“The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost”.
Muhammad Zaheer Khan, Mehran Ali Khan Wazir, Sharafat A. Chaudhry
With the US led NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, there are a number of questions that seem difficult to answer. The political situation is getting complex day by day. The security situation in FATA may get bad to worse if the situation remains unattended. The Taliban have always taken a stance that they will fight against the Kafirs (infidel refers to US lead NATO forces in Afghanistan). Now with the recent video released by the TTP, in which they denounced any possibility of peace talks with the Pakistani government, the situation seems to have taken a twist. TTP spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan in his recent video has not only shown distrust in Pakistan Army but has also rejected the peace talk offer. The video was released on Monday, March 18th on popular social networking website Facebook. In the video the TTP spokesperson said, “Generals and politicians are exploiting this country for their own interests, so seeing all these conditions, TTP has temporarily postponed its offer for talks in the interest of the nation and Islam”. It is noteworthy that here the concept of ‘nation’ Mr Ehsan talks about is not of ‘Umat-e-Muslima’; rather he seems referring to a ‘nation’ confined within a state, derived from the Westphalian concept of state. The assumption can be derived from his speech where he expressed future course of actions of the TTP to get rid of corrupt politician and military in Pakistan by enforcing Shria law in the state. Thus the TTP’s apparent focus on getting share or complete control over a territory seems deviation from their previous claim of fighting for the sake of Umat-e-Muslima.
With the defeat of USSR in Afghanistan in 1989, it was considered that the war in Afghanistan would come to an end but it turned out contrary to the then common notion. Different factions fought with one another and consequently Afghanistan had to witness devastation. Similarly, it seems that in the post withdrawal scenario the different militant groups in FATA and Afghanistan will continue to fight. Case in point is the brutal murder of Dr Najeebullah. Najeebullah was considered the puppet of the USSR in Afghanistan and the mujahideen considered no room for the puppet at that particular time. Similarly, President Hamid Karzai is also considered as the US puppet. On Pakistani side, the TTP considers government of Pakistan and its allies specifically PPP, MQM and ANP as anti Islamic. Ehsan has also warned people to stay away from participating in their political rallies.
Therefore there are plenty of chances of remobilization of Taliban in FATA on the basis of fighting against Munafiqs (Hypocrites, refers to the one who supports infidels morally and materially and also have ideological tilt towards infidels) in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The recent video also gives a hint in this regard where Ehsanullah Ehsan says, “Insha’llah (God willing) TTP will impose Islamic system in Pakistan”.
In this context, it would be a difficult task for the Pakistani military to handle the internal re-mobilization of Taliban and their movement across the border to Afghanistan. If the government of Pakistan makes the people of FATA indulge into the fresh conflict on the patterns of USSR invasion in the post withdrawal scenario, it would be fatal for the society.
The people of FATA are paying a huge price for this so called Jihad while compromising on their principles and traditionally inherited codes of life (Pashtunwali) (FRC , 2012). Majority of research materials indicated that it is not only the internal militants which made the region terrorized but also a huge number of foreign militants contributed to spreading violence in the society. For instance eighty people have been killed in FATA only in the third quarter of 2012 in cross border attacks from Afghanistan (FRC , 2012).
The Taliban somehow enjoyed popular support, though at different scales in different parts of FATA. “The only rational behind our support for Taliban in Wana is their fight against Kafir/infidel (referring to U.S) in Afghanistan. They (Taliban) keep the border protected from U.S aggression”, said by Mullana Abdul Aziz, a senior member of Ullama Shura of South Waziristan Agency. The Shura has religious as well as political hegemony in the area which has the capacity to monopolize the society by different means. The support of the Shura for militants (Taliban) may be considered more or less the support of the people as a whole.
The above mentioned brief description of the situations in FATA indicates that Afghan crisis always contributed to trigger and sustain conflict in FATA. A host many analysts draw the root causes of conflict in FATA from the current Afghan crisis while most of the schools also connect it from the 1980s and early 1990s Afghan crisis (Haider, 2012).
The complex correlation of FATA issue with the crisis in Afghanistan gives optimistic view on the grounds that the US has announced end of the crisis in Afghanistan where it will withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan in 2014. Presumably the end of the crises in Afghanistan should bring peace by eliminating conflict in FATA but to how far it is possible is million dollar question.
On the other hand “Peace Process Roadmap to 2015” given by the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) envisions the armed groups to be disarmed through dialogue in future (High Peace Council, 2012). The roadmap also proposes that all the parties will respect Afghan constitution and fundamental human right of both men and women, which seems impossible for Taliban to accept it. Taliban will strive for the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as conveyed by Ehsanullah Ehsan in his video on March 18th which is contrary to the essence of roadmap for peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan by HPC. The post-withdrawal crisis in Afghanistan will also implicate on the security situation in FATA.
The power vacuum often leads to civil war and other internal crisis in society. In this case, NATO forces withdrawal in 2014 has an improper strategy which may create space for combatant groups to jump into the post war arena in an effort to overcome one another (Lodhi, 2012). It has already been observed in post Afghan-USSR war in early 1990s. Taliban seems one of the strongest players in the tug-of-war for power and domination which would start in Afghanistan after the US lead NATO forces withdrawal. There are certain questions that need attention. How will the militant group, particularly Taliban, behave and react to the situation both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan? What will be the rationale behind and legitimacy for recruitments by militant groups to carry out their activities, in Pakistan and specifically in FATA? How will people respond to the changed situation in the region? These are some questions that call for an immediate enquiry to forecast the post-withdrawal scenario.