Role of Tribesmen of FATA
1948 Kashmir War. We must not overlook the fact of history that when Maharaja Hari Singh Dogra forces augmented by Patiala forces and RSS were massacring Muslims in Kashmir in 1947 and the then British C-in-C Gen. Gracey refused to dispatch Pak troops as demanded by Quaid-e-Azam, the tribesmen from FATA formed a lashkar at their own and captured Muzaffarabad and area right up to Baramula. Had they not wasted time in Baramula, they could have easily captured Srinagar on 27 October 1947 before the arrival of Indian troops. Notwithstanding the heroics of Pak Army and Azad forces, tribesmen had played a key role in retaining one-thirds of Kashmir. Large numbers of graves of the tribesmen in various towns of Azad Kashmir bear testimony to their sense of sacrifice and valor.
Quaid-e-Azam’s Pledge. I reckon, it was because of their laudable role in the 1948 Kashmir war and their solemn pledge to remain loyal to Pakistan and to defend the western border against foreign aggression at all cost that Quaid-e-Azam during his address to tribal Jirga at Peshawar on April 17, 1948 agreed to the demands of the tribesmen to be governed by British contrived flawed FCR instead of laws of Pakistan and to retain their Rawaj which is close to Shariah and to keep FC troops only along with forts, and to continue with Khasadari system. MA Jinnah promised that the government will extend all possible help in building the tribal belt and in removing socio-economic and educational deficiencies. Lord Curzon was ordered to withdraw regular troops from Waziristan within 48 hours. Article 247 provides details of the agreement.
Wars with India. Pakistan went to war with India in 1965 and in 1971. Each time, Pak Army was able to pullout 7 and 9 Divisions from Peshawar and Kohat for its offensive options because the people of FATA took care of the western border. In the war against Soviet forces, FATA became the base of operation and training ground for local and international Jihadis which led to the miraculous victory against next door super power. One of the reasons of this classical victory was that national psyche matched with national policy. During 2008/09 military standoff with India, Baitullah Mehsud announced that in case of Indian aggression, TTP fighters would fight along with Pak Army and provide thousands of suicide bombers. His announcement deterred India. While the tribesmen fulfilled their pledges, Pakistan government didn’t and kept FATA under developed and neglected.
1948 Declaration. It was honored by all the civilian and military rulers which helped in keeping the people of tribal belt in the loop. Gen Musharraf’s u turn on Afghanistan was against the national policy and in conflict with national psyche. He broke the 1948 agreement without taking the elders of FATA into confidence and not only inducted Army in Waziristan but also launched series of operations to target foreign militants and their sympathizers at the behest of USA. These actions were viewed by the tribesmen as breach of trust and betrayal and they decided to confront the State forces.
Majority is Peace Loving. Except for the minority of misled militants in FATA, majority are peace loving and loyal to Pakistan. Each tribal agency has peace lashkar fighting the Taliban. Ahmadzai Wazirs in South Waziristan (SW) and Othmanzai Wazirs in North Waziristan are the largest tribes and are pro-Pakistan. Even now, pro-peace talks Mehsud group led by Said Khan is fighting anti-peace Mehsud group led by Sheharyar in SW after the death of anti-peace Kasheed Mehsud and his four aides.
Opportunity Seized. A window of opportunity has been opened to win back the loyalties of the misled. Should we seize it or let it go? Did we not grant general amnesty to Bengali rebels based in India and to Baloch rebels taking refuge in Afghanistan? Weren’t Al-Zulfiqar terrorists pardoned? Didn’t NRO condone all criminals including those who had been convicted?
Why are we so Averse to Taliban? If we are dying to befriend India and talk with chronic separatists in Balochistan and are ready to bed with untrustworthy USA, why are we so averse to Taliban who just want Shariah and have in principle accepted Pakistan’s constitution and democratic order?
Why we are so afraid of Shariah? As Muslims why are we so afraid of Shariah, particularly when western democracy and Anglo-Saxon Law have failed to deliver? Why don’t we tailor the constitution, the electoral and parliamentary system in conformity with Quran and Sunnah? Having practiced all forms of governments and each experiment failing to ameliorate the living conditions of the have-nots, why do we shun Shariah without even experimenting it?
· Westminster democracy and western justice system have failed to ameliorate the sufferings of have-nots. The two systems should be brought in conformity with Quran and Sunnah as already enshrined in 1973 Constitution. Lava of terrorism can only be defused through golden principles of Islam
· Leaders living in regal style have no moral authority to censure Islamists that their way of life is wrong and their demand for Shariah is illegal. They will first have to become role models in their personal conduct, ensure good governance and equitable social justice and only then will they be able reach out to the downtrodden and say that they have something better to offer.
· Education confined to the privileged class must be opened to all classes and uniformity achieved to provide equal social growth opportunities.
· Misled elements in FATA who have turned from assets into liabilities need to be won over through inducements and motivation.
· Army will have to be co-opted in peace talks because without its active participation, no worthwhile deal can be brokered.
· FATA’s socio-economic grievances as promised by Quaid-e-Azam should be addressed on priority.
· TTP’s practices are wrong but their demand for Shariah is not wrong. Their longstanding demand of introducing Nizam-e-Adal in FATA could be given serious consideration just the way TNSM’s demand was accepted in 1994 and again in 2009.
· In order to preserve arms and to keep the Army battle worthy to confront multidimensional threats of the real enemy, regular troops deployed in FATA should be withdrawn and restive areas handed over to a separate counter terrorism force under a separate HQ/ Interior Ministry. In addition, Rapid Deployment Force backed by efficient intelligence should be created for each major urban centre to deal with urban terrorism.
· In 2007, there were active plans to handover frontline security duties to FC and Frontier Constabulary duly trained by the Army and US trainers. The US/ British trainers imparted training to FC men in Warsak from 2005 till November 2011. Several FC wings were raised to make additional battalions, their scale of weapons and equipment was enhanced to add to their firepower. By now, the FC has been sufficiently trained and enriched with considerable experience to tackle militant threat along the border regions independently. However, except for Balochistan, so far the FC has not taken over frontline duties in northwestern regions and relieved the Army. It should be expedited.
· Government’s plan to bring all the 26 intelligence agencies under National Security Directorate to achieve greater coordination/ efficiency should be speeded up.
· To enable the security forces/ intelligence agencies to effectively combat terrorism, they should be equipped with special powers as given out in PPO. Besides providing protection to judges, prosecutors and witnesses, special courts should be asked to ensure speedy disposal of trial cases.
· Anti-State militants fed by foreign agencies refusing to renounce violence should be dealt with an iron hand.
The writer is retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist and author of several books. He is member of PESS and MEASAC Research Centre chaired by Lt Gen Hamid Gul. email@example.com