Mapping out Waziristan strategy
MALALA Yousufzai was attacked by the Taliban of the Fazlullah group from across the border in Nuristan, Afghanistan. This also led to pressure on Pakistan to undertake operations in North Waziristan.
But this is a serious matter. Operations are undertaken in order to bring relief. Any operation has to be undertaken after gathering reliable intelligence with the assistance of local population and keeping in mind the tribal traditions.
Second, there has to be a mechanism that ensures timely replacement by a proactive civil dispensation as and when the army vacates the area. The army has since been managing civilian affairs as the federal and provincial governments are unable to take the charge. The political administration cannot move without an army escort. This did not happen even in worst operations during the British rule.
Challenges for the army redouble as a large number of troops deployed on the eastern front have been moved to the western border, leaving the defence against India unbalanced. This situation has been exploited by neighbouring countries and an invisible foreign hand seems to be working behind fuelling insurgency in the troubled areas of Fata, as well as in Balochistan.
The Nato-Isaf forces have vacated the posts on the other side of the border, leaving the Durand Line vulnerable for Pakistan. This points to a plot to keep the Pakistan army engaged on its western borders so that the continued engagement weakens armed forces from within.
So, Pakistan has more at stake than what seems to be at the face value. The human angle has never been given any priority. People of Fata, who are loyal to Pakistan, are fed up with terrorism.
The situation demands a fresh strategy involving locals, all political parties and stakeholders, with an aim to win over the hearts and minds. The army must be relieved of the burden of local administration. It can be redeployed in D.I. Khan. Development work must start with the cooperation of local tribes. Elected representatives and civil society organisations must rally people and show their presence by sharing their grief and treating them with dignity. Political parties must establish offices inside North and South Waziristan.
The government should hold negotiations with tribes to redefine social contracts. No joint Nato-Pakistan operations should be conducted. We should not overstretch the army’s deployment in Fata and Swat. Political activities must be allowed in Fata, elections must be held across the tribal area, committees be formed to write a new social contract, the Frontier Crimes Regulation needs to be rewritten, Fata be declared a separate province, and development work must be started at a rapid pace to bring tribal people into the mainstream.
LT-COL (Rtd) M. SHAHBAZ THUTTAL