Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Pakistan Army has been conducting search operations on regular intervals in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for the past one year to de-weaponize the society. According to the locals, these operations have been carried out to collect weapons from civilians in many of the villages in various tribal agencies. The criticism over this strategy took place when the locals were compelled to fight militants in course of protecting their respective villages. The rationale of the criticism is that the policy makers have wrongly diagnosed the causes of militancy in FATA. The perception based policy making revolves around the notion that by disarming the natives, violent conflict in the area can be brought to an end. Although the existence of small arms in FATA may accelerate the pace of violence, it has never been the root cause of prevailing violent conflict in the area.
Muhammad Nazir Khan, a Member of National Assembly from North Waziristan Agency, made public the repatriation design for North Waziristan IDPs. According to Nazir Khan repatriated tribesmen will have to prevent the militants’ moves and activities in their areas under the FCR rules of territorial and collective responsibility. The locals have to protect their land so that it is not used for anti-state activities, he added. But on the other hand the people of FATA have been disarmed and arms display has been declared as the sole reason of militancy in FATA under the policy goals. The 10th clause of the social contract NWA 2015 noted that “the possession of big weapons like Machine Gun, Rocket Launcher, RR etc. is strictly prohibited. Tribe is bound to handover such weapons to the government immediately”. Question arises here “if armament and arm display by civilians in a society is illegal and also a source of violence then how civilian involvement in an uncertain and undefined fight could be justifiable?”
The recent contract documented as “Social Agreement North Waziristan 2015” was distributed among the people of NWA to be signed as a prerequisite for their repatriation. The rationale behind the contract was, as revealed, that the repatriated people of North Waziristan will be responsible for the protection of government properties [as a priority] and their respective localities. The aforementioned practice exists in the prevailing FCR in FATA under the clause of territorial and collective responsibility, therefore one can summarize that the sole reason for signing the contract is the formation of armed lashkars against militants, whom the state of Pakistan could not subdue, in the natives’ area. For most of the analysts [the] contract is a human rights violation in the area where the untrained civilians are forced to fight with militants.
In the above context the bomb blasts and target killings remained the dominant trends of violence during the last few years of conflict in FATA. Most of the targeted tribesmen were directly or indirectly linked with peace committees in the area. If the government could not protect the already operating peace lashkars in the other parts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and FATA then the further formation of such lashkars in other areas would be considered as the violation of human rights.
Besides, the whole machinery of State has not been able to provide a clear narrative of the conflict in its western borders until now. Furthermore, when the institutions of the government failed to decide whom to be targeted, how can the natives be expected to fight with an unknown and undefined enemy? The civilians would neither fight effectively nor would they be able to protect their families and themselves against the militants. For instance, according to Malak Noor Ali Khan a tribal elder in South Waziristan, “we really don’t know who is backing these militants”, he said. “Under such circumstances how tribesmen could be effective in countering militancy in the area”, he added.
In the case of Bajaur Agency, locals never complained explicitly against the security forces’ move to disarm the tribal society but compelling the tribesmen to form peace lashkars against the militants broke their silence. Ilam khan, Lecturer of Political Science Bajaur Post Graduate College Khar, expressed his hopelessness: “how can we line up against those militant who could not be subdued even by the state after a decade long war”. Fazal Saeed, a development sector specialist hailing from Bajaur Agency while relating to the lashkar formation with human rights and developments in the area said, “There is no space for civilians’ involvement in the violent conflict because it will negatively affect the progressiveness of natives, which is perquisite for peace and development in the area”.
After analyzing the recent developments in FATA one can conclude that the next step after disarmament should be citizens’ protection by the government which must be followed by a sustainable development and political process in the area. Unfortunately the aforementioned order of State visibility is absent in FATA where the disarmament has been followed by lashkar formation that is solely a military approach.