Body searches of tribesmen
in progress: A failing approach
Pakistan Army's Tribal
Policy is Not Working
October 9: The army operation in Waziristan has taken a turn for
the worse. More troops, more arms and ammunition, jet aircraft
and gun ship helicopters have been brought into the conflict,
raising the number of casualties.
major of the Pakistan Army, six soldiers and one Frontier Corps
sepoy were killed on the second day of the operation. The Corps
HQ in Peshawar is playing it close to the chest, declining to
say anything about this casualty report.
the Interior Minister told the BBC that the security forces had
11 casualties on Thursday and Friday (29thth and 30th Sept). Nine
of these 11 casualties, he said, including the Major, were from
the army and two from the Frontier Corps. The ethnic description
of the casualties is not given. The operation goes on and the
number of casualties is rising.
Be that as it may, the Minister has also said that 25 to 30 militants
have been killed. Slowly the phrase "militant" is ringing
a nasty bell from East Pakistan in 1970, when "miscreant"
was also used to describe those who opposed the army.
of the name given to them, those who are resisting the armed forces
in Waziristan have sympathy at the grassroots level in the tribal
area and the NWFP. The fighting tribesmen are targeting tribal
leaders who side with the government.
There are a few features of management of the tribal area, which
are time tested and reliable but apparently they have been shelved.
What about the Aitchison Treaties concluded with the tribes a
long time ago? They and the Manuals have guided the administration
of the tribal area smoothly for nearly two centuries now.
has now happened that we have an army led campaign in Waziristan?
If the problem is about "foreigners", have all the powers
of the Political Agent to ensure good order in the tribes been
Every tribe has a treaty with the Government of Pakistan under
which the tribe has tribal and territorial responsibilities. The
Political Administration has sufficient power under law and tradition
to ensure compliance. Historically, army action has always been
a last ditch measure, and worked only when used in aid to civil
power on the specific demand of the Political Agent and guided
by the political officers who had intimate knowledge of the people
and the area.
the present case, it seems to have been taken as the first rather
than the last step.
Tribal management has a long history and the lessons learnt are
copiously recorded in official documents, manuals, campaign accounts,
local records and notes. There is a significant amount of institutional
memory of those who served in the area in the 1950s and 1960s.
the present operation the result of an informed policy based on
these valuable sources on the subject? That is unlikely, because
those who have deep knowledge of the tribes are alarmed at the
government policy in that area and worried about the long-term
believe that the government policy ignores the laid down procedures
of ensuring good order in the tribal area, which has been enforced
on the tribes for generations. The same results can be achieved
through these procedures without such heavy cost of the operation
and casualties and long-term hatred, albeit without the drama
of a military operation.
the old days, even when the conflicts were bad the battles were
never set piece. The tribesmen were traditionally snipers who
used to hit and run. The present war-like situation shows deep
the war on terrorism has created new compulsions, mostly in terms
of international pressure to get rid of the extremists. By all
means, the writ of the administration on this issue must prevail.
But the results will be more lasting and less expensive if the
problem is approached politically (which does not exclude military
action) rather than through a military led campaign with the political
administration completely ignored.
policy will fetch us nothing but there is a serious risk of the
army getting bogged down in the tribal area, the tall claims of
the government notwithstanding. The nagging question of credibility
of the government in general and the army in particular does not
The Peshawar Corps Commander had told us many weeks ago that he
had managed to clear all militants and the area was now quiet.
In that case, what is the army doing there now and why do they
continue to cause and take casualties? News from the area is that
the casualties inflicted by them include women and children.
outgoing Corps Commander accused MNA Maulvi Nek Zaman of backing
militancy not so long ago. The MNA is now on an official committee
negotiating ceasefire. What do we and what do we not believe?
The deadlines for surrender are extended ever so often, a disaster
for tribal management.
of credibility is at all levels. The Governor suggested renegotiation
of Durand Line to the Afghans the other day. Later he denied having
said it. The President denies comments on rape victims in his
interview to The Washington Post. The Post posts
them on a web site verbatim and the entire Pakistani nation is
humiliated. What do we believe? Ziaul Haq was always going back
on his statements, finally reducing the acronym CMLA to "Cancel
My Last Announcement" in the popular lexicon.
The gentlemen mentioned above are/have been commissioned officers.
Obviously, the Psych Officer, the Group Testing Officer (GTO)
and the Presiding Officer failed to see potential infirmity of
character in them in the Inter Services Selection Board (ISSB).
Credibility of administrators has been a pivotal point of tribal
administration. The British had set high standards for it. Early
last century, a Political Agent in South Waziristan managed to
negotiate his own release from Mahsud kidnappers on his word that
there would be no punishment for the tribe. Ignoring his word,
the Government of India sent RAF to bomb the area. The Political
Agent, a British officer, shot himself.
Why are we fighting in the tribal area with our own people? They
have been a part of this country through thick and thin. Much
is owed to them before and after partition. We should recall that
their Afghan cousins assured us to not worry about our western
borders and lived up to it when we were at war with our eastern
Before it is too late, the level of this conflict must be brought
down if not ceased. Immediate measures are necessary to contain
the conflict. Let the political officers take out the manuals
and treaties and sit with the tribes to find a mutually agreeable
solution of issues, including terrorism, according to the established
rules of the game.
international community should appreciate this approach if they
understand the danger this veritable war poses for this country.
This battle in the tribal area is going to prove very costly for
Pakistan. The hatred for the President for having provided the
US forces the vital logistic support against Afghanistan is still
is being added to it is the rising fire in the bellies of the
youth of Waziristan who are unlikely to forget what is being done
to them. General Musharraf has sown seeds of long-term hatred
in the tribal area. When the results of this policy do come out,
we will live to regret it.
writer is a retired Inspector General of Police of Pakistan. This
comment first appeared in The Nation, Lahore