Friday, October 29, 2010

A North Waziristan Parliamentarian on His Own Constituency - NWA has Problems

“Our area has no development, no education, only madrasas (Islamic religious schools),” said Khan. “Our people listen five times a day to the maulvis (clerics) and they are always saying this is jihad.”

- Pakistan Border Region Becomes Terror Epicenter: DAWN

I generally don't care much for direct quotes, but Muhammad Kamran Khan, the Parliamentary rep for North Waziristan, makes a serious point. If there is no development in an area, then it makes perfect sense that obvious lunatics like the Taliban will have no problem convincing the kids of that territory to fight for them. Obviously a situation like that has to be remedied (development, etc.), but without security, nothing is going to happen.


The Dawn report I've linked to also has some very interesting paragraphs.

On Press non-access to North Waziristan:
"Because of the dangers, international journalists are restricted by the government from entering the territory."

I have a feeling that the Pak Gov (on the implicit wishes of the Pakistan military) kept the FATA area underdeveloped to act as a staging ground for assaults into Afghanistan during the Cold War days for our American "friends", a little place outside the jurisdiction of normal law (and strategically unsafe for journalists to wander around independent of surveillable firepower) from where less than legal actions can be carried out. Heck the next quote basically confirms it, but who would restrict this action back only till the 1980's?

"In the 1980’s, North Waziristan was a vital supply route for US-backed rebels fighting the invading Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Islamic holy warriors from around the globe flocked to the territory."

The underdeveloped and less than normally legal status of the FATA region would allow the military to possibly stash political prisoners here, to run drugs, to stash crooks who've committed crimes for the military inside Pakistan proper, as a repository for criminals absconding other provinces of Pakistan (this one I can confirm from living in Pakland), and possibly to keep the Pashtun population of Pakistan divided. The last one would make sense for the paranoid Pakistani nationalist in the earliest years of Pakistan (one who would fear the ANP and Afghan revanchism) but admittedly is an argument that would hold less water as the years go by. With just the right level of lawlessness (or imperial era standards of indiscriminate law enforcement) journalists can be scared away from entering, whilst intelligence people could still operate in FATA. After all, illegal activities are easier carried out, outside the eyes of the public. If a place is too "dangerous" for journalists, newspapers won't bother to regularly cover that place. The antique nature of the frontier crimes regulations which govern FATA, where political parties are not allowed to function legally would make it a de-politicised space where semi-legal or outright criminal plans can be carried out.



Anyway the article continued;
"If Pakistani forces go too far, “there will be a contagion of rage across the Pashtun tribes against the Pakistan army, and they will be faced with the choice of being driven from the tribal region (or) having a major wave of attacks in Pakistan cities,” Michael Scheuer, former CIA pointman in the hunt for bin Laden, told AP."

OK; Michael Scheuer. Wow, what can I say about this paleo-conservative? First off there are a lot of paleo-conservatives in Pakistan, so I respect and understand his position. However, he came from the school of thought that every country the terrorists came from should be attacked. Now aside from finding his sofa samurai attitude annoying, his analysis is kind of ahistorical and then contradictory. He starts with "if the Pakistani forces go too far". I would like to point out that to Mr Scheuer that the Pakistani forces have gone "too far". Mortars, artillery strikes, air strikes, many random and indiscriminate, these all are "too far". But there is a reason for them; the militants and the Taliban "went too far themselves". They did too much damage to too many people and the army had to be called out to put them down.

Last we come to the line which indicates that the entire Swat assault may not have been even worth it; "many troops are busy holding down the nearby valley of Swat, where the military put down a Taliban surge in 2008. “If we leave Swat today, they (the Taliban) will be back tomorrow,” said the security official."

Why isn't the police force in Swat capable of taking over. Albeit, the police force in all of Pakistan is incapable. Also, why did the military not eliminate the core leadership of the Taliban rather than simply go after the second tier (sporadically) and the third and fourth tier viciously. Why have the Taliban been allowed to live on as a weapon stored for use against Afghanistan? Or is it the military presence in Swat that continues to stoke the existence of the Taliban? These religious fanatics have proven themselves to be the ultimate social network; where you sign on to their ideology, fight or mount attacks with them when its convenient for you, then hide in your shell when the military comes down in force; squeaking there's no one here but us meeces.

A change in ideology is needed, and a change in strategy as well. Maybe hardwiring our society NOT to produce fanatics, whilst simultaneously killing, or interning in concentration/re-education camps, the various insane militants roaming North (and Central and South) Pakistan freely. And a cutback on the expectation of neo-imperialism in Afghanistan would also be appreciated.

3 comments:

Shahid said...

FATA has been our buffer zone ala Wakhan. Everybody remembers the 90s when it was supposedly peaceful but still called "ilaqa ghair" and every car that would be jacked would end up in FATA, never to be heard of again. Beyond any Pakistani law, home to the largest illegal gun markets and people felt proud of that.

The NAF survey's questions on governance were somewhat not surprising. More people support an Independent Pashtunistan than any autonomy within Pakistan.

Shahid said...

FATA has been our buffer zone ala Wakhan. Everybody remembers the 90s when it was supposedly peaceful but still called "ilaqa ghair" and every car that would be jacked would end up in FATA, never to be heard of again. Beyond any Pakistani law, home to the largest illegal gun markets and people felt proud of that.

The NAF survey's questions on governance were somewhat not surprising. More people support an Independent Pashtunistan than any autonomy within Pakistan.

TLW said...

every car that would be jacked would end up in FATA, never to be heard of again

I know Shahid, I referenced that in the post. Criminals running there, etc.

Are you talking about the New America Foundation survey? You're right about the part on FATA having a desire to separate as an independent autonomous area, but there's also the part about FATA having an independent and elected council. I think the Gilgit Baltistan Autonomy package idea is probably the best one around. That FATA should have something like it's own independent assembly, and maybe CM, and in ten years time FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa decide whether to merge or not.

I know people talk about ehtnicities in Pakistan splitting, but outside Balochistan, I think it is more a rhetorical device than anything. In FATA the Taliban don't want formal independence as much as autarky and isolation from the rest of the world. OTOh Balochistan has serious separatist intentions, but even there, the actions of the government, since the 2008 election have kind of cooled passions down in some quarters. I met a reporter from a Baloch language channel in Karachi and he said the real problem the Baloch are wondering is what would they do after independence? They don't want to end up like Afghanistan, with a war of all against all, and they don't want to end up as the chessboard of multiple empires. So that keeps them from going full throttle at this point in time for independence. I wish I could write some more on Balochistan, and I will eventually, but if you want to see more in terms of the violence and politics in Balochistan, read the Baloch Hal on the side bar of the blog.