Insurgency: our response

The militants have transnational agendas beyond the control of local tribes

Dr Syed Akhtar Ali Shah August 17, 2022
The author is a former Secretary to Government, Home & Tribal Affairs Department and a retired IG. He holds a PhD in Political Science and currently heads a think tank ‘Good Governance Forum’. He can be reached at [email protected]

One can only laugh off at the formation of the official jirga – headed by Akram Durrani and comprising members from the allied parties – tasked with holding talks with the protesting North Waziristan tribes that are calling for peace in their area.

The tribal gathering, organised to deliberate on how to bring peace in the area, turned into a protest march demanding of the government to step in. Not just North Waziristan but the whole of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is reported to have come under a new spell of insurgency and terrorism, with hordes of armed militants swarming the hilly areas, in particular. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif constituted a jirga to hold talks with the tribes in Mir Ali that had been protesting for four weeks against the killing of Dawar and Wazir tribe members. It was only after his meeting with MNA Moshin Dawar that the PM sensed the gravity of the situation.

Those who understand the dynamics of the ensuing conflict ever since 9/11 know very well that it the militants, having their own world view and their own interpretation of Islam, who are an impediment to peace in tribal areas. Their outlook is the anti-thesis of the tribal code. And since this militant mindset has over the years crept into the tribal society, things have become more complicated and the target of peace more difficult. Even Akram Durrani, the jirga head, was not safe when serving as CM (2002-07). He was helpless when his own uncle was killed, with the accused traced to North Waziristan.

Jirgas have proved successful only in a pure tribal society based on kinship, common values and traditions, collective territorial responsibility, etc. Even in the heydays of the British, official jirgas backed by the power of state worked well. But, during those days, negotiations would always be backed by the barrel of a gun.

Diplomacy without, the backing of the gun, is considered weak. In case jirgas could not get through, state power would spring into action against insurgents. However it must be understood that in the past, the government would hold dialogue with the tribes and not any political, sectarian or militant organisation. Moreover, those conflicts were of localised nature involving tribes. In contrast to this, the militants have transnational agendas beyond the control of local tribes.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the ANP General Secretary, has also been part of the team negotiating with the tribes currently. Who knows better than him the nature of the problem! He had negotiated the Swat Peace Deal with TTP Swat and is aware of the outcome too. He is unlikely to be part of any process with negative implications for peace in the long run.

Even though the state has allocated substantial amount of resources to police and other LEAs, the insurgency is staging a comeback. It’s because rather than looking at an event in isolation, there is need to analyse it in its historical and strategic perspective and consider it a part of the series of events orchestrated by the radical mindset. Only then a remedy can be found.

There is need to understand that militant groups, pursing a grand objective of imposing their own model of sharia, use all tactics – including terrorism and negotiations – to achieve their ultimate goal. Reared in transnational ideology, they seek inspiration from the existing role models. They now openly vow to continue struggle for establishment of an Islamic emirate on the pattern of one led by Taliban in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the government, as always, is only trying a quick fix rather than addressing the root cause. Such a tendency has never worked in the past and will not work in the future. If at all, the problem will only be tackled temporarily and is bound to remerge with greater intensity later. One must therefore insist that the aforementioned jirga may be a good exercise for optics, but the government needs to come down to the bottom of the crisis by reviewing its polices in dealing with violent extremism. The bottom line is: there is no room for armed militias in a state based on the concept of rule of law.


Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2022.

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