: does the civilian government have the pragmatic will, capacity and adequate competence to keep hard core terrorists at bay and introduce effective governance? And what sorts of measures are required for the political stability, economically prosperity and effectiveness of the security of FATA’s seven Agencies (Tribal Districts) and six Frontier Regions?
In this regards, The PML-N led federal polity is indifferent and moving at a snail’s pace to introduce far-reaching educational, political, economic and legal reforms in the post-operation period and may well be steering the country to further problems with terrorism and militancy. To inhibit re-emergence of defeated terrorists in FATA, it is the need of the hour to fill the gap left by the fighting by creating trust and social capital.
Firstly, FATA is lagging far behind in terms of education. Unfortunately, it does not have a single university, and its literacy rate is around 22% which is well below the nation-wide rate of 56 per cent. Alarmingly, according to a report issued by the Shaoor Foundation for Education and Awareness (SFEA), literacy rate among women in tribal areas is low and stagnant at a mere 3 per cent. The report concludes the factors hampering the process of education as inaccessibility to schools, poor quality of education, low retention rate, militancy, displacements and custom and traditions prevalent in those areas.
Secondly, FATA is also faced with some formidable political issues. Within the meaning of Articles 51, 59 and 247 of the 1973 Constitution, it is represented in the National Assembly with 12 seats and in the Senate with 8 members, but remains under the direct executive authority of the President. It is administered by the Governor of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as an agent to the President of Pakistan. The administrative head of each tribal agency is the Political Agent who represents the President of Pakistan and the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is highly astonishing that laws framed by the National Assembly do not apply there, unless ordered by the President, who is also empowered to issue regulations for the peace and good government of the tribal areas.
As regards each Frontier Region, that is administered by a Deputy Commissioner (DC) of the respective settled district, who exercises the same powers in the FR as the Political Agent does in a tribal agency. The politics is primarily monopolised by men because cultural, traditional and social practices have kept FATA’s women in a highly vulnerable position mostly and excluded from decision-making.
It is a pity that hand-picked and incompetent political agents have been appointed to govern terrorism – stricken FATA without proper checks and balances. Maliks and sardars with considerable wealth and lands bear sway on the unworkable administration which is bound to result in widespread corruption, mismanagement, nepotism and misappropriation of large sums of money. If required reforms are delayed, the costly operation will turn out to be a fiasco, and terrorists will surely flock to FATA and establish hotbeds and hideouts.
Thirdly, persistent economic deprivation have pushed the tribal people towards terrorist or militant outfits such as TTP or foreign spy agencies such as (RAW) to acquire money to make the ends meet for their families. Despite being home to 2.4% of Pakistan’s population, it makes up only 1.5% of country’s economy with per capita income of only $663 in 2010. According to a study, 60% of its population living below the poverty line and with unemployment rate ranging between 60-80%. As par available statistics, only 7% of the total land of FATA is cultivable, while the remaining 93% of the land is dry, mountainous and unproductive. Of this cultivable land only 3% is irrigated whereas the remaining is totally dependent on rain. Most of the land belongs to the local khans and Malaks and more than 50% of the people have no agricultural land.
The political administration enjoys unchecked financial powers which result in escalated corruption of the developmental funds afforded by foreign donors hence stunting projected developments. Ayaz Wazir, the former ambassador, writes in the News that:
Had the money been utilised honestly and sensibly Fata would have become the most developed and modern area in all of Pakistan.
Moreover, millions of Afghan refugees migrated to FATA from 1979. Despite large scale repatriation they continue to be mounting burden on the economy of Pakistan. Equally, due to lack of economic opportunities and absence of economic regulation, the tribal areas have became a hub of black market and a persuasive arms and drugs trade. Menacingly, it has exacerbated poverty, which in turn has been fuelling militancy in the tribal region.
FATA has also been deprived of having the same legal system as the rest of Pakistan enjoys. The jurisdictions of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court (PHC) do not extend to FATA. All civil and criminal cases are decided under the FCR by a jirga (council of elders). Due to the unchecked discretionary power placed into the hands of the jirga and consequent gross human rights violations occur which is why this law has come to be known as the “black law”. It is unfortunate that British colonial law has been in force since 1948. No doubt, this outmoded law has been frequently employed under the sway of big landlords to take harsh revenge and settle political vendetta, and presumably the ordinary people have hardly acquired true justice. Therefore, a large number of disgruntled people unwittingly opt for terrorist organizations to settle their scores.
It is important to resolve these long lasting issues of this part of the country in order to close the door for terrorism and militancy. It is crucial to educate qualitatively the people of FATA so that they come to realise their worth, fundamental political, socio-economic and legal rights, and also the nefarious designs of terrorists and militants. Proper mass education is the only weapon they can easily employ to change their lot. FATA badly needs modern and state-of-the-art educational institutions if the state wishes to carry the day and keeps terrorism at bay in perpetuity. So it is imperative to build enough educational institutions meant to impart modern education about democracy and liberalism, and also disseminate an effective counter narrative against existing Taliban ideology. Furthermore, it is equally important to fully equip and train the energetic youth of the same area with sophisticated technical education and get them engaged in productive work so as to better their financial position.
It is essential to empower the people politically by abolishing non democratic traditions. Secondly, it is important to establish a sort of representative assembly with elected members. Thirdly, FATA should be provided with local bodies composed of their own elected representatives so that power is transferred from the few elites to the masses at grass root level that are currently playing only the second fiddle. For sustainable good governance, transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation and responsiveness ought to be ensured.
Besides, economic measures aimed at improving people’s lives are also needed. The Chief Justice PHC, Dost Muhammad Khan, said that:
The government could overcome terrorism by providing permanent jobs to the tribal youth, as they are falling into the wrong hands due to unemployment.
The government should take serious steps to regularize, document and institutionalize FATA’s economy root and branch. The war torn tribal areas should be connected by rail and road to the rest of the country via the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Since the area contains commercially viable reserves of marble, copper, limestone, fine quality coal, manganese, gypsum, chromites, limestone, iron ore and coal, and also some reservoirs of oil and gas in Waziristan and Khyber agencies, the process of industrialization through a policy of public/private partnership would help tap, exploit and capitalise on these resources while providing immense employment opportunities and economic benefits. As a result, it could assist tremendously in bringing the youth of the tribal areas on par with those of developed cities in the rest of the country thus diverting them from the primrose path. Equally important, as FATA is a major centre for opium trafficking and the disruptive smuggling of other contraband, stringent actions must be taken to hinder this big source of funding to the terrorists.
Last but not least, proper legal reforms are also required to supplant the antiquated and draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). Therefore it is of paramount importance that this obstructive law is scraped as soon as possible and replaced by the common law of the country. In this regards it is important to take into consideration the recommendations of the Peshawar High Court to the Parliament in April 2014 about making suitable amendments in Article 247(7) of the Constitution so that the jurisdiction of superior court is extended to FATA. In addition to this, adequate courts of all types should be erected and Judges of honesty, spirit and integrity must also be appointed on merit so that the people are administered with due justice.
John Seeley opines that:
Democracy is a sort of government in which all and sundry have their due share.
The people of FATA need this democratic share in terms of guaranteed educational, political, economic and legal rights .If these required reforms are not introduced in the post-conflict period, terrorism and militancy are still looming large, and which could cast a blight and hobble the welcoming results of the military operation.
Author: Ayaz Ahmed is former assistant researcher of PIIA. He holds an MA degree in International Relations. Links and editing by Editor