ANALYSIS: Misleading information —Farhat Taj -Saturday, April 02, 2011

It is factually wrong that the TTP is not linked with the Afghan Taliban. Our army is not killing important TTP leaders. What the ISI is constantly trying is to put the TTP commanders in the Haqqani loop

Ejaz Haider is a well-known Pakistani political analyst. No doubt some of his analyses are insightful. But I have noted that he has been providing misleading information about the Pakhtuns. I would like to comment on one of his latest articles ‘Some more on the Pakistani Taliban’ published in a national daily on March 13, 2011.

The writer concurs with Brigadier Asad Munir, a columnist in the same newspaper, that before the post-9/11 US attack on Afghanistan, the Taliban had ingress in FATA. Haider says that socio-political changes have taken place in tribal society due to the influence of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and the emergence of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is linked with it. Leadership in the Pakhtun tribal society “is a matter of who can negotiate effectively with the outside world for the solidarity group”. Therefore, the traditional tribal system eroded, giving way to new religious power centres, like the TTP. Empirical evidence of the conclusion is his 12-year-old visit to Hangu where he saw some Sunni Bangash tribesmen attacking their Shia Bangash counterparts. He observed wall chalking in favour of the Punjabi sectarian terrorist, Azam Tariq, and also noted that PML-N’s former anti-Shia MNA, Javed Pararcha, who is not a tribesman, influenced the Orakzai tribesmen on sectarian lines. The author also informs that the Pakhtun terrorists across tribes in Waziristan are making ideological alliances with the Punjabi Taliban. Last but not least, the TTP is not linked with the Afghan Taliban.

Brigadier Munir, like many other former military men in the media, is obscuring the truth in his article ‘The real agenda of the Pakistani Taliban’, March 13, 2011. His institution has converted FATA by sheer force into a black hole where reality is created in a way that reflects the security concerns of the military establishment vis-à-vis India. But Mr Ejaz Haider, as a political analyst, is expected to be honest and not to mislead people.

There have never been any socio-political changes in the tribal society that could lead it to where it is now — overpowered by the militants. Even in 2006, General Musharraf reports in his book In the Line of Fire, the “role of the mullah [was] restricted to mosques” in FATA. The egalitarian tribal power structure led by the tribal leaders has not given way to any new order led by the mullah or militants. It has all been engineered by the ISI through brutal killings of the tribal leaders all over FATA; through generous monetary benefits to the militants through awards of development contracts that earlier used to be given to tribal leaders, and through the activities of the office of political agents in FATA, who freely support and encourage religious forces and suppress any secular or nationalist forces and activities.

I would encourage Haider to reach out to the families of 1,500 tribal leaders, who were target killed all over FATA, to ask them who killed their loved ones. The targeted killing of anti-militant tribal leaders started in Waziristan in 2003, so start from there. Their families hold the ISI responsible for the targeted killing of leaders. The families live in fear of the ISI and so keep in mind ethical considerations while approaching them. I would also encourage Haider to make some investigation on how many development projects in FATA have been contracted to militants or their relatives since 9/11. The revelation would be shocking.

I do not doubt Haider. He might have seen some Sunni Bangash attacking Shia Bangash tribesmen in 1998. But this is not an evidence of some kind of supra-tribal religious ideology on the rise in the area. There are countless examples to the contrary in the same area. How should we see the Ali Khel resistance to the Taliban in Orakzai? Ali Khel is a mixed Shai-Sunni tribe. The Shia and Sunni Ali Khels’ joint resistance to the Taliban spread over months. The state looked on as an unconcerned bystander and let the Taliban slaughter the Shia-Sunni tribesmen, leading to clashes with the Taliban.

Following the assassination of the entire Sunni-Shia Ali Khel leadership in a suicide bombing in 2008, the political authorities of Orakzai snub the Shia-Sunni Ali Khels for being ‘too harsh’ on the Taliban. The Shias and Sunnis in Story Khel — another mixed Shia-Sunni tribe in Orakzai — also resisted the Taliban in violent clashes. The Feroz Khel tribe captured several militants, including foreigners, who killed Feroz Khel tribesmen. Rather than taking the law into their own hands by killing the militants, the Feroz Khels handed them over to the political authorities, who, to their utter surprise, released them a week later. How would Haider like to interpret these and other such cases spread all over FATA, if his singular observation in Hangu means a grand shift in tribal solidarity in FATA?

In May 2010, the commandant of the Kurram Scouts convened a tribal jirga of both Sunni and Shia tribal leaders to repatriate displaced families to their native areas. One tribal leader pointed out that the commandant has no legal authority to hold the jirga. The commandant threatened him with incarceration. But, above all, the tribal leaders were shocked to see Javed Ibrahim Paracha invited to the jirga by the commandant. The Shia leaders hold Paracha responsible for Shia sufferings in the area. The Sunni tribal leaders consider him an intruder who poisons their relationship with their Shia compatriots for vested interests. I would like Haider to make some investigation why the commandant invited Paracha for the jirga when both the Shia and Sunni tribal leaders were against his presence.

The presence of anti-Shia people like Paracha or wall chalking in favour of Azam Tariq are all linked with the strategic depth policy implemented via the political authorities and now the Pakistan Army. State backing of the militant groups, including TTP, is much more visible to the people of FATA than any other people in Pakistan. The reason: all the drama is happening on their soil right in front of their eyes.

When there is a state behind an idea — no matter how crazy it may be — there are always people behind it. Therefore, one can also find some people in FATA linked with militant groups. This, however, does not mean what Haider concludes, the emergence of a new supra-tribal ideological order through internal socio-political changes.

It is factually wrong that the TTP is not linked with the Afghan Taliban. Our army is not killing important TTP leaders. What the ISI is constantly trying is to put the TTP commanders in the Haqqani loop. The establishment-backed Haqqani Taliban are Afghan Taliban. The TTP and the Haqqanis are in close contact.

Anyway, there is a great deal to write about these issues. I will be elaborating some of it in detail in my upcoming book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban and columns in the Daily Times.

The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban

Source :\04\02\story_2-4-2011_pg3_4

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