Wednesday, November 26, 2014
An event [9/11] having global impact, brought war to Afghanistan and subsequently to Pakistan. The war has, no doubt, global dimensions but during the period of more than a decade, it has developed domestic dynamics as well. Internationally, there is only one dominant narrative of the conflict going on in North-Western parts of Pakistan, i.e. Talibanization-and-counter-Talibanization. However, looking deep into the conflict one gets to know that the administrative, geographical, ethnic, national and international actors play a vital role in altering the nature and form of conflict in this war ravaged region. American author John Steinbeck has rightly said that “all war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal” and most of us will concur with him when it comes to countering the menace of escalating militancy and extremism in FATA where the local narratives and dynamics of conflict are largely ignored while devising a policy to counter the terrible war in the area.
The security monitoring leads to understand the nature of conflict that differs from one tribal agency to the other. For instance, after the military operation [Sherdil] in which civil militia was used by security forces against TTP under the command of Faqir Muhammad in 2008, Pakistani security forces were successful in restoring writ of the state in Bajaur Agency. Despite the fact that militant networks were largely dismantled in the agency, the local inhabitants are still confronted with target killing, bomb blasts and cross border attacks. Particularly, locals who took part in organizing civil militia [Qaumi Lashkar] against the violent non-state actors are being targeted. However, the nature of conflict in Mohmand agency is comparatively different to that of Bajaur where the violent non-state actors are still present in the bordering areas of the Agency and are constantly targeting both military installments and local inhabitants of the area.
Likewise, in Khyber Agency although TTP lost its strength in the past few years yet the security situation in the agency is constantly deteriorating, particularly, target killing and kidnapping is rampant (FRC, Security Report, Third Quarter 2014). To counter the unbridled escalating militancy, Military operation [Khyber 1] was initiated in Aka Khel area on October 17, 2014; however it escalated the miseries of locals more than ever before. Persistent shelling by gunship helicopters and jet fighters although significantly dismantled the militants’ network but it also incurred huge civilian and collateral damages forcing thousands to flee from their aboriginal land.
There is another aspect of the conflict witnessed in Orakzai and Kurram Agency where local inhabitants are alert to counter any kind of sectarian violence in the area. Both the sects [Shia and Sunni] are constantly organizing joint Jargas to barricade violent sectarian sentiments in the area. Although TTP is present in certain areas of Kurram and Orakzai Agency but their operations are limited to very few areas only. For instance, the TTP are present in Jogi area of Central Kurram while in Orakzai Agency they have very limited presence in areas bordering North Waziristan and Khyber Agency.
Despite the fact that non-state actors have lost their strength in most parts of this war ravaged area [FATA] yet militants have strongholds in South and North Waziristan Agency. Military operation Zarb-e-Azb was initiated to restore peace and ensure writ of the state in North Waziristan, however, it has generated a debate at local and national level and has logically divided people between hope and despair. For optimists, it is a ray of hope that will bring peace and prosperity to the area while a large segment of the society counted this operation as a routine business where the militants have dispersed for the time being and will emerge to the picture once the operation is completed.
Without any question, the military operation [Zarb-e-azab] has been instrumental in debasing the militant networks in North Waziristan but it has incurred one of the worst humanitarian crises of its nature, local tribes have ever witnessed in the past. Moreover, the state apathy both on part of federal and provincial level to address the basic needs of IDPs added to the miseries of those affected by war; resultantly widened gap between state institutions and local inhabitants. Particularly, tribal who stuck in their homes in North Waziristan during the operation Zarb-e-Azb were severely affected in the situation. In fact, they are not even dealt according to the war laws and are deprived from even the basic human needs.
In nutshell, it can be said that the nature of conflict differs from agency to agency. There is a dire need to consider the local dynamics and narrative while devising policies to counter the unbridled militancy and extremism in the area. However, at present, the policy ignorance on part of the state to counter the menace is exacerbating the space between masses and the state institutions that invites serious thoughts on the issue and demands policy revision.