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NWFP / Pashtoon Political Developments

" ... the most frequent and more facile observations applied by Western intelligence analysts to this region is that these areas are "ungoverned." Indeed, this observation has helped to create the central pillar of the international effort in Afghanistan since 2001, which is to "extend the reach of the central government" into these areas. This is a dangerous and fundamentally bankrupt approach, however, arrived at by misguided bureaucrats, policy analysts, and Westernized Afghan elites, who are the first to downplay the importance of tribalism and the Pashtun tribal code known as Pashtunwali. ... The prescription of extending the reach of the central government is, in fact, precisely the wrong answer... the rural Pashtuns prefer their own mechanisms to alien, external ones because, in their perceptions, theirs are clearly superior."

No Sign until the Burst of Fire - Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason International Security, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Spring 2008), pp. 41-77

To facilitate relations with Pakhtuns, the British appointed maliks, or minor chiefs. Agreements in which Pakhtuns have acceded to an external authority -- whether the British or the Pakistani government -- have been tenuous. The British resorted to a "divide and conquer" policy of playing various feuding factions against one another. British hegemony was frequently precarious: in 1937 Pakhtuns wiped out an entire British brigade. Throughout the 1930s, there were more troops stationed in Waziristan (homeland of the Wazirs, among the most independent of Pakhtun tribes) in the southern part of the North-West Frontier Province than in the rest of the subcontinent.

In tribal areas, where the level of wealth is generally limited, perennial feuding acts as a leveler. The killing, pillaging, and destruction keep any one lineage from amassing too much more than any other. In settled areas, the intensity of feuds has declined, although everyone continues to be loyal to the ideals. Government control only erratically contains violence--depending on whether a given government official has any relationship to the disputants. The proliferation of guns -- including clones of Uzis, and Kalashnikovs -- has exacerbated much of the violence.

Since the 1980s, many Pakhtuns have entered the police force, civil service, and military and have virtually taken over the country's transportation network. A former president of Pakistan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan (1988-93), is a Pakhtun, as are many highranking military officers. The government of Pakistan has established numerous schools in the North-West Frontier Province- -including ones devoted exclusively to girls -- in an effort to imbue Pakhtuns with a sense of Pakistani nationalism.

A growing number of development projects in the North-West Frontier Province have provided diverse employment opportunities for Pakhtuns. Notably, the government has set up comprehensive projects like building roads and schools as a substitution for cultivating opium poppies. Incentives for industrial investment have also been provided. However, the government lost much credibility when it proposed in 1991 (a proposal soon withdrawn) to build up the local infrastructure in the Gadoon-Amazai area of the North-West Frontier Province and to encourage it as a target for tax-free investment. Observers attributed the government's withdrawal of the incentive package to local unrest.

The Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)-led provincial government, a coalition of six conservative parties that ruled in the NWFP until November 2007, passed directives and legislation in accordance with conservative Islamic views. If implemented, many of these initiatives would impose Shari'a on all citizens, regardless of religious affiliation. Existing laws include antiobscenity measures under which advertising was torn down, stores fined for selling certain western recordings, a complete ban on alcohol, and a requirement for civil servants to pray five times daily.

The government initiated a policy of dialogue after the 18 February 2008 general elections to resolve the conflict in the North-West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The consensus between the four coalition partners in NWFP -- PPP, ANP, JUI-F and PML-N -- was to continue talking with the militants and seek a political solution. ANP did not believe the time for peace talks it began in Swat was over. A permanent player in the province and under some real threat at the hands of militants, the liberal secular ANP was almost forced into taking this position. JUI-F, being ideologically close to the Taliban, did not for a moment believe in the other view -- the one that espouses military solution. The Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in Malakand Division was part of the efforts of the Government to promote national reconciliation and three 'Ds' strategy to combat terrorism and extremism. But by August 2008 the policy of dialogue and use of force as a last resort was over.

As Joshua T. White, wrote in November 2008 "While the neo-Taliban insurgency remains heavily dependent upon bases deep in the FATA, the movement's center of gravity is gradually becoming more diffuse, blurring the distinction between settled and tribal regions. The NWFP has been rocked by a steep rise in militant activity over the last two years, and increasingly resembles the "ungoverned" tribal areas. Political reforms in the FATA, on the other hand, are likely to make the tribal areas look more like the settled regions by introducing regular forms of political activity. The religious parties' five year tenure leading the NWFP government, from 2002 to 2007, represents a valuable case study of the ways in which involvement in the political process can serve to shape - and ultimately moderate - Islamic political behavior. Rather than serving as the vanguard of Taliban-like rule in the Frontier, as many observers had feared, the MMA instead became relatively pragmatic and found its Islamist agenda limited by both internal and external pressures. The lessons of the MMA's transformation remain deeply relevant in the Frontier, even following the alliance's defeat in February 2008. ... The MMA's defeat in the February 2008 elections sparked optimism that secular nationalism would replace religious politics in the Frontier. The Awami National Party (ANP) took advantage of public disillusionment with the Islamists' governance and with their inability or unwillingness to stem the rising tide of militancy."

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:03:39 ZULU