What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

FATA: A look at an information black hole

I've been reading so much good stuff recently, I'll try to draw attention to some of it in some summarising posts that other blogs also put out from time to time.
So for a first of all here's a good piece by Hassan Abbas, written for the Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Monitor, titled Increasing Talibanization in Pakistan's Seven Tribal Agencies (dated September 27, 2007). Hassan Abbas used to be the "Sub-Divisional Police Chief" in Pakistan's North-Western Frontier Province, as well as deputy director of investigations at Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau, so he writes with something like an insider's perpsective and the social scientist's research efforts combined. He discusess agencies in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), going one by one.
Some points made by him about the tribal agencies, with some additions from me in the case of Bajaur:
Bajaur Agency
- Used to be known as the "Poppy Kingdom" in the 1980s and the 1990s.
- Refugee camps in the area up till 2005 were a source of pro-Taliban recruitment there.
- January 13, 2006: air strike fails to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri in the village of Damadola, but kills civilians.
(Not mentioned by Hassan Abbas: the October 30, 2006 bombing of a madrassa, killing some 80 people, statedly by Pakistani forces, potentially by someone flying over from Afghanistan.)
- February, 2007: a Pakistani government-run polio vaccination campaign largely fails. Abdul Ghani Marwat, who headed the campaign, is killed, amid a Taliban-sponsored rumour that the campaign was a U.S. sponsored plot to sterilise Muslim children.
- June: construction of a U.S. helipad in Kunar (over the border in Afghanistan) leads to "troubles."
- August: reconciliatory talks break down between the local Taliban and a tribal jirga.
- Friday enforced since July this year as the weekly holiday, instead of the official Sunday holiday (a strong indication of the Taliban's influence).
- Pakistani groups such as Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (which has by now, over the years, fielded some 5,000 foot soldiers for the fight in Afghanistan according to an unknown source) and Jamaat-e-Islami active in the agency. (Not mentioned by Hassan Abbas: one TNSM leader, Maulana Liaquat was killed in the bombing of October 30, 2006.)
Khyber Agency
- Taliban influence spreading (e.g. taxi drivers fined for listening to music in their cabs).
- Intra-confessional fighting between Deobandi and Barelvi Sunni militias of Ansar ul-Islam and Lashkar-i-Islam, both having "castle-like strongholds" in the area.
- Khyber Agency political agent Syed Ameeruddin Shah's house attacked in June by the local Taliban.
Kurram Agency
- The place that fleeing Taliban and al-Qaida members arrived to from Afghanistan in 2001, but moved on to Kohat district from, given the significant Shiite population of the agency.
- Inter-confessional fighting between Shiites and Sunnis: around a hundred dead in April, 2007 "alone."
Mohmand Agency
- Stronger government presence than elsewhere, but signs of a more active insurgency in the area.
- The most shocking incident: in early September a hospital, "al-Sehat," 10 km from agency centre Galanai, blown up by militants (the hospital's staff was forced out of the building before that - so Hassan Abbas concludes that this was meant primarily as a warning to NGOs to stop humanitarian and development work in the area).
Orakzai Agency
- Sunni-Shiite fighting spilling over from adjacent Kurram.
And I haven't yet mentioned the Waziristans, where, say, some 200-plus Pakistani soldiers can be abducted, without shots fired, as we know (the incident I'm referring to happened on August 30). Hassan Abbas mentions the latter three agencies described here, Kurram, Mohmand and Orakzai, as the ones where the Pakistani government has some more control, but even then he names Kohat district in the NWFP area as affected more and more by the Islamist insurgency spreading there from the neighbouring Orakzai Agency (e.g. tailors sent letters telling them to work with the strictest Islamic dress code in mind).
It's good to read something aiming to be this systematic and comprehensive, especially from someone like Hassan Abbas. It sheds some light into the information black hole of the FATA, covered in a rather shallow way by mainstream media reporting, that Josh often criticises over at Registan. The picture is not very nice of course: it would look bad even if Pakistan's security sector would be a decisively united force all for combating extremism whereever it pops up. All the ongoing conflicts in the FATA, added together, don't seem to me to fall that very far now from the sum intensity of the conflicts over on the other side of the border.

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