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FATA Security Challenges: Internal Dimensions

By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse ,Mar 25, 2011

Pakistan today faces several internal security challenges. One is how to counter the godzillas created during the anti-Soviet jihad. These challenges also entail the question whether the Pakistani establishment realizes the need to weigh the costs of its deference to and tolerance of groups such as the Haqqani Network, Tehreeke Taliban of Hafiz Gul Bahdaur and Lashkakre Taiba (Jamaatud Dawa) – because these outfits are at the core of the challenges that Pakistan faces today in FATA and on the mainland. 

One of the major dimensions of the internal security challenges stems from the State of Denial: We often hear “it is an imposed war, an American war.” This notion clearly underlines the state of denial that most Pakistanis find themselves in. Even the residents of FATA believed so, despite very often using the metaphor “topakian – the gun-totters” for the Taliban since the mid 1990s, when TNSM emerged on the scene. The Afghan Taliban then joined them in late 1990s in Waziristan to destroy music shops or force them out of business. And later both Pakistani and Afghan Taliban became hosts to Al Qaeda. A complex conglomerate has meanwhile emerged out of this cooperation. 

This conglomerate represents, most probably, the most formidable challenge to us all; these cross-border, trans-nationalist linkages have emerged as a parallel force that is challenging the writ of the state. 

Why is this conglomerate able to challenge and threaten the state? Because of lack of or insufficient political consensus. 

The President had on 14th August 2009 announced some amendments to the FCR but they are still in the air. Besides a security establishment, still given to the notion of a security state, and preoccupied with tactical maneuvers, the entire ruling elite has failed in evolving or helping evolve a consensus over the total abolition of the British era FCR. The parliament failed in replacing the FCR or at least incorporating the amendments that the president had promised two years ago. 

My sense of FATA, since 1995 when I was first detained for several hours in North Waziristan, is that the FATA bureaucrats, the roughly 35,000 Maliks – the title-holders, a few thousand rich traders and of course the mainstream political parties are the direct or indirect beneficiaries of this system. And that is why the parliamentary reforms committee, despite amending 105 articles of the constitution through the 18th amendment, failed in at least mentioning its interest in removing the colonial scourge in favour of the law of the land. 

Politicians blamed the army opposition for non-inclusion of the FATA reforms in 18th amendment. Let us assume the army opposed it, my question is how will the history determine the army opposed the issue? 

Did 42 members of the reforms committee leave something in black and white; is the issue of FATA reforms part of the proceedings? A flat No.

Not even one out of the 342 MPs opted to resign to protest the army opposition to the FATA reforms. That is why I would say, while the army bears the blame for the current problems resulting from the support for militant approaches and reliance on non-state actors, politicians share the blame equally. I would have loved to see an Expression of Interest in the 18th Amendment. 

This brings us to the third dimension of the international security challenges:

Since FATA are governed by the FCR, and much of the FCR is meanwhile subject to the will and actions of the military, there is a real legal-administrative gap in the FATA. The system may have been good when there were no Islamist militants – which are now a parallel force, a direct challenge to the state. But we also have to keep in mind that even if the FCR worked well before the emergence of the Taliban, one must not deny that the FCR basically treated the tribal people as “caged monkeys” (former governor Gen.Ali Jan Orakazai), a system that allowed gun-running, drugs and even shelter to fugitives from the law of the land. That is why the question: Do you really want to continue with that system which has allowed all sorts of non-state actors to emerge i.e. militants, criminal gangs, smugglers, besides according a privileged status to a 35,000 people and a few thousand bureaucrats? 

And now to the fourth dimension of the internal security: 

This is Socio-economic deprivations that have resulted from the special status of the FATAs and the FCR. One of the direct consequences of this system is socio-economic under-development in an environment wherein the Political Agent is the king and the Malik is his privileged surrogate, while the common man remains under-privileged – and entirely at the whims of either the Political Administration or the militants. This has obviously aggravated economic adversities, rendered hundreds of thousands youth jobless, and exposed them to the militants – many of them also join their ranks.

One of the aspects of the administrative dimensions is the law-enforcement machinery. It is the issue of capacity of the khasadars, Lavies and the FC. This also applies to the police in most of the country: 

Are they are sensitized enough to deal with the new level of threat? Do we have laws efficient enough to deal with the security challenges that emanate from FATA and other ungoverned spaces? 

The provincial cabinet (Feb 24th) in Peshawar was informed that terrorists freed by the courts have become active again. Mian Iftikhar Hussain claimed that courts sentence only two per cent of the terrorists that stand trial. He said that as many as 200 cases were registered during 2009 but the number fell to 101 in 2010. 

Over 3,000 trials, including that of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM) Chief Sufi Muhammad, are still pending because the authorities are afraid that once produced before the normal courts – governed by the anglo-saxon law – most of them would be out. 

A rare conviction followed on March 18th when an Anti-Terror Court in Swat handed down a consecutive prison term of 120 years to Noorani Gul, a high-profile commander originally from Matta.

This is a welcome development but we need more such convictions, backed up by comprehensive anti-terror legislation replacing Anti-Terror Act 1997. And for that, the military establishment would need to show its teeth to all those who are challenging the write of the state. Dubious deals with religio-political groups shall have to be abandoned in favour of a law-based state-driven governance, and quick justice to the marginalised five million inhabitants of FATA. 

But a much greater challenge, probably, is how to handle the mushrooming threat that the trans-nationalist al Qaeda and its non-Arab affiliates present to the world at large as well as to the residents of FATA and Pakistan.

The writer heads the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk