With 15,000 fighters in Pakistan’s FATA, who is in control?

January 22, 2009

The governor of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province has been quoted as saying that there are 15,000 militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). 

The fighters, who would very nearly constitute a small army division, “have no dearth of rations, ammunition, equipment, even anti-tank mines,”  Owais Ahmad Ghani told a team from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan led by Asma Jahangir, according to newspaper reports. A militant or a foot soldier earned between  6,000 ($75) to 8000 rupees a month while commanders took home 20,000 rupees to 30,000 rupees, the governor said.
 
With 15,000 armed fighters, give or take a few thousand, you would have to wonder who is control of the area, them or the security forces?

Some people are already asking that question as the writ of the state, always very tenous in the FATA, has been forefully challenged in the nearby areas of the North West Frontier Province, especially in the scenic Swat valley.  Once popular with tourists, the alpine valley has become a battleground between the Pakistani Taliban determined to impose their strict interpretation of Islam as they push deeper into Pakistan on the one hand, and security forces trying to regain their grip.

The Taliban have imposed a ban on female education across Swat, saying it was “un-Islamic.” This week they blew up four schools after a government minister vowed to ensure that the schools re-opened in March after the winter break.

The Daily Times in an editorial headlined “The fall of Swat” said “after a year of military operations in Swat, the territory controlled by the terrorists has reportedly increased from 25 percent to 75 percent.”

Teachers in Swat say they can return to work only if the government restores peace and shuts down the militants’ radio over which they they make their threats, or if the militants themselves ask them to resume teaching.

“The ground reality is there is no safety,” the head of the local teachers’ union, Ziauddin Yousafzai, says in this Reuters story from the troubled area.

“If they’re destroying schools during a curfew, they can do anything,” he says.

It is a crisis that has almost crept up on Pakistanis without them realising it, writes Shireen M Mazari in The News. 

And while the militants are making deep inroads not just in FATA or Swat but also threatening Peshawar, the provincial capital of the North West Frontier Province, most Pakistanis seem to have been caught off-guard. ”Yes, many of us have been guilty of ignoring the escalating crisis in Swat as well as across the FATA region which has now spread to the settled areas right up to and into the provincial capital of Peshawar,” she writes.

What now ? Especially with a new U.S. administration led by President Barack Obama who is commiting more troops to Afghanistan, believing the Afghan-Pakistan theatre to be the central front in the war against al Qaeda.

Some people think the additional troops that the United States is sending to Afghanistan will be deployed in the areas facing FATA.

But as Shuja Nawaz says in a report for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, the problem of FATA is far too complex to be resolved through military means alone. Here is a PDF of his excellent study entitled  FATA : A most dangerous place, that was flagged in an earlier post on this blog.

So is the Pakistani northwest, seen as the ground zero of the anti-U.S. jihad, going to be first security test of the new administration ?

[File pictures of a militant guarding security personnel in Swat and a protest in Lahore against U.S. drone aircraft attacks in the northwest]

Comments

Qasim Awan’s defintion of secularism shows paks have different definitions of secularism one for muslims and one for non-muslims. This is part of the pak aggression.

 

All idiot n monkey worshipers oh sorry elephant worshipers got it wrong again ten arm n three leg wroshipers sorry idol worshipers lol. Go and sort your monkey religion out first and give everyone equal rights and specilay to those untouchables to you the dalits are untounables so give your own bredrens their rights first.Only after that their might a ray of hope that the minorties in India will get there human rights. Till that does not hapen india is only good at –spreading the HIV disease – Opressing kashmris – Medlling in neighouring countries internal affiar – a country full of hindu fantacics and war mongers – you indian are so liberal that started buring NOKIA offices because their GPS showed the truth as –I bet you cant wait to hear it — k – showing IOK – indian occupied kashmir as part of Pakistan. Thats how liberal you are.Let me tell all idiots Kashmir is part of Pakistan —– In flesh- In geography- In next of kin- In Blood- In religion- and the will of ALL kashmiris is to be with Pakistan or Independent depending on where is the majority but I can ASSURE all idiots they will NOT even a get A vote from even one kashmiris to say they want to be part of you.Even then if you can NOT get in your THICK heads that kashmri is for kashmris and kasmiris are for indepnedent. Even the cries of all eledrs and even the younf blood shouting in one voice for AZADI and now as a kashmiri I have even spelt it for you what the kashmiris want and I bet still you will turn your face the other way. Because truth hurts and to these monkeys it hrts even more and can NOT stand hearing in the valey – Kashmir banay ga PAKISTAN OR AZADI by the way it means freedon azadi if you idiots did NOT know.So get a reality check and stop opressing the minorties or one day we will do the same as what hapened to your BEST freind the USSR remember khatris lol…..

Posted by Ali | Report as abusive
 

@chirkutPakistan is secular because it elected secular politicians into power in all four provinces during the 18/02/08 elections.Even the supposedly “fanatical” NWFP voted the secular ANP into power.For all its troubles,Pakistan has always rejected the power of the mullah.When have they ever controlled Pakistan?NEVER!!India on the other hand,is secular only in name.I mean,Pakistan has never even HAD a religiously fanatical government….but in India you can actually be a rabble raising fanatic who wins NATIONAL ELECTIONS!! This was the scene when the BJP was voted into power in 1998 amidst much fanfare & celebration.Based on this evidence,one can conclude that Pakistan has always rejected religious influence in politics while its southern neighbour had embraced it & adored it.

Posted by Qasim | Report as abusive
 

@ rajeevFYI, I dont even remember the last time I went to a mosque…and I am a lifelong Pakistani who has always lived there.Pakistanis are largely a serene & peaceful lot who reject the mix of religion & politics…the country is 98% made up of moderates who reject the Talbn & have no desire to live under Islamic law.You can be(a)Pakistani(b)secular(c)a patriotall at the same time. I know,because I am living proof of one :)

Posted by Qasim | Report as abusive
 

@Ali,Aren’t you worship a concrete walls? and creating a noise pollution in neighbors?

Posted by Blogger | Report as abusive
 

@Ali,We understand your sentiments, everyone know how much it pains to a kid when the toy is taken away.But you must also understand and control your feelings for your obsession over the toy belongs to others’, and asking them or claiming them is really unhealthy and really it is injurious to life….ASSURE all idiots they will NOT even a get A vote from even one kashmiris to say they want to be part of you…..–BOY GROW UP, there is an elected Minister in Kashmir now, and they got majority of votes.Did the world evidenced any voting or election in you so called IOK?The truth is bitter and it really hurts, well all were hearing about this but now you have shown yourself as an example to all.Cheers,

Posted by Blogger | Report as abusive
 

…Pakistan is a secular democracy,which elected SECULAR POLITICIANS into power in all four provinces…even in the NWFP which is considered a hotbed of radicalism by outsiders…Do we have any non-muslim politician who is ruling? I guess it was a dream of Jinnha to have Pakistan as a secular nation, sadly that was shattered quiet a long time ago.

Posted by Blogger | Report as abusive
 

“All idiot n monkey worshipers oh sorry elephant worshipers got it wrong again ten arm n three leg wroshipers sorry idol worshipers lol.”Haha some paki ass on fire I guess.Ali Next time when you throw stones at your father Mr. Devil in mecca, make sure he don’t slap you.

Posted by punjabiyaar | Report as abusive
 

It will be evident sometime tomorrow that they will definitely knock Gilani & Zardari’s door at midnight.

Posted by Blogger | Report as abusive
 

I had seen violent protests in Pakistan against Danish Cartoons. I would love to see at least a Pakistani in the street protesting against the Talibanization of SWAT.

Posted by mitchell | Report as abusive
 

@Mitchell,Indeed they protested, didn’t you see here: http://www.jamaat.org/news/2009/Jan/24/1 002.html the only difference is it’s not protesting against the Taliban of SWAT but DRONES on SWAT ;-)BTW It should require a lot of courage to protest against Taliban who are just 140kms away from Islamabad!!!I hope your wish come true :)

Posted by Blogger | Report as abusive
 

A bunch of juveniles.Are you Pakistani blogers belong to some madrasa or what, argue as much and for as long as you want but disrespecting some one religion is not part of the game.How would you feel if some body talks vulgar languages towards Mohammad or Allah?Part of being a true Muslim is to have a common respect to all beliefs and you Pakistanis have lost every thing to include manners.

Posted by Afghan | Report as abusive
 

Sanjeev,The scenario in Pakistan is highly frightening, very scary, how far the international community will be affected but India as next door neighbour definitely bearing the brunt of this , recent Mumbai attack is the probable demonstration. These jobless terrorists after Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and increased pressure from US and other international community in Afghanistan, are out of work , they are turning towards India and sometime staging action inside Pakistan like Frankenstein monsters . So far thankfully , the nuclear arsenals have not fallen into the hands of these terrorists , which otherwise might have led to a global catastrophe. As Pakistan has failed to reign in these terrorists , it is duty of international community to put an end to these terrorists .

Posted by Manish | Report as abusive
 

Mitchell,Poverty is the biggest enemy of muslims, incidentally some of the most poorest in the world live in muslim countries, like Pakistan, Bangaldesh,Afghanistan etc , why shouldn’t somebody in the muslim world raise voice against poverty, illiteracy , lack of medical care,economic development, creation of employment opportunities etc . Saudi Arabia is reported to have been spending over USD 100 billion every year to spread madrassas all over the world, this money could have been better spent to alleviate the poverty and improve the life of muslims all over the world , to create economic opportunities, employment etc . This could have made world a lot safer place.

Posted by Manish | Report as abusive
 

To:Ali, Uair, Afghan and others ,The biggest problem in the world is not jingoism , but poverty , illiteracy , economic development, employment opportunities , incidentally the poorest in the world live in muslim countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Somalia etc , unemployed and poor youths are the biggest breeding grounds of Al Queda, Talibans and other jehadi groups . The religious fanatics and jehadi elements exploit these misguided youths in the name of religion, prompt them to become suicide bombers in the name of jehad . I suggest to all that instead of wasting time and energy on discussing irrelevant issues like religion , we should discuss the ways and means to help alleviate poverty, and economic development to prevent growth of jehadi elements, to prevent the mullahs and other religious fanatics to exploit these unemployed youths in the name of religion and jehad.

Posted by Manish | Report as abusive
 

I had seen violent protests in Pakistan against Danish Cartoons. I would love to see at least a Pakistani in the street protesting against the Talibanization of SWAT.- Posted by mitchellWhat? and get beheaded?! lol. Well maybe in Swat, but many groups have been protesting on the streets though they are mostly liberal groups, so just because they don’t get ‘outrageous’ coverage in the West, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Having nut jobs spew out hate protests makes for better TV than peaceful civil demonstrations in the media. However I’m currently in Karachi and the growing number of Sunni moderates who are leaning towards the extreme interpretations of Wahabism,Salafism,Deobandism,etc. is alarming.

Posted by Saf | Report as abusive
 

Saf,If genuine people’s voice are suppressed and if they are not propagated through proper channels,then the nation is half dead-it is heading towards a Fascist rule..

Posted by mitchell | Report as abusive
 

Saf,If genuine people’s voice are suppressed and if they are not propagated through proper channels,then the nation is half dead-it is heading towards a Fascist rule..- Posted by mitchellNo disagreement here. What we can gouge from Pakistan’s media, enjoying a couple of years of freedom, is that there’s still a variety of expressions, differing opinions and a fight to stay alive. Hoping for the best…

Posted by Saf | Report as abusive
 

Saf,This is what some bloggers were underscoring. You are not free to say/do what is right because of the brutal reprisal (why to be beheaded, you asked). This is the reason why others called your a nation a failed state- the Government’s inability to protect civil rights. Not because it’s a poor country. The reasons you cited pretty much come under fundamentalism, I’m afraid. You only can change your country, not others. Look at what happened in Iraq- 5 yrs after liberation they have not settled down for a peaceful democracy, again fundamentalism is the underlying obstacle.

 

Hi Azad,Actually I’m in Karachi, so I can get away with saying stuff. I’m online aren’t I? The beheading comment I made was a joke (perhaps a bad one). I think you maybe believing its everywhere, but fortunately (or unfortunately, its how u like to see it) Taliban are at a few parts of the country. I do however get your point. Its creeping from the North/West and no one in their wildest dreams ever thought Swat would be taken over by fanatics.No its both. Pak is being called a failed state because of the lack of civil rights protection AND poverty. Many reasons. We have the resources,the industries,the infrastructure, but…Actually…Iraq has somewhat settled down. I know I should be happy…but I’m depressed that they ‘look’ like they’re doing better. The reasons for their fundamentalism were years of locked up angst.Our tsunami of fundamentalism started from the 80′s onwards however there were inherited issues since Ayub’s time. Many obstacles…again hoping for the best, because I can change only so much.

Posted by Saf | Report as abusive
 

The only folks whose heads are being chopped off for opposing the Taliban are the ones who have the misfortune to residen in Taliban-infected areas. That does not make Pakistan a “failed state”. Pakistan is trying to stop these Afghan-imported, heroin-funded, India-trained militants.

 

As the news says, those militants r earning more than the Pakistani soldiers!So, people! Use your heads..Who do u think is paying them? Who is supplying them with such modern technology?? Obviously no one person or organization can do that so easily. Its the enemy states of Pakistan, India n Israel who r supplying the money and equipment to these fighters. And another interesting fact, none of the fighters r natives of FATA. Infact they r of Central Asian origin!This is all part of a great conspiracy against Pakistan!

Posted by Muhammad Rizwan Malik | Report as abusive
 

@As the news says, those militants r earning more than the Pakistani soldiers!So, people! Use your heads..Who do u think is paying them? Who is supplying them with such modern technology?? Obviously no one person or organization can do that so easily. Its the enemy states of Pakistan, India n Israel who r supplying the money and equipment to these fighters. And another interesting fact, none of the fighters r natives of FATA. Infact they r of Central Asian origin!This is all part of a great conspiracy against Pakistan!- Posted by Muhammad Rizwan Malik–Militants are not only surviving they are thriving and India and Israel cannot achieve this.Here is a useful article, intelligence reports and much more to it. There are other links as well, try those too.http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/ NSAEBB227/index.htm

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

Muhammad Rizwan Malik:More on Pakistan role in promoting Taliban-just a little sample:”The most explosive question about the Taliban resurgence here along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is this: Have Pakistani intelligence agencies been promoting the Islamic insurgency?”“The government of Pakistan vehemently rejects the allegation and insists that it is fully committed to help American and NATO forces”“Western diplomats in both countries and Pakistani opposition figures say that Pakistani intelligence agencies — in particular the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence — have been supporting a Taliban restoration”“More than two weeks of reporting along this frontier, including dozens of interviews with residents on each side of the porous border, leaves little doubt that Quetta is an important base for the Taliban, and found many signs that Pakistani authorities are encouraging the insurgents, if not sponsoring them.”“One former Taliban commander said in an interview that he had been jailed by Pakistani intelligence officials because he would not go to Afghanistan to fight. He said that, for Western and local consumption, his arrest had been billed as part of Pakistan’s crackdown on the Taliban in Pakistan. Former Taliban members who have refused to fight in Afghanistan have been arrested — or even mysteriously killed — after resisting pressure to re-enlist in the Taliban, Pakistani and Afghan tribal elders said.”“The Pakistanis are actively supporting the Taliban,” declared a Western diplomat in an interview in Kabul. He said he had seen an intelligence report of a recent meeting on the Afghan border between a senior Taliban commander and a retired colonel of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence.”“Pakistanis and Afghans interviewed on the frontier, frightened by the long reach of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, spoke only with assurances that they would not be named. Even then, they spoke cautiously.”The Pakistani military and intelligence services have for decades used religious parties as a convenient instrument to keep domestic political opponents at bay and for foreign policy adventures, said Husain Haqqani, a former adviser to several of Pakistan’s prime ministers and the author of a book on the relationship between the Islamists and the Pakistani security forces.“The religious parties recruited for the jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan from the 1980s, when the Pakistani intelligence agencies ran the resistance by the mujahedeen and channeled money to them from the United States and Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Mr. Haqqani said.”“In return for help in Kashmir and Afghanistan the intelligence services would rig votes for the religious parties and allow them freedom to operate, he said.”“The religious parties provide them with recruits, personnel, cover and deniability,” Mr. Haqqani said in a telephone interview from Washington, where he is now a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.”“The Inter-Services Intelligence once had an entire wing dedicated to training jihadis, he said. Today the religious parties probably have enough of their own people to do the training, but, he added, the I.S.I. so thoroughly monitors phone calls and people’s movements that it would be almost impossible for any religious party to operate a training camp without its knowledge.”http://www.nytimes.com/2007  /01/21/world/asia/21quetta.html?pagewan ted=print

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

@ RajeevI cant deny your findings. I admit.But that was years ago. The world has changed a lot after 9/11 and Mr. Musharraf. The jihadi organizations have been banned all over Pakistan and their assets have been frozen.Tell me something, do you know how many soldiers Pakistan has sacrificed for USA in the tribal areas in the name of this war against terrorism?? +1600! More than what US has sacrificed in Afghanistan!Pakistan has been fully committed to the war against terrorism and has infact handed over +600 Pakistanis’ to the CIA n FBI for their alleged affiliations to al qaeda and taliban. Those ppl then landed in Gunatanamo Bay!ISI is part of the Pakistan Army. So its wrong to suggest that it has helped the taliban which is tentamount to saying dat ISI has itself been involved in killing its soldiers which is a total lie.

Posted by Muhammad Rizwan Malik | Report as abusive
 

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