A Review of Swat: The Main Causes of the Breakdown of Governance and Rise of Militancy

A policy research report on Swat: The Main Causes of the Breakdown of Governance and Rise of Militancy, has been prepared by RIPORT a policy research institute established in 2005 operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.  One of the mandates of RIPORT is to study conflict and to make policy reform recommendations for ending or reducing it.

RIPORT conducted a survey to establish the perception of households in Swat to identify the causes that in their view created the crisis of governance in Swat in 2009. This was to lead to the formulation of recommendations for the government. In this connection 384 households were surveyed in sixteen villages and three urban wards of Mingora.

Prior to the survey elaborate interviews with knowledgeable respondents were conducted to formulate hypothesis in different categories which were subsequently tested through the administration of a questionnaire. This methodology allowed the study of the Swat conflict from different perspectives. It is apparent that conflicts don’t happen overnight and this study proved it. Secondly the study also showed that there were multiple causes that resulted in causing the conflict to arise.

The study examined the interaction of Swat history with its ethnic demography as well as the dynamics that arose overtime. At one time Swat was the center of the Hinayana sect of Buddhism and was a regional center of the Himalayan Civilization stretching from Tibet to Swat  including Kashmir.

The 16th century Yusufzai invasion brought new rulers to the valley supplanting the indigenous nobility who were scattered into the surrounding mountains as a result of dispossession. The study explores the dynamic of marginalization and the role it played in igniting the violence in Swat. The study indicates that poverty in Swat has created vulnerabilities that caused a large number of people to seek redressal of their plight by joining the terrorists when the opportunity arose from 2006 to 2009.

The analysis also examines the role of radical Jihadist intervention that influenced Swat with the arrival of Syed Ahmed from Patna in 1826. Many battles were fought by the people of this region over a period of time. As a result of this influence Swat has always been reticent to claimants who used the label of Islam and promised justice. It was recognition of this trait that was exploited by religious figures who obtained dominant position in Swat in the early twentieth century. The coming to power in 1917 of Mian Gul Abdul Wadud as the ruler of Swat brought a dynasty to power that ruled Swat till its final merger into Pakistan in 1969.

The study finds that lack of a plan to integrate Swat fully into Pakistan may have been the main cause of the unrest in this district. The study also found that Swat was prevented from a complete merger into Pakistan due to different vested interests who played a negative role for personal gain even when a Supreme Court decision in Feb 1994 ordered the implementation of the regular laws in Swat.

The study is critical of the permissiveness of the MMA government that ruled KP from 2002-2007. It did not confront the religious challengers to the state. The study also found it inexplicable why at the start of the international War on Terror in Nov 2001, President Musharaff weakened the grid-lock of security by abolishing the district administration; it permitted the radicals the freedom to do as they wished.

The study concludes by noting that Pakistan’s drift to intervention of religion into state and society began immediately after the death of the founder of the nation, Quaid e Azam in 1948. Soon afterwards the Objectives Resolution was passed declaring that the management of Pakistan shall be based on principles of Islam. The Islamic tilt reached a peak during the rule of President Zia ul Haq from 1977- 88. He shifted Pakistan from a quasi secular status to a religious mindset, the laws were changed secular freedoms were restricted. At the same time Pakistan and the USA organized a Jihad against the USSR thus encouraging even more the growth of this mindset in a region that had a history of living in the midst of Jihad in the 19th century.

The present military operations will not succeed unless long lasting reforms take place. In this respect a number of reforms are proposed in this study. Some of the main ones are described, briefly:-

A. Improved Civil-military coordination

  • One of the major weaknesses is the weak civil-military coordination. It is well known that insurgencies are defeated by a credible civil administration with the support of the military. Thus the priority of civilian control must be accepted.
  • Both the military and the civilian administration should have a clear road map with milestones and indicators for the exit of the military. The longer it stays the more delayed will be normalization however it has to follow a transition plan where the police is strengthened to provide security.
  • The KP government must create a comprehensive district security program in consultation with the military and the police for a phased return to civilian control.
  • Equally essential is the legal processing of the militant detainees. This has been delayed and may cause difficulties.
  • Detainee policy should be dovetailed into a comprehensive rehabilitation and re-integration program for the militants.
  • KP government is advised to launch a comprehensive strategic communication initiative based on a transformative strategy delivered through multiple FM radio stations.

B. Reform principles

These apex reform principles should guide the development of all new programs for Swat:-

  • All programs must cater for the very poor and shift the marginalized back into society.
  • The focus of investment should be on social protection and targeted safety nets for the very vulnerable. Social protection and funding of social safety nets must receive priority.
  •  The provincial government needs to mainstream Swat by having Malakand division removed from the ambit of Art:246
  • Immediate steps must be taken to restore district administration as it existed prior to Local Government Reform 2001. Suitable changes should also be made in the Police Order 2000.
  • A robust communication strategy may be implemented without delay for transforming the mind set.
  • Priority of funding must be given to women and female programs in health, education and skill development and education.
  • The mainstream political parties should begin a drive for new membership based on the poor and the marginalized. Providing the poor with a political voice will assist in early and long term normalization. If political power devolves to the poor classes they will become empowered to defend their interests politically rather than through violence.
  • The government should administer Swat according to the normal laws of the land like the criminal procedure code and the civil code. The enactments that were introduced to please the militants should be retired.

C. Poverty alleviation programs

  • The social sector indicators show the downward drift of Swat in infant mortality, calorific intake, adult education, drinking water, sanitation and combating infectious diseases like hepatitis. Investment in programs must be made to lighten these burdens of the people.
  • In the presence of land asset mal-distribution income generating programs for the very poor need to be replicated like the 1980’s Swiss Project for small farmers of Kalam

D. Security reforms

  • The law and order and criminal investigation oversight functions in Swat should be placed under the district magistrate. Police Order 2000 should be reviewed accordingly.
  • A district policing plan should be prepared jointly by the district magistrate and DPO Swat based on the examination of the role played by various drivers of conflict in Swat identified in annex-1

E. Mosque reforms

  • Mosques have a profound impact on governance. It is quite strange that mosques have been allowed to be taken over by Afghan and others who challenge the state. This free for all policy is suicidal. The KP government must return the mosque to the community through regulation.
  • The proposed regulations should ensure that only locals can become head of mosques; outsiders should be removed.
  • Mosque construction and upkeep should be regulated by considering them as community schools.

F. Madressah integration

  • Instead of speaking of Madressah reform the government should consider integrating them into its education stream. The introduction of Art 25 A into the Constitution by the 18th Amendment makes primary education compulsory and free. It now provides the government with an opportunity to make the required changes.

G. Delivery of justice

  • Disposal of litigation by the courts should be improved
  • An alternate dispute resolution system should be instituted
  • Learned religious scholars should be provided openings into the adjudication system as assessors, Islamic law experts, consultants etc to create a vested interest of the clergy in the well being of the district    

H. Regulation of electronic media

  • A provincial electronic media regulatory authority should be created forthwith.
  • More FM stations need to be installed with relevant content on the model of Amn (Peace) FM Radio, Mardan

I. Regulation of Afghan refugee camps

  • The survey found a nexus between the Afghan refugee camps and insurgency. The location of a camp near a populated area is a sure sign of impending trouble.
  • The best option is to enforce the return of Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan
  • In case the camps continue then they must be monitored by the district administration and police and not outsiders.
  • The KP government must have a high / level committee under the Chief Secretary to decide about camp location and its security administration.
  • Under no circumstance should any refugee camp be permitted in Swat or its environs.

J. Governance reforms

  • Swat needs to be mainstreamed. The President can order this under Art 247(2) and (6)
  • Administrative reforms re-establishing prior to 12 Oct 1999 district administration model should be undertaken by establishing the executive magistracy, the district magistrate and police.
  • A comprehensive re-integration and rehabilitation plan for the militants be undertaken in consort with FATA
  • A reform monitoring unit be established in the Chief Secretary’s Office to review the implementation of these reforms.


ISBN 987-969-9471-01-8


(The full report is available at Saeed Book Bank, Islamabad)