ANALYSIS: More misleading information — II —Farhat Taj - Saturday, April 23, 2011

The state patronage, previously extended to the tribes and tribal leaders, has been extended to the Taliban to overpower the tribes through state-sponsored violence and blackmailing. Through sheer force, FATA has been converted into a black hole where reality is constructed in a manner that suits the security establishment of Pakistan

In his article, ‘Responding to Farhat Taj — I’ in another daily (April 10, 2011), Mr Ejaz Haider also provided misleading information about the Story Khel and Feroz Khel tribes of Orakzai and today I will comment on this.

Story Khel is a mix-Shia-Sunni tribe. The Sunni Story Khel tribesmen who clashed with the Taliban belong to Chamanjana, a village in Lower Orakzai. Chamanjana is located on the borderline separating the Shia Story Khel area from the Sunni Story Khel villages. The Shia Story Khel did not directly participate in the clashes with the Taliban, but provided a good deal of indirect help to the Sunni Story Khels. Some of the Shias provided some weapons to the Sunni Story Khels to assist their armed resistance to the Taliban. During the fighting all women and children of Chamanjana fled to Aand Khel, the neighboring Shia Story Khel village. A few days later, the Chamanjana lashkar-men, who could not stand up to the Taliban any more, also retreated into Aand Khel. For several weeks the Sunni Story Khel internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Chamanjana were kept as guests by the Shia Story Khels in their houses and villages. Without the Shia help, the Sunni villagers would have suffered more at hands of the Taliban than what they had already encountered.

Following the lashkar’s defeat in Chamanjana, the Pakistan army entered the village to take control of it. Malik Waris Khan, the man who led the Story Khel resistance to the Taliban, has been awarded a Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Medal of Distinction) by the government of Pakistan in a strange manner. A document accompanying the award says that he has been posthumously given the Tamgha. But Malik Waris Khan is alive and well in Orakzai. The award was actually handed over to another tribesman who is his namesake but not from the Story Khel tribe. The other Waris Khan has now handed the award to the real Story Khel Waris Khan. He, however, complains that a part of the award, Rs 800,000, has not been given to him. The money must be given to him as soon as possible because his family needs it to rebuild their houses destroyed by the Taliban.

The whole issue concerning the award looks a mess. Only the government can explain why it turned out that way. It is indicative of how non-seriously the government of Pakistan handles the tribesmen, especially anti-Taliban tribesmen. But, above all, this award to Malik Waris Khan or any other compensations or prizes to any anti-Taliban tribesmen do not necessarily imply the government or Pakistan Army’s support for any indigenous and popular anti-Taliban resistance among the tribes. Both the army and the government must answer tough questions before the so-called awards or compensations are even referred to. Take, for example, their handling of the armed resistance in Chamanjana and the events before and after that.

For over a week the Chamanjana villagers clashed with the Taliban and no help from the government arrived to prevent the Taliban from defeating the villagers. Before the clashes, the Taliban had unleashed terror in Chamanjana through killings and kidnappings, but no attempt was made by the government to restore the state’s writ in the village by responding to the Taliban atrocities. The lack of state response finally forced the villagers to clash with the Taliban in self-defence. No help from the government was granted to the Shia Story Khels for looking after the Chamanjana IDPs for weeks. Following the lashkar’s retreat from Chamanjana, the Taliban burnt down almost all houses in the village along with the belongings that were left by the residents as they fled in a hurry to save their lives. The villagers inform that an army helicopter was hovering in the air as the Taliban were putting Chamanjana on fire. They complain that the helicopter never fired at the Taliban. Firing from the helicopter, they say, could have stopped the Taliban from burning down the entire village.

The current situation in Chamanjana is that, in the presence of the army, several IDPs have come back to the village where they live in tents on the sites of their destroyed houses. The government has done nothing to assist the villagers in rebuilding their houses. Many, if not most, of the villagers simply cannot afford to rebuild the houses and need immediate help. Several of the villagers are staying with their relatives outside the village mainly because they have lost everything and do not have the means to restart a new life in the village. So far it looks as if the government has nothing to offer to assist the villagers who suffered great human and material losses in fighting the supposed ‘enemy’ of the Pakistani state — the Taliban.

From Mr Haider’s description, the tribal leaders of Feroz Khel seem to be some kind of ‘sovereign authorities’ making deals with another ‘sovereign authority’ — the Taliban — outside the contours of the Pakistani state authority for the release of the militants captured by the tribesmen. The FATA tribesmen including their tribal leaders have always been subjected to the state authority under Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) laws. Assuming that Mr Haider’s version of the story is correct, what did the Pakistani state do when the tribal leaders released the militants? The state precedent has been to immediately transport tribal leaders from cold areas like Feroz Khela to jails in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s warmest districts, like D I Khan, to over-punish them for even small acts of defiance to the political administration. It is remarkable that the state authorities did nothing to stop or at least punish the Feroz Khel tribal leaders for making deals with the Taliban.

Regardless of the debate over whether the militants were released by the Orakzai political administration or the tribal leaders, the fact remains that the Pakistani state had abandoned, by design, the Feroz Khel tribe to collectively punish it for its heroic anti-Taliban resistance and to force it to give up the resistance. In fact, all tribes across FATA have been willfully deprived of the established state patronage to force them to submit to the Taliban — the state proxies for the strategic game for control over Afghanistan. The state patronage, previously extended to the tribes and tribal leaders, has been extended to the Taliban to overpower the tribes through state-sponsored violence and blackmailing. Through sheer force, FATA has been converted into a black hole where reality is constructed in a manner that suits the security establishment of Pakistan. This fake reality is then communicated to the larger Pakistani society as well as the wider world as the ground reality through media persons and religious right-wingers linked with the establishment.

(To be continued)

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

Source :\04\23\story_23-4-2011_pg3_4

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