Authors: Ziad Haider
January 2009
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
Today Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas (FATA) are the epicenter of the US-led “global war on terror.” A 2008 US Directorate National Intelligence assessment states that Al-Qaeda is finalizing its next plan of attack against America in FATA. While the Taliban’s high command for southern Afghanistan – the “Quetta shura” - is in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, the Taliban have escalated attacks in Afghanistan from FATA with 2008 marking the highest level of violence since the Taliban’s fall in 2001. Yet attacks well beyond the region, including the 7/7 London bombings, have also been traced to individuals who allegedly trained in FATA. Meanwhile, FATA-based militants are largely responsible for the over 56 major suicide bombings in Pakistan in 2007 alone that claimed hundreds of lives including that of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
To address the domestic and global threat emanating from FATA, the Pakistani government has adopted a strategy of “dialogue, development, and deterrence.” Meanwhile, the Bush administration has pushed for military operations over peace deals and pledged $750 million over five years for FATA’s development. Although security is aptly the preeminent priority, no amount of operations, deals, or aid alone will stabilize FATA unless Islamabad also addresses its regressive and receding governance system. Based on 19th century British rules and institutions, FATA’s colonial administration raises serious human rights concerns and is fueling militancy in the region. One in five persons in FATA attributes religious extremism in the region to its flawed governance. Political and legal reforms are critical to extend the state’s writ; uphold constitutional rights; prevent a pro-Taliban drift; and mainstream and secure FATA in the long-term.
Although this report focuses on internal governance, FATA’s plight is inseparable from the larger conundrums Pakistan has faced since its inception including weak political and judicial institutions, the role of religious ideology, military adventurism, and hostile relations with its neighbors. This report, however, will specifically analyze how FATA’s governance has triggered human rights abuses and militancy; describe key stakeholders’ views on and historic hurdles to reforms; and propose an agenda for reforms.
Bringing change in a region as volatile as FATA will be difficult. Yet the government’s failure to do so will not only be an abdication of its obligations to its citizens in ensuring their security and constitutional rights but also to the international community in preventing the use of its soil for terrorist acts under UN Security Council Resolution 1373. Ongoing US strikes against militants ensconced in FATA are already dangerously straining Pakistani sovereignty and the bilateral relationship. That is why the government must heed the warning of Afrasiab Khattak of the North West Frontier Province’s ruling Awami National Party (ANP): “the question of dismantling militant sanctuaries in FATA and taking short- and long-term measures to open up the areas and integrate it with the rest of the country needs urgent attention if we are to avoid the impending catastrophe.”
Haider, Ziad. "Mainstreaming Pakistan's Tribal Belt: A Human Rights and Security Imperative." Discussion Paper #09-01, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, January 2009.
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