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Transformation of Tribal Areas

Tribal areas of Pakistan are on the brink of a major historical shift. It has been brought about after the turmoil of 9/11. However, this window of opportunity is available for a short time. Actions are needed immediately, so that the transformation strategy is underway before the next U.S. elections in 2008. If the occasion is used wisely, it could lead to state strengthening and ensure peace and tranquility, in what has become the Achilles heal of the Pakistani security system. Future perturbations of international security emanating from tribal areas will spell a disaster for us. It is thus important for the decision makers to move with alacrity.

          But first, what is the problem of tribal areas? It is the belief of the tribal mind set that isolation protects him against social pollution caused by a modernizing state philosophy. A large majority believes that their system of managing affairs based upon a honour system will be challenged, if the state is provided entry into this system. It is a classis response of societies, which have failed to adjust to rapid change. It is a cause of concern because isolation causes disconnectivity for more than a million inhabitants, who occupy a sensitive border. Since tribal areas are strategically located, such an attitude is a cause of severe security uneasiness for Pakistan. If isolation and disconnectedness is the central issue, then the problem of the tribal areas is pre – dominantly one of security. Another important factor supporting early reform relates to the budget. It is my conjecture that the current expenditures connected with operations are to a large extent met by the United States. Such expenditures from Pakistani resources will be unsustainable in the future.

          I strongly urge that while proposing change we should not lose sight of the importance of the tribal ways in the new system. It is the heart of the tribal psyche and is the main stumbling block reinforcing isolation and separateness. The role of culture and tradition is central in the tribesman’s value system. It provides him with a compass how to lead his daily live. Thus the existing value structure must be protected in the design and the role of state enlarged within it. The following are some of the reasons which encourages such a reform agenda today.

          We have in Karzai a friend of Pakistan. However, my reading of history informs that no Afghan government would be willing to accept the Durand line as fait accompli. If unity of Pakhtuns remains the kernel of Afghan nationalism, then the Durand line will always be controversial. For the future of peace in the region, it will be wise to re-establish fresh grounds for Afghan nationalism. May be the time is ripe in view of the ethnic changes as a result of the civil wars inAfghanistan. This is a decision that only the Afghans may make.

          Second, Karzai has wisely declared on amnesty for the majority of Talibans. It permits their amalgamation into the Afghan state. It transforms the nature of mediation, from guns to debate. To that extent it reduces pressure on us. The Taliban had established links with the tribes. It has meant so many security headaches for Pakistan.      

          Third, the United States National Security Strategy changes the security paradigm and envisages pre-emptory measures to preserve U.S. security from emerging threats – including non-state actors. It has been found that it is in the jurisdiction of soft states that the germs of such perturbations breed. This is yet another very strong reason to exercise full control in the tribal areas.

          Fourth, the 9/11 Act signed by President Bush on 8th December, 2004, specifically mentions the type of changes, which are to be encouraged in Pakistan. Expanding the writ of the state into tribal areas is a specific desired outcome for the U.S. If this is a part of U.S policy and law, then why should she not play a leading role in the transformation? May be, behind the scene activity would be in order, given the presence of so many sensibilities.

          Fifth, the appointment of Wolfowitz to the World Bank puts a person in charge, who has deep knowledge of security affairs and who has played a major role in conceptualizing the existing U.S. security doctrines. In my view the circumstances for reform in tribal areas have never been as propitious as today.

          The features of such a reform strategy should be configured around the following salient features. First, the preparation of a logical framework for reform agreed to by the principals, with up front funding. This must involve the United States, The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and all other bilateral partners.

          Second, the objective of reform should be the integration of tribal areas into NWFP, while protecting its riwaj” and tradition; something similar but yet separate from the provincially administered area of Malakand.

          Third, the partially reformed tribal areas should elect members to the NWFP assembly on non-party basis in the 2007 general elections. Political parties should be allowed to operate after the 2007 elections.

          Fourth, integrative measures, which can take place now, should not be delayed. For instance, it was a strategic error to separate the Fata secretariat from the provincial set up. This leads to disconnectedness. It must be undone immediately. The Governor has the whole provincial technical and bureaucratic set up to assist him. Why create another structure which will be devisive? The reform of Frontier Crimes Regulation is on the anvil, it needs to be hastened. It should be tailored in such a way that the writ of the Peshawar High Court stands extended. It will be a huge shift towards integration and enlarging of human rights for the tribesmen.

          Fifth, since the tribal problem has been identified as primarily a security concern, therefore a parallel force deployment plan on a permanent basis should be a part of this strategic transformation.

          The operations in tribal areas are meant to break the past nexus of the tribes with elements of Taliban and Al-Qadea. As a result, the army is in physical domination of tribal areas. The security envelope is thus available for reform.

          Opportunity beckons. Let us not fail for want of imagination. Such positive combinations of forces are rarely available in history.

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