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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)

10 thoughts on “A Review of Swat: The Main Causes of the Breakdown of Governance and Rise of Militancy”

  1. I wonder why the two year appeasement by the state(including the police and military)does not figure in the study as a cause of increased militancy. Swat as we all know was a peaceful valley from the days of Gandhara to 1947, from 1947 to 1969 and lately from 1969 till the middle of Sufi Mohammads time. Things changed not becuase the people suddenly wanted to be a different variety of muslims nor because the pre 16th century leaders(there was no local claim to a geographic area at that time)wanted a reversal but because the state took a back seat.

  2. This study will serve as a great guidance for KP Govt in order to restore peace and go forward towards development of Swat and Malakand region. These reforms and efforts should be participatory in which Govt and Civil Society Organizations should play their role. Govt should not ignore the role and importance of civil society organizations. There is already platform for Community based organizations, now we need to revitalize these and empower them to participate in development process. Swat valley people are futuristic and want to develop their area, as we look behind from 1990 to 2000 their schools were functional, women participated in development activities through small grants by INGOs and NGOs. Women were actively working in NGOs as well as they had established small scale business. At the end I will say we need to find out potentials of locals strengths through conducting such types of studies and sharing them with policy makers and general public.

  3. A very insightful report. The major conflict drivers, the reasons for their emergence and acceptance in society,the dangers posed by the current situation and the way forward have been identified with historical reference and great clarity. However the recommendation to integrate madrassas into the education system needs to be re-examined. Indoctrination (subtle or blatant)cannot be ruled out and therefore it would be better to let public and private school systems manage mainstream education. The government should deliberate and give serious consideration to the recommendations and put atlaeast some of them in motion with immediate effect.

  4. A very good insight into the problems being faced by the people in Swat. The analysis and recommendations have covered most areas. The KP govt must give priority to health and educational institutes. During our interaction (as part of Civil Society) with the DPs we were pleasantly surprised that the children gave priority to education and wanted to go back to schools. The inteligence agencies should play a positive role and ensure that outside foreign elements are kept away from interfering.

  5. Its a great effort and an eye-opener for every Pakistani especially our rulers and policy-making agencies. The reforms program suggested in the report is vital, and should be implemented asap. The Report also establishes that every reform agenda introduced should be tested and checked for efficacy before it is implemented in special areas. What is missing in the Report is the role of international powers and intelligence agencies and their interests that led to the law and order situation in Swat. Its an excellent paper otherwise.

  6. Sir, I think i owe you a debt of gratitude for sharing the report of an idepth study of what went wrong in Swatn in 2007-08. Thank your very much indeed, Sir. But, while sitting in Management College, Lahore these days, the news of civil adminstration still not coming to life in Swat is painfully disturbing, particularly for the one who has had the privelege of serving in Swat in different capacities. If the civil servants fail to deliver in Swat after normalcy has been considerably restored, I have all my fears that they shall lose justification to exist. Time had not been on our side in Swat since long but capable civil servants of the yester years did let the situation come to this pass. What is needed is the immdediate activation of the district adminstration not only to perform and deiver but also to be seen performing, as you rightly used to say to your juniors that adminstration is a performing art. Thanks and God bless you.

  7. Subject: Re: A Review of �Swat: The Main Causes of the Breakdown of Governance and Rise of Militancy,�(by Khalid Aziz) Date: Sep 17, 2010 01:52 Dear Sir Thanks for sharing the study. It delves into an important subject and provides very good analytic insights. Are the details of the sampling methodology available? Sir, I also wanted to comment one of the recommendations namely creation of civil administration for Swat. Respectively, I’ll disagree. The breakdown happened in 1994 much before the local government reform. I worked in Mingora from 1995 to 1997 and did not find much support for the system in the people. It was easy to see the dysfunctionality, the magistrates did not have the skills nor the motivation to even perform their basic duties. The analysis in the study skips the accumulation of grievances collected in Swat through progressive failure of civil administration from 1969 to 1994, an apparatus that was aloof, non-responsive and incompetent. A pertinent question is: if the civil administration could solve all the problems, why did it let the issues develop into a revolt. The study takes a good long range view and traces the historical roots of the problem. It would have been analytically consistent if it had critically evaluated the cummulative failure of administration. A relevant question is: are all problems amenable to ‘administration’? that too led by well wishing good people? A system that allows people to have a say in their local affairs is much more likely to lead to development. Poverty, obstructions in the way of access to justice, social mobility and employment are much beyond the reach of administration. Why not aim for a professionally qualified and less burdened administration with core functions like land management? Another branch that specializes in criminal justice may have district magistrates who are at least law graduates and who operate outside the administrative control of the provincial politicians. Sir, respectfully let’s not create again what did not work in the past. Let’s not provide vice regal apparatus to incompetent provincial politicians to hide behind. It would be much better and transparent if they get elected as political executive and be held accountable for their performance by the people. Best wishes Musharraf

  8. A very detailed and insightful study. The development of a credible security apparatus independent of army, a model service driven district administration setup, regulation of the complete madressah structure in the region and effective poverty alleviation programs both agricultures focussed and on non-farm income generating activities needs to be in place to complement the peace achieved through military intervention otherwise the law & order situation will re-emerge which will be impossible to control this time around.

  9. Wonderful piece of research Sir. An extremly vivid description of the problem and its incisive synthesis. An eye opener for people sitting in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. I wonder when will try to redress problems by digging through its root causes. Sir, Hats off to your efforts and sharing the same with us.

  10. KPK Govt. through its CS be personally handed over the Report by group of influentials led by the Author. A continouos monitoring body be put in place comprising of seniour KP politicians , civil and army officers veterans. Follow up with the federal govt. would also thus be offically sanctioned.Ownership plateform is crucial for this post insurgency rehab.

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