There is no insurgency in FATA - II

In the second part of his analysis of violence in the tribal areas, Prof Ijaz Khan speaks about the disconnect between the state and the locals

There is no insurgency in FATA - II
A counterinsurgency strategy usually includes both military and non-military components. Military actions –targeting active insurgents and reclaiming territory from their control or influence – also make siding with the insurgents a bad bargain for the local population and potential recruits. The non-military component, popularly referred to as ‘winning hearts and minds’, or WHAM, aims to win the support of the public, isolate the insurgents, and reduce or eliminate the attraction of insurgent recruitment and sympathy for the insurgents.

The Pakistani state has followed a counterinsurgency policy towards militant groups active inside Pakistan, relying on selective use of force against some terrorist targets, mostly reacting when attacked, and making civilians take up arms against terrorists under the collective responsibility system of FATA. The WHAM component can be seen in the army’s engagement in various developmental activities that include the construction of roads, schools, and water supply schemes. This policy follows the understanding that there is no relationship between the Taliban militants active inside Afghanistan and those inside Pakistan. The state and many analysts also believe there is a widespread support for the terrorists inside FATA.

But the clashes in the tribal areas are not an insurgency in the standard understanding of the term. It is not that the people of FATA or a group of them have taken up arms against the authority of the state. The situation is closer to what would be seen as a territory under enemy occupation, the occupier being a collection of non-state forces. Outsiders including Arabs, Chechen, Uzbeks, Afghan Taliban and a number of Pakistani extremist religious elements mostly from South Punjab but also from the rest of the country, have found a safe haven in FATA. They are mostly active in Afghanistan, but also in other countries including China, a friendly neighbor.

Pakistani forces use the outdated system of collective responsibility, which is not suitable for the current conflict and the present socio-economic situation in FATA. That has resulted in tragedies like the recent one in Mir Ali. The town was shelled and its market destroyed because terrorists had taken shelter in their territory. Such actions do not hurt the terrorists, but alienate the population, and create mistrust between the state and the locals.

[quote]Selective, reactionary actions fuel suspicions of a collusion between the state and the terrorists[/quote]

The policy of selective and reactionary actions also feeds the popular belief of collusion between the state and the terrorists.  Those who can are leaving FATA, because they feel they cannot fight both the terrorists and the state.

The terrorists follow a well thought out strategy, giving the impression of a split between those whose interests are focused in Afghanistan and those who act inside Pakistan. In fact, those acting inside Pakistan have kept the Pakistani forces engaged, thus providing a respite to those active inside Afghanistan.  This also makes the Pakistani state believe it is taking advantage of the split between the terrorists.  This policy, referred to as a policy of ‘Good and Bad Taliban’ also fits well in the perception that Afghan Taliban are Pakistan’s best bet in Afghanistan. That is a mistaken reading of the situation.

To be continued…

The author is associated with the Department of International Relations, University of Peshawar

The writer is former chairman, Department of International Relations, University of Peshawar. Twitter @ijazkhan