Strengthen old tribal system, provide jobs

By Rana Fawad

WASHINGTON: The old system (of the Political Agent and Maliks) needs to be strengthened to curb militancy in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

This was stated by Inspector General of Police of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Malik Naveed Khan while responding to a question during a teleconference titled ‘Negotiating with Militant Groups in Pakistan’ organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday.

Co-Director Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project Rick Barton moderated the program.

The Inspector General regretted that the office of the Political Agent has been weakened over a period of time. He added that given the special status of the tribal areas (called FATA – Federally Administered Tribal  Areas) the Political Agent and Maliks (local chiefs) could have been effective in deterring the militancy by motivating local population.

Illustrating the situation on the ground, Malik Naveed told the listeners that the militants were threatening even settled areas like Peshawar city (capital of the NWFP province) by kidnapping people, harassing barbers, warning girls schools.

He said though the security had been beefed up and measures were being taken to push them back, the police were ill-equipped to deal with that kind of challenge.

The IG Police explained that about 40 percent police stations in the province were functioning without buildings.

He recommended that the police force’s capacity to fight those ‘invisible shadows’ must be enhance and suggested the international community should contribute in short terms as well as long terms.  

To a question, he replied that short term plan should include provision of helicopters, APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers), night vision goggles, bulletproof jackets, etc.

As for the long term strategy, he was of the view that job opportunities through investment in those vulnerable areas could bring about a huge change.

He suggested job employment program similar to the American CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps, which was started by then President Franklin D. Roosvelt on March 21, 1933, for the youth of the unemployed families during the Great Depression).

He emphasized that the militants were cashing in on the jobless youth by offering them money and paying their families cash payment in case their sons are killed.

Responding to another question, Malik Naveed replied that the local people were fearful of the Afghanistan-style  dispensation of Taliban.

Illustrating on what motivates the youth to join the militancy, the top cop said poverty, illiteracy, brain washing (that they would go to heaven), etc., help the militants recruit young people.

As for the composition of different Taliban groups in the tribal areas, Malik commented that the situation was similar to Afghanistan’s warlords – competing for the interests. He added that the only difference was that the militants were using religion to justify their violent activities.

Malik Naveed believed if jobs and education were brought to that region, the young people could be taught about the difference between the deviant beliefs and the true version of the religion. He also told the audience that special police force was being prepared to take on the new challenges posed by the militants.


Replace old system, integrate tribal areas into mainstream

WASHINGTON: Provincial President of the Awami National Party (ANP) and Peace Ambassador of the NWFP government Afrasiab Khattak rejected the idea of strengthening the old system of Maliks and Political agent and instead supported the integration of the tribal areas into mainstream by extending the Political Parties Act to those areas.

Speaking from Peshawar during the teleconference arranged by the CSIS to discuss the ongoing negotiations with the militant groups in Pakistan, he told the audience that the peace agreement was working in Dir district whereas the situation in Swat was strained. However, he was optimistic about the outcome in the future.

He was critical of the fact that FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) was under the President’s control instead of being under the provincial authority. In his view there is a disconnect between the province and those tribal areas.

Referring to the militancy, he commented that those places had become no-go areas and the militants were destabilizing both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afrasiab Khattak also commented those areas should be brought into mainstream and the warlords needed to be defeated. 

Propounding the solution to defeat warlords, he said the political parties, local bodies, provincial assembly representation, expansion of the higher courts to those areas were some of the steps that could help bring them into mainstream.

To a question how his government’s agreements with the militants were different from those negotiated by the previous Musharraf-led government, Afrasiab explained that the Musharraf government’s agreements actually empowered those militants and when the situation got out of control it used force which was ineffective.

He illustrated that his provincial government was watching all the agreements and in case they were violated, action was taken.

Replying to a question about the middle ground between the militants and the ANP government for the negotiations, he explained that the agreements were centered around the promise to remain peaceful and not resort to any violence.

Talking about the Swat problem, Afrasiab Khattak said that as a part of the bargain the government would introduce laws promised during the Nawaz Sharif government in 1999. He commented that it would give those people an opportunity to have a system based on modern Islam and scholarship.

When asked that the distribution and access to affordable food, gasoline, education, health, in those areas were difficult and unequal, how the budget would be allocated and distributed, he replied the integration was the solution otherwise those goals would remain elusive.

To another question, is the government in Islamabad functional these days, he said the situation was difficult because the government was going through a transition from a military-led administration to a political set up.

He added that if the political process was not interrupted, the elected governments would successfully steer the country away from the difficult times.