Towards transformation of tribal areas

The tribal areas people possess a conscientious approach to the vivid future of their generations. However, given the deep-seated social, economic, and political obstacles the development and the strong cultural resistance to moderation, the transformation is likely to be a protracted and turbulent process. This is how a brigadier, now retired, of our Pakistan Army concludes his findings about the tribal areas. His findings need to be analyzed and assessed to be considered for future policymaking. Instead of paying lip service to the problem by declaring Afghanistan – Pakistan border areas as, “the most dangerous place in the world,” 326 a long term attendance to the problem through a deliberate strategy ought to be chalked out which enjoys the confidence of all genuine stake holders. Often in a post-conflict society, especially following civil wars and insurgencies, state’s national identity gets damaged, and individuals are susceptible to identifying with whichever group provides the greatest degree of safety and protection 327. To arrest this trend, state must ensure provision of equal rights to the affected citizens and redress their grievances. In Pakistan, we need to develop and construct “civic nationalism,” a nationalism which is based on loyalty to rule of law, governing principles, citizenship, and participation. Civic nationalism is a particularly useful form of national identity for multiethnic states like Pakistan because it permits individuals or groups to maintain their ethnic identities, while subsuming them under the broader identity based on citizenship and participation. National identity is learned, not assumed. This is true even for national identity based on race, ethnicity, tribe, and religion.
Military operation in tribal areas proved very effective and even the historical no go areas were brought back to the fold of government’s writ. Tribal youth has to be provided with matching opportunities to stand on their own feet and contribute to national development. Transition to stability in affected areas should cater for long term goals for permanent integration of tribal areas into the folds of settled units. This would ensure, in long run, capacity building of local human resource essentially needed to take on the responsibilities of area administration and executive. To paraphrase T.E. Lawrence, It is better to have the tribal blood shoulder its responsibility even if, in the start, it is done imperfectly. On the military leadership level, gaining an understanding of the environment – to include the insurgents, affected populace and disparate organizations attempting to counter the insurgency, is essential to an integrated counterinsurgency operation. This understanding and its follow up with the training doctrine will rescue the military in labyrinth situations of asymmetric warfare. Civil and military joint appraisal should simultaneously find out the balance between kinetic and non-kinetic operations which is perhaps the greatest challenge in the early stages of a counterinsurgency.
And, finally relations between sovereign countries are best sustained if maintained under the principle of mutual respect. However if one country keeps policing outlook while the weaker one continues to be subservient, this sycophantic approach will only fetch humiliation to the latter. Owen Bennett Jones suggests a reason to this approach in his “Pakistan, Eye of the Storm” in these words. “Because of its sense of vulnerability, Pakistan has always been on the look-out for big-power friends”. According to a proverb used in Urdu and Punjabi languages, “Those who wish to develop friendship with the camels need to elevate the entrance of their house”. Pakistan hence, may like to review her foreign policy priorities in light of national interests; and if still is desirous of having master-servant type relationship with US, it ought to accept certain compromises; few on its sovereignty and many even on veracity and integrity.
Peshawar, January 14.

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