By• September 21, 2011
11 September, 2001 was one of the most unfortunate events in the lives of the American people. It triggered a chain of events, the reverberations of which are being felt in almost every corner of the world till this day. But its impact on certain parts of the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan is monumental.
2. The US-led Coalition Forces, formed to fight the war against the spread of terrorism, attacked Afghanistan on 06/07 October, 2001. Pakistan took a principled stand to become the most vital member of this coalition.
3. There are three distinct phases of the operations that were conducted by the Government of Pakistan in support of the coalition against War on Terror.
Phase I - October 2001 – June 2002
4. Pakistan was not informed about the attack against militant positions in Afghanistan. Sensing that this could result in an infiltration of the militants into our tribal areas, the Government took a bold initiative to deploy regular Pak-Army troops, then considered an unthinkable proposition. This pre-emptive move enabled us not to only to check fleeing Al-qaida elements into Pakistan across the Tora Bora mountains, but also to apprehend about 120 of them after an armed clash with our LEAs in Kurram Agency.
5. In December 2002, after an attack on its Parliament by armed men, India amassed its military troops on our borders which brought the two countries closer to their fourth war.
6. The move by India was tantamount to sabotaging Pakistan’s efforts to play an effective role in the war on terror. The stand-off continued for a whole year. Pakistan had to withstand the pressure on both the eastern and western borders under extremely excruciating circumstances. The level of our commitment can also be gauged from the fact that despite a dangerous stand-off against India on our eastern borders, Pakistan did not pull out any troops from the western side.
Phase II - June 2002 – December 2003.
7. The US-led Coalition Forces launched Op Anaconda in June 2002. Again it came as a surprise to Pakistan. It resulted in a sudden infiltration of AQ elements into South Waziristan Agency. There were reports that they were accompanied by Uzbeks and Chechens as well. Pak-Army launched twenty-six operations during the initial days with a fair degree of success. A number of militants were either killed or apprehended and handed over to the international coalition. In the following days Pak-Army troops and law enforcing agencies personnel lost their lives too.
8. In June 2003, there were reports by US-Intel agencies that AQ elements had crossed over into Mohmand Agency. Pak-Army was moved there within a span of twelve hours. However, no AQ elements were found. Another such operation was carried out in Bajaur Agency but the reports proved to be incorrect.
Phase III - January 2004 – Onwards – To-date.
9. Operation against militants gained momentum in South Waziristan. It dismantled the AQ network and left their organization in dis-array. Most of the elements shifted to North Waziristan Agency. AQ suffered heavy casualties and a large number of them were arrested and handed over to the coalition forces.
10. These operations were, however, not without a cost. Not only did Pakistan Army and other LEAs personnel suffer casualties, a number of pro-government maliks / elders and their family members became victims of target killings. Collateral damages further aggravated the situation by alienating the general run of the people who were otherwise appreciative of the steps the Government was taking. The sense of alienation soon crystallized into full-blown hatred and over a period of time the people took up arms against government forces. The ensuing fratricidal war caused enormous emotional and psychological damage to both the contending sides.
11. Pakistan’s role in the war on terror centered on three major objectives:
- To carry out focused operations against the militants so as to kill or arrest them or put them out of action and to dismantle the terrorist network.
- To prevent cross-border infiltration by militants into Afghanistan; and
- To prevent the use of Pakistan soil for terrorist / militant activities
12. Another important facet of the continuing war between the LEAs and the tribals was damaging to the objectives itself. The result of the conflict between the armed forces and the tribesmen diverted the focus from the main issue – the war on terror. Instead, our own people became embroiled in a conflict with no end. The most distressing aspect of the whole episode was the fact that the youth, which is generally uneducated and unemployed, were rapidly becoming the fodder of the militants’ canons. Under the circumstances it was essential that a re-thinking of the policy / strategy should take place.
Situation before the Peace Accord.
13. There was a complete breakdown of law and order in the Agency.
14. The local tribesmen and the armed forces were locked in a deadly conflict, thereby leaving little time for the LEAs to focus on the objectives of the war on terror.
15. Maliks, elders and staff of the political administration were being targeted and killed.
16. Development activity, so essential in circumstances like these to help generate income and employment, was completely at a stand still.
17. Educational commercial and private sector activity had completely stopped and there was a mass exodus of the peaceful citizens to adjacent settled areas.
18. No government functionary could move freely and convoys / vehicles of LEAs were being ambushed every where.
19. Criminal elements were having a free hand to commit offences with impunity.
Re-Thinking the Policy
20. A number of relevant issues were raised about the situation.
21. The first question was whether we were fighting the war on terror with foreign elements or with our own people. We seemed to be at war with our own people. Our objectives were:
- neither to allow our people to indulge in cross border movement for armed raids; and
- nor to allow our soil to be used for such purpose.
22. Due to the prevailing situation we were, in fact, digressing from the main objective.
23. The second issue was the thinking which made terrorism synonymous with Islam. Because of ill-effects of the military operations, collateral damages and complete breakdown of the law and order machinery coupled with the feeling that the war on terror was only against the Muslims every where, the people had lost faith in the Government and the Army. This was the reason why there was a sudden upsurge of militant elements in the tribal areas and some settled districts of NWFP.
24. The third question was, whether it was really possible to subdue the tribals by use of force. History of these areas does not prove the assumption right. Besides that, there was a general feeling even among the intelligentsia that US and western policies have tended to fuel radicalism across the world. Our religious elements could, therefore, not remain unaffected. Since the socio-economic conditions of our country could be easily exploited by such elements to their advantage, we have to exercise extreme caution.
25. History teaches us that force never was, is or will be the answer to any problem. It has not been able to keep the USSR in tact; it has caused a downward slide in President Bush’s popularity rating; and it has not been able to bring peace to the Middle East. A more pertinent question is how long can force be used and to what extent. It would be imprudent to ignore the lessons of history especially when dealing with an issue as important and as sensitive as the war against terror.
26. The process of re-thinking of the policy coincided with the President’s visit to Peshawar. He held a grand jirga with the tribesmen of FATA in Governor’s House, NWFP, on 26th April 2006. The President urged the tribesmen to work for peace in the area and to take steps to alleviate international concerns. The elders of North Waziristan Agency requested the President to give the traditional Pukhtoon jirga a chance to bring about a rapprochement between the Government and the Utmanzai tribe. The President accepted the request and the efforts to bring about peace and order gained momentum.
27. Traditional Pukhtoon jirgas are unique congregations. They are impartial bodies aimed at bringing about consensus on issues rather than passing decrees. They adopt democratic ways for dealing with issues by providing an opportunity to all the contending parties to freely express their opinions, apprehensions, expected outcomes as well as to define their respective limits and parameters. Thus the jirga acts as a conciliatory body and not as a jury. Impartiality is the source of their credibility; their credibility is the basis of respect for their verdicts.
28. The process is simple but tedious and those involved have to exhibit extreme patience. The jirga approaches both contending parties in order to find out the issues on which require resolution and the condition associated with it. The process goes on till the issues are clearly identified. Then comes the most important part and that is that both contenders give it the Waak or surrender their will and authorize the jirga to pass an award. This process again involves lots of deliberations, hearings and conciliation efforts and continues till both sides reach a consensus on the accord. Northing is done arbitrarily.
29. The jirga has to conduct its business in a stress and tension free environment. That entails a cumbersome, long and sometimes discreet process of confidence building. In order to make the atmosphere for the process conducive, the jirga may go to the extent of removing all those impediments and irritants which the parties would oppose in normal conditions.
30. The Grand Tribal Jirga was formed in July 2006. It consisted of forty-five elders of standing from the entire FATA. These elders acted as neutral arbiters between the Government and the Utmanzai tribe. Extremely hard work, painful deadlocks hope and despair preceded the historic award of the jirga on 5th September 2006. It took less than two months for the jirga to resolve an issue, which more than a year of use of force had not been able to accomplish.
PEACE AGREEMENT IN NORTH WAZIRISTAN
Party No.1: The Political Agent North Waziristan representing the Governor of NWFP and the Federal government (of Pakistan)
Party No.2.: Tribal elders of North Waziristan of Utmanzai tribe.
The agreement listed below is the decision of the grand jirga comprising tribal elders and religious clerics. The parties had, according to the tribal traditions and customs given “Wak” (authority) to the jirga. The Agreement given below was reached upon according to this “Wak” (authority). In accordance with the spirit of this peace agreement, the parties are bound to comply with the following terms and conditions:
THE UTMANZAI TRIBESMEN: Party No.2 i.e. the elders of Utmanzai Tribe shall ensure that:
i) The law enforcement agencies/forces and government property shall not be attacked and that there shall be no target killing of any kind.
- Parallel administration will not be established. The authority shall rest with the government of Pakistan. For solution of the problems, the Political Administration would be approached and that the Administration in collaboration with the Utmanzai Tribe would settle all problems in accordance with the provisions of the FCR (Frontier Crimes Regulation).
- The border with Afghanistan will not be crossed for any militant activity, however, for the purposes of trade / business and for meeting with the relatives across the border, there will be no restriction as per the existing customs/law (Easement Rights).
- No intrusion will be made in the districts adjoining North Waziristan nor any kind of parallel administration will be set up there.
v) All foreigners present in North Waziristan will leave Pakistan. Those who are unable to do so because of some compulsion, they would remain peaceful giving due regard to the law of the land and the peace agreement. Moreover, the above mentioned conditions of the Agreement will be equally applicable to them.
vi) All government property in the shape of vehicles / weapons and wireless sets etc that fell in the hands of Party No.2 would be returned to the government.
a. All those arrested during the operations by the government would be released and they would not be re-arrested for the incidents of the past.
b. The government will restore all tribal privileges.
c. The government will remove the newly established check posts on the roads (during operations) and would deploy “Khasadars” and “Levies” on the old check posts as per the past practice.
d. The government will return all the vehicles and other equipment seized during the operations.
a. In accordance with this agreement, a 10-member Committee would be constituted through mutual consultation. This Committee will comprise the religious clerics, tribal elders and members of the Political Administration. This committee would perform the following functions:
i) Maintain a constant liaison with the government and the Utmanzai Tribe.
ii) To monitor and ensure the implementation of the agreement.
b. If a person or group (local or foreign) fails to abide by the Peace Agreement and attempts to disrupt peace in Waziristan, action shall be taken against him/them.
Situation after the Peace Accord
31. There has been a marked improvement in North Waziristan Agency after the signing of the Peace Accord. Some of the main achievements are as follows:
a) Attacks on government installations and government officials including the LEAs have completely ceased. People and government functionaries are now free to move and perform their routine duties.
b)Target killings of maliks, elders, and journalists have completely stopped. There has not been a single such occurrence within the Agency after the Peace Accord.
c) Writ of the Government has been restored.
d) Spillover effects of the situation and interference by the tribals in the settled districts of NWFP has completely stopped.
These are by no means ordinary achievements. But beyond measure are the achievements in socio-economic terms. Educational, commercial, agricultural and other activities have been resumed. Displaced people have returned to their homes. The sense of alienation has been replaced by an atmosphere of confidence. The people are now looking towards the future.
32. It would be unjustified to expect that the Peace Accord will improve the situation overnight, although we have come back from the worst scenario. With time things will certainly improve further. There may be attempts to violate its sanctity but then there is a mechanism to deal with such eventualities. The Peace Accord will be implemented and monitored by a 15-member Joint (Tribal – Government) Implementation and Coordination Committee which is already in place. Government machinery such as the LEAs will be available to provide necessary support to this Committee. The return of peace has paved the way for the resumption of development activity. The International community should now step forward to win the hearts and minds of the people. A gesture of goodwill can do more than all the bombs put together. Behind the facade of an iron will, a tough demeanour and a fiery passion to guard and preserve his freedom, the tribesman, still has an extremely tender heart.
33. Under the prevailing circumstances, peace deals, undertakings by the tribesmen and political and military actions in the tribal areas are measures which will have a salutary effect. These will help improve the situation in the FATA to a great extent. For a long term solution, however, we need to see where the real problem lies. Until and unless we address that, we would continue to grope in the dark and all attempts to achieve peace within our boundaries and beyond would remain elusive.
34. Pakistan shares a long border with Afghanistan and in case of FATA, as a unique feature, a number of tribes live on both sides. The pukhtoons on either side generally share the same culture/values and concessions. History shows us that it is the situation in Afghanistan that impacts our tribal areas adversely and not vice versa. If we retrace our steps from the first Afghan war down to the present imbroglio in Afghanistan, it will become crystal clear that the roots of the entire problem lie in Afghanistan and it is Afghanistan where we should really focus on if we wish to achieve a meaningful outcome of the war on terror..
35. A careful assessment of their ethos shows that the Pukhtoons in Afghanistan are the ethnic majority that has remained in power since the introduction of modern government in Afghanistan. Although all other ethnic minorities enjoyed a say in the affairs, it was always the Pukhtoon majority that wielded the final authority. The political culture in Afghanistan thus makes the Pukhtoons the dominant and essential part of any political arrangement. Coupled with that, the tribal structure in that country further strengthens the position of the Pukhtoons and they have come to be synonymous with rulers in Afghanistan. In other words, Pukhtoon domination acquires its sanction from tribal tradition in that country.
36. Unfortunately, since 9/11, the Pukhtoon community is paying the price for the atrocities committed against the World Trade Centre in USA. The reason is not difficult to comprehend. Talibans who were accused of harbouring those who masterminded that plot are, in entirety, Pukhtoons. But not all Pukhtoons are Talibans. However, the wrath of the international coalition fell on the Puktoons indiscriminately thus making them the sole target of military operations by the international coalition. The initial resistance by the Talibans against the coalition attacks has very rapidly transformed into a Pukhtoon nationalist movement. It would therefore be naive to presume that the ethnic Pukhtoons who are living in FATA could remain indifferent. Resultantly, Pukhtoons in FATA were inexorably dragged into that war.
37. But it is not just the war against Talibans that has created the present impasse. There are other very important factors which have a bearing on the circumstances we find ourselves in. The Pukhtoons, being the prime target of the war on terror are completely marginalized and have to suffer humiliating pain and agony. They have had to witness the worst collateral damage during this war. Funeral congregations, wedding parties, prayer assemblies and innocent men, women and children have been the victim of bombs and missiles. The Pukhtoons have been denied a role in the political arrangement which has also pitched them against the government in Afghanistan besides the coalition forces. They consider the war not only a resistance against coalition forces but also a battle for their rights.
38. Pukhtoons have never been subdued by the use of force. Their pride does not allow them to do so. Therefore, bombing them continuously, even for an indefinite period of time is not the solution. It is adding fuel to the fire of hatred against America, members of the coalition and the central government in Afghanistan. As a result their resistance has assumed the aura of a freedom movement against foreign occupation. It is attracting people of other nationalities as well to their fold who feel the same way. The war is no more against the Talibans. It has become a religiously motivated and emotionally supported mass indigenous uprising. The World has to revisit their strategy to deal with the issue and discard the present policy in favour of talks/negotiations.
39. We must find a solution to the Afghan problem through talks and negotiations. It is impossible to subdue the Pukhtoons by force. But it is very easy to win them over by goodwill. For centuries, insurmountable issues have been decided on the negotiating table. There is no reason why it can’t be done now. If we don’t do it, posterity will not forgive us.