Sunday, February 27, 2011

War and Peace

Pakistan Observer

War and Peace

Yahya Ahmad
Sunday, February 27, 2011, Rabbi-ul-Awwal 23, 1432
If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience." George Bernard Shaw. Pakistani authorities for the last ten years have been fighting pitched battles against terrorist and militant outfits in North-West Pakistan. At least 3300 security forces personnel have laid down their lives since 2003. The terrorists have been utilizing guerilla tactics of inflicting losses, while trying to avoid a prolonged and direct confrontation. It is expected that, The Sate of Pakistan should now be well aware of the effectiveness of the peace accords that have taken place on numerous occasions, with these outfits. Judging from history, it is quite evident that these outfits have used these interim periods of peace, to recuperate and later strike whenever they have regained their capabilities. 

The examples are present in the peace accord of Swat and various truce agreements carried out in the Tribal Areas. The militants have always used these truce agreements to buy time, for preparing themselves for a stronger confrontation. The installation of parallel government and judicial system has been a norm for these militant groups. The summary judgments carried out by kangaroo courts, the harassment and killings of government supporters are how these elements exert their authority. With the success of military operations in the areas of Swat and South Waziristan, it is a verified assumption that peace, stability and prosperity cannot be reached unless the violent and subversive elements are not removed.

The breaking of sectarian violence in Upper and Lower Kurram regions in November 2007, engulfed Parachinar and the Peshawar-Parachinar road has been closed since then. According to some estimates, 2,000 people have died and more have fled their homes after clashes between the rival tribes, intensified. The Taliban have been widely known and condemned for inflaming and taking part in this violence. Recently, a truce has been reached among the warring tribes, which has been welcomed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It is understandable that the peace in the area after three-four years of fighting is an encouraging step, especially for the local people. But the question is; can these banned outfits such as TTP be trusted for holding on to such a truce. The tacit approval which has been given by the state, points to the disturbing fact that there are still some vocal voices present in the policy circles, who still consider that these elements can be negotiated with. It should be pointed to them, that the TTP has not only been the part but the instigator of violence in the area. 

While peace is being restored in one part of the Tribal Area, the events, have taken a turn in Mohmand Agency. The operation against militant outfits in Mohmand Agency seems to be intensifying. According to the UN, up to 22000 people have already fled the area, while this number could rise to an estimated 90,000, by the end of February. This again is turning into an exodus and a humanitarian crisis for the country. A necessary evil, if terrorism is to be defeated in those areas. But it has to be followed up with a rehabilitation effort on war footings, a scale somewhat similar to the rehabilitation that, has taken place after Swat operation. It is imperative, that even if a truce agreement is reached, the terms should not be undermining the government's role in the area. The state apparatus should also keep a proper check on these groups and monitor their activities, while the agreement is in place. The government on the other hand, should use this time to establish their writ in the area.

The state should make effective strategies for a public outreach and also concentrate on the developmental projects in the area. Previously, these kinds of agreements have gone up in smoke because, these outfits gained unchecked strength and influence in the area and resultantly they shifted their goal posts, demanding more each time. They have also used these time periods, to exert their authority and establish a parallel government in the areas, based on their ideological perceptions. Providing the locals, with security for their lives and property, will boost their confidence. Taking the locals into confidence by the state is crucial for the implementation such agreements, in the spirit. The locals are the ones directly affected by the conflict and with the knowledge that the state has not left them on the mercy of these outfits, they will put their firm support behind the government.