NWFP news

Baitullah Mehsud talked to reporters on Saturday1 and denied his involvement in the Benazir Bhutto assassination and the kidnapping of Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan.
Zardari talked about a “difference of opinion” between Pakistan and the US on how to deal with active militants in the area2:

“There is a position in America which (Democratic presidential front-runner Barack) Obama holds that if they have actionable intelligence, they should have a right to strike,” Zardari said.

“We disagree with that position and we just want to make sure that if there is actionable intelligence available, then we will strike. That’s where there is a difference of opinion. That’s something I’d like to work upon,” he told PTI in an interview.

This column3 in The Post by Musa Khan Jalalzai discusses the impact of the increase in violence in Pakistan on the security of Afghanistan. According to him, the fighting in Waziristan and Kurram agency have compelled thousands of people to flee from those regions to either Afghanistan or Punjab.

This column4 in The News by Khalid Aziz is from May 19, but it has a lot of interesting insights into the situation. He argues that the Pakistan government needs to develop a more holistic counter insurgency strategy like the US or India and that by 2006, the Pakistan military was certain that there was no purely military solution to the problem in the tribal areas. He contrasts the negotiations in Swat, which are taking place step by step, with the military’s unilateral actions in Waziristan which have resulted in the release of many prisoners without a written agreement being signed. About Swat, he has this to say:

The former Wali of Swat had built an elaborate system of governance based on cooptation of religious scholars in the judicial system. He was a wise statesman; he employed the religious scholars for dispute resolution and as consultants to the normal Swat courts. It was ensured that cases were disposed quickly through summary proceedings. Redressal of wrong was quick and the process was comparatively cheap.

The people of Swat lost all this, when the state was merged. During the negotiations, the militants requested to be helped in getting a quick and a cheap dispute resolution system more in tune with their past experience and were thus willing to adopt the 1999 Adal Regulation, which is already on the statute books.
Unfortunately, there is a large gap in the civil-military relationship in Pakistan. Once this is recognized and steps taken to reduce it, Pakistani society would be able to develop a COIN strategy. Existence of such a framework would not only better manage the insurgency but will also permit Pakistan’s allies to recognize the local issues and act collaboratively.

Today, unfortunately the policies of Pakistan and her allies play into the hands of the militants. The future does not lie in acrimony and accusations but in developing a robust strategy which looks at insurgency regionally. There is still time for them to withdraw from the precipice and the deal with the problems holistically. Islamabad must not commit the folly of ignoring the equally important life and death struggle arising from the raging insurgency because it is dealing with other matters.

1 “No link with BB murder, Ambassador’s kidnapping: Baitullah”. Online International News Network. May 24, 2008.
2 “Pak, US differ on tackling militants in tribal belt: Zardari”. The Hindu. May 24, 2008.
3 Jalalzai, Musa Khan. “Pak-Afghan security situation — I”. The Post. May 24, 2008.
4 Aziz, Khalid. “The march of folly”. The News. May 19, 2008.


Zeenia Satti on the future of US policy in NWFP

There are two op-eds by Zeenia Satti in the Pakistani press — one in The Dawn1 and one in the News.2 The best order to read them is probably Dawn first, the News second. Her Dawn op-ed summarizes the causes of the current crisis, arguing that it is largely the consequence of Operation Enduring Freedom on the NWFP. She argues that the Afghanistan-Pakistan border should have been sealed before OEF, that modern technology has made it possible to seal the border,and that now it is too late because “As a direct consequence of this oversight, instead of decimating terrorism in Afghanistan, an expanded regional version of it has been created and Pakistan has been engulfed in it.”

The key argument of her op-ed in the News is that there is a very strong chance of massive US-led airstrikes on FATA and that the federal government, distracted by the post-election political maneuverings, is completely ignoring this possibility. The consequences of such airstrikes will be devastating to Pakistan’s security. Additionally, she is skeptical that Pakistan can unilaterally negotiate peace with the Taliban.

As Damadola exemplifies, Pakistan’s peace deal with the militants in FATA is meaningless if Islamabad cannot ensure the security of FATA against US aerial attacks. Removing its forces from the area means nothing if a much larger force, allied with Pakistan, is going to strike with far more lethal weapons instead. Troop withdrawal in such a situation in fact jeopardizes Pakistan’s sovereignty. The situation calls for Pakistan to approach the matter of peace in FATA in a multilateral manner through engaging General McNeil, General Patreus and Hamid Karzai, along with Baitullah Mehsud and the Taliban representatives in a multilateral process that satisfies NATO as well.

Satti had a much longer article in Energy Bulletin3 in February in which she presents several scenarios concerning Pakistan’s long-term future. One such scenario presented in the article clarifies her position on why US airstrikes in NWFP present such a threat to Pakistan’s future:

Scenario two could plausibly entail heavy bombardment of Pakistani tribal areas by the U.S forces, causing a flood of internal migration, which will also mean the spread of militants into the Pakistani mainland. This could provide the U.S with a reason to lead an international demand, possibly through the U.N Security Council, for Pakistan’s denuclearization.

In all of these articles, she stresses the fact that it is unlikely that the Frontier Corps, with its strong ethnic links to the Taliban militants, will be able to successfully neutralize the Taliban. On this issue, she has the following to say:

The operation against tribal militants is a Catch 22 for Pakistan’s military. The Frontier Corps, due to its ethnic affinity with the Taliban, has no faith in this battle, hence it is unfit for the purpose. The deployment of Punjabi battalions, or overt military collaboration between the U.S and Pakistan, will be perceived as a genocide and could lead to a Mukti Bahini-like insurgency for Pakistan’s military in the NWFP and Baluchistan, augmented by the street mood in the rest of the country where economic grievance is widespread. Under the postulated circumstances, Pakistan military’s strategic capacity to resist U.S led international demand to relinquish its nuclear arsenal will decrease by the day.

1 Satti, Zeenia. (May 21, 2008). Will Fata’s truce succeed?. The Dawn.
2 Satti, Zeenia. (May 21, 2008). Peace that unleashes war. The News.
3 Satti, Zeenia. (February 11, 2008). Pakistan problem: Washington’s perspective. Energy Bulletin.