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Political and Economic

Review of FATA (Pakistan)


Dr Tanvir Orakzai



FATA Agencies and Tribes ....................................................................................... 8

FATA Socio Economic Statistics ............................................................................. 10

FATA Administration ............................................................................................. 12


The Cost of War on Terror..................................................................................... 17

 Isolating the Core Militants ............................................................................. 23

 Recruitment of local people ............................................................................ 23

 Empowering the people.................................................................................. 24

 Projecting positive US image........................................................................... 26

 Harnessing the religious elements .................................................................. 27

 Bringing out the intellectuals .......................................................................... 27

 Solving the Afghan Issue ................................................................................. 27


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The rationale of this report is to provide understanding of FATA and its people with
reference to current crisis in FATA (Pakistan). The war on terror in FATA has led to untold
miseries for the people in the tribal belt, where thousands have been killed and slaughtered,
while others have become homeless in their own country. The people of FATA are
unfortunate to become bone of contention in global war on terror, where warring factions
are bent on solving a political problem through force. It is heartbreaking to see tribesmen
senselessly killed in an imported war. The people in FATA may not be rich or educated in
Western ways but that does not make them less human being. There may be some
misguided elements in FATA, however majority are content with their life.

It is crucial that US and its allies devise a comprehensive political and economic
development strategy for FATA with the support of Pakistan to win hearts and minds of its
people. There are number of people doing research on FATA from their desktops, however
few people have ever been to FATA and fewer have any historical or cultural understanding
of its people, except associating it with Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Being born and raised
in FATA, I know my people and culture intimately and I wish to share this knowledge with
the policy makers and researchers to understand FATA from a new perspective. If you have
any question, do not hesitate to contact me.

Dr Tanvir Orakzai

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Tanvir Orakzai is a PhD with Masters in IT and English (lit). Tanvir has been working as a
freelance writer since 1996, writing on diverse topics such as Pakistan and US Foreign Policy,
War on Terror, Economic Reviews of Southeast Asia, Historical and Cultural Review of Islam
and West in a variety of magazines and journals around the world. Tanvir has been working
in various MNCs such as HP, Philips and FujitSu in Singapore.

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Abbreviation/Terms Description

In 326-330 BC Alexander invades

Alexander the Great Invasion of Afghanistan Afghanistan, where he faced his fiercest
battles and grave loss. After 4 years , his
armies passes through Khyber Pass, Kunar,
Bajaur,Swat and Buner
APA Assistant Political Agent
British campaign of Afghanistan In 1839, the British-led Indian Army
conquered Kandahar and Kabul. During the
winter of 1841-42, there was a mass
uprising against foreign forces. The
tribesmen gradually destroyed the entire
British forces while on retreat. By January
1842, only one Dr Brydon was able to reach
Jalalabad to narrate the tragic story
Faqir of Ipi In 1935-36, a Hindu-Muslim clash occurred
over a Hindu girl of Bannu, who had
married a Muslim which led to disturbance
in Waziristan. The tribesmen rallied round
one Mirzali Khan, Tori Khel Wazir, who was
later on given the title of the Faqir of Ipi.
Jehad was declared against the British and
the Faqir of Ipi with his huge Lashkar (force)
remained at war with the British till the
latter evacuated the area in 1947. The Faqir
of Ipi died in 1960. In spite of his opposition
to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan the Jirgas
in Waziristan decided in favour of joining

FATA The Federally Administered Tribal Areas

(FATA) in Pakistan lie outside the four
provinces bordering Afghanistan,
comprising a region of some 27,220 km².
Jirga A meeting of tribal elders
Lashkar A local tribal militia
Mahmud Ghaznavi In 994 (AD) Mahmud was engaged with his
father Sebüktigin in the capture of Khorasan

During his regime the Pathan tribes

Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb revolted. Aurangzeb led his army to re-
establish his authority but after a hard
struggle which lasted for two years
(1673-75) he was compelled to agree to the

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terms which left the Pathans practically
Nang Nang is the protection of honour especially
women and children of one’s family or
tribe. It also includes fighting for the
country clan and religion in time of crisis

PA Political Agent, the top officer in the Agency

representing Federal Government

Pasthunwali The Pasthun code of honor that consists of

four main areas. Nanawatey ,repentance
over past hostility. Teega, a truce declared
by Jirga to avoid bloodshed among two or
more tribal factions. Badal is an obligation
to seek revenge, and Hospitality where
every Pasthun opens his door to guest with
open heart.

Shariah Islamic code of life that revolves around

strict interpretation of Quran

Tirah Campaign (1897-98) The Tirah Campaign was a frontier war in

1897-98. The tribesmen (Afridis and
Orakzais ) rose, captured all the posts in
the Khyber held by their own countrymen,
and attacked the forts on the Samana
Range near the city of Hangu. The Battle of
Saragarhi occurred at this stage.
Tehsildar A junior officer in FATA under APA to collect
TTP Tehrik Taliban Pakistan, a local Taliban
movement in Pakistan

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The FATA are bordered by Afghanistan marked by Durand Line, the North-West Frontier
Province and the Punjab to the east, and Baluchistan to the south. The Tribal Areas
comprise seven zones or agencies, Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Orakzai, North and
South areas of Waziristan and six Frontier Regions that includes FR Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR
Tank, FR Banuu, FR Lakki and FR Dera Ismail Khan. FATA maximum length is approximately
450 kilometers with 250 KM width spanning over an area of 27,220 square kilometers,

FATA has mountainous terrain that is broken by small basins or valleys, dotted with
settlements and agricultural fields. The central region covers the Khyber, Kurram and
Orakzai agencies, and the FRs of Kohat and Peshawar. The Kurram River flows north-west to
south-east, entering North Waziristan below the town of Thal in the Hangu district of the
NWFP, and eventually joining the Indus River. The southern region comprises the North
Waziristan and South Waziristan agencies, and the FRs of Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Lakki
Marwat and Tank. To the south of the Safed Koh are the Sulaiman Mountains and the
Waziristan hills rising to an altitude between 1,500 and 3,000 meters.

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FATA Agencies and Tribes

There are total seven agencies in FATA that are explained in this section.

• Orakzai Agency

Orakzai are scattered from Kohat to Kalaya, Midan (Tirah) Hangu and Parachinar. There are
two main sects among Orakzai, Shai and Sunni that are further divided into 24 clans, such as
Masozai, Sheikhan, Lashkarzai, Biland Khel, Daulatzai Tribes, Mullah Khel, Ali Khel, Mishti.
Among the seven tribal agencies, Orakzai Agency is the second smallest agency in area after
Bajaur. It is bounded by Kurram Agency in the west, Khyber in the north, Kohat District on
the south and Peshawar in the east. Orakzai agency is the only agency without Afghan

• Khyber Agency

Khyber Agency is subdivided into three administrative units: Bara, Jamrud and Landi Kotal.
The main tribe in Khyber is Afirdi that have eight sub- tribes Kuki Khel, Kambar Khel, Kamar
Khel, Malek-din Khel, Sepah, Zakka Khel, Aka Khel, Adam KhelUtman Khel, Tarkalanri, and
Mamund. There are also some pockets of Shinwaries. Khyber Pass has been a battleground
for various invaders who have left their mark in history.

• Bajaur Agency

Bajaur is the smallest agency in FATA. There are three main tribes in Bajaur: Utman Khel,
Tarkalanri, and Mamund. The largest tribe is Utman Khel in the southeast of Bajaur, while
Mamund are at the southwest, and the Tarkani lives in the north of Bajaur. It borders
Afghanistan's Kunar province.

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• Mohmand Agency

Mohmand agency is a hilly and mountainous area bordering Bajaur to the north, Khyber to
the south, Malakand and Charsadda districts to the east and Peshawar to the south east.
The agency is inhabited mainly by Mohmands, Musa Khel, Daud Khel, Mero Khel, Tarak Zai,
Safi and Utman Khel.

• North Waziristan Agency

North Waziristan is a mountainous region bordering Afghanistan. It comprises the area

from west and south-west of Peshawar between the Tochi river to the north and the Gomal
river to the south. It is inhabited by the Pasthun Wazirs and Daurs tribes. The agency is
bounded on the north by Afghanistan, Kurram Agency and Hangu District, on the east by
Bannu and Karak. In 1935-36, Faqir of Ipi declared jihad against the British that continued
for a long time.

• South Waziristan Agency

South Waziristan is the largest agency in size. The Mahsuds and Wazir are the two big tribes
including Burki and Bhittanis that inhabit a strip of country along the southeast border of
the agency. The agency is bounded on the north by the North Waziristan, on the north-east
by Bannu and Lakki Marwat Districts, on the east by Tribal Area Adjoining Tank. Mahsuds
and Wazirs have a formidable reputation as warriors.

• Kurram Agency

Kurram agency covers Kurram Valley with an area of 3,310 sq km. It lies between the
Miranzai Valley and the Afghan border, and is inhabited by the Pasthun Turis; while the
eastern part is inhabited mostly by Mangals and Sunni Bangash.

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The Kurram expedition of 1856 under Brigadier-General Sir Neville Chamberlain took place
after the annexation of Kohat. The Turis leagued with other tribes and put British forces in
trouble for a long time.

Table 1.1: FATA main and sub-tribes

Agency Main Tribe Sub-tribes

Orakzai Orakzai Masozai, Sheikhan, Lashkarzai, Biland Khel,

Daulatzai Tribes, Mullah Khel, Ali Khel, Mishti
(total 24 sub tribes)
Khyber Afirdi and Shinwari Kuki Khel, Kambar Khel, Kamar Khel, Malek-din
Khel, Sepah, Zakka Khel, Aka Khel, Adam Khel
Bajaur Utman Khel,
Tarkalanri, and Utman Khel, Tarkalanri, and Mamund
Mohmand Mohammad Tarakzai, Baizai, and Khwaezai
North Waziristan Wazir, Daurs Ahmad Zai , Itman Zai
South Waziristan Mahsud Manzai, Bahlolzai and Shaman Khel
Kurrum Orakzai, Turi, Orakzai, Turi, Bangash

FATA Socio Economic Statistics

FATA Population

According to 1998 census, FATA is home to a population of roughly three million people
with the growth rate of 2.19, where as the FATA population density stands at 117 persons
per square kilometer.
Table 1.2: FATA Population (1998)
Agency/FR Area Population Population density Annual growth
(sq km) (persons per sq km)
1981–98 (%)
FATA 27,220 3,176,331 117 2.19
Bajaur 1,290 595,227 461 4.33
Khyber 2,576 546,730 212 3.92
Kurram 3,380 448,310 133 2.50
Mohmand 2,296 334,453 146 4.28
North Waziristan 4,707 361,246 77 2.46
Orakzai 1,538 225,441 147 - 2.69
South Waziristan 6,620 429,841 65 1.95

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FATA Socio Economic Indicators

FATA socio economic conditions are in miserable state compared to rest of the Pakistan.
FATA literacy rate is 17 percent compared to 43 percent in rest of Pakistan. Similarly FATA
has fewer health facilities with one doctor per 7670 persons and one bed per 2179 persons.
The people in FATA are ruled through FCR, a colonial times draconian regulation. The people
of FATA are forced to pay highest amount of taxes even on basic merchandise, such as oil
and flour. The table below shows FATA population and literacy rate in comparison with
NWFP and Pakistan.

Table 1.3: Socio economic development indicators in FATA

Indicator Pakistan NWFP FATA

Literacy ratio (both sexes, %) 43.92 35.41 17.42

Male literacy ratio (%) 54.81 51.39 29.51
Female literacy ratio (%) 32.02 18.82 3.00
Population per doctor 1,226 4,916 7,670
Population per bed in health institutions 1,341 1,594 2,179
Roads (per sq km) 0.26 0.13 0.17

Despite FATA vast population, there are only 4327 schools in the region; almost half of them
are mosque based, mostly run by underpaid teachers with fewer amenities. There are only
five elementary colleges for men in FATA, and diminutive economic opportunities for its
youth. Being deprived of basic education and skills, there is no possibility for FATA people to
integrate in mainstream society; the only option is to remain in their tribal enclaves. The
table below shows schools and institutes in FATA.

Table 1.4: FATA School and Colleges in FATA

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Number of schools/Edu institutes No Teachers
Primary schools /Mosque schools 4327 11187
Middle schools 402 3988
High schools 233 4253
Govt elementary college 4 65
Commercial Institutes 5 85
Vocational Institutes 8 109
Source: NWFP, Bureau of Statistics (2006)

FATA Administration

FATA is represented in Pakistan by National Assembly and Senate, but remains under the
direct executive authority of the President of Pakistan. The National Assembly laws does not
apply in FATA, instead it is governed through Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR-1901),
administered by Governor NWFP as an agent to the President.

The British created the institution of Political Administration that is vested with wide power
to secure the loyalties of influential elements in the FATA. Under this system, local chiefs
(maliks) are designated as intermediaries between the members of individual tribes and the
authorities, who assist in the implementation of the government policies together with
Political Agent through small Frontier Constabulary (FC) and Khasadar Force recruited from
various tribes. Each Agency has its own political officers headed by Political Agent. The
system of Political Administration in FATA is shown below.

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The tribes regulate their own affairs in accordance with customary rules and unwritten
codes, characterized by collective responsibility for the actions of individual tribe members
and territorial responsibility for the area under their control. The government functions
through local-level tribal intermediaries, the maliks and lungi holders (representatives of
sub-tribes or clans), who are influential members of their respective clan or tribe.

Where arbitration is selected, a jirga is nominated by consensus and given an open mandate
with the understanding that its decision will be accepted by all parties. The jirga may meet
out punishment to an offender or may impose a heavy fine. Occasionally, serious measures
may be taken such as expelling an individual or a family from the area, and confiscating, or
destroying homes and property for serious crimes. In such cases, the entire tribe bands
together as a lashkar to enforce the decision.

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Terrorism needs environment, where people experience unfair treatment among gigantic
inequalities; and militant leaders make sense of these conditions to extract their own
agendas. Militant leaders find followers in situations, where there is little economic
development or too vast inequalities that are rapidly increasing with the passage of time.
Such kind of economic repression and inequality creates perfect circumstances where
expectations are met with frustration and humiliation among huge number of unemployed
youth. For militant leaders such surroundings are ideal to construct an ideology that is
rooted in religion, history or nationalism that helps them in glorifying their atrocities. FATA
was suffering from all these symptoms and it is natural for militant leaders to snatch the
opportunity and declare war on a Pakistan and international community that ignored it for
too long.

Since British times, the usual method of pacifying a tribe was bribing the tribal chief, who
would offer unconditional support to the Government of Pakistan. This system worked for
decades but tribal people have resented this system for many reasons. The sole recipients of
this system have been tribal elites, while the majority of people in FATA have never availed
any social and economic benefits from this system. The bitterness against Pakistan
Government was brewing long before US invasion; however US invasion in Afghanistan (and
drone attacks in FATA especially) and Pakistan army incursions in FATA led to the explosion
of anger among the younger tribesmen, who formed TTP (Terhrik Taliban Pakistan) to
overtake the old guard and resist the Pakistan Army.

There may be antagonism throughout FATA against Pakistan role in war on terror but the
nature of uprising varies from agency to agency. For example, the militancy in Swat is local
in nature, where the main intention of militants is to install Shariah that the people of Swat
have been demanding since 1990s, in which they have been now successful. There may be
other hidden motives such as grabbing power by force on the pretext of religion. While in
Khyber Agency, pockets of Talibans are augmented by criminal gangs with various aims that
range for getting quick money through kidnapping and robberies of NATO trucks.

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These attacks serve two purposes, cutting the NATO supply line to Afghanistan and acquire
the latest gears from the supply line. There are other groups who pillage the equipment and
sell it in the black market. In Khyber it is more of criminal gangs, who are involved in various
activities and are taking advantage of the crisis.

In Mohmand and Bajaur agencies, the nature of militancy is to offer support for Taliban in
Afghanistan. As the Pakistan Army incursion expanded in the region, the intensity of
resistance also amplified and Taliban started to focus on bringing down the government
rather than just fighting back. The reason for such change of heart was that Taliban
represents a minority, who has tried their luck at ballot box with little success. It is not
possible for them to come into power by ballot; the only viable opportunity was to rise up in
arms. They apprehended that their uprising will force government to react to pounding that
will amplify civilian causalities. The higher civilian causality rate would shore up support
from the local population that is exactly happening. The Security Forces are trained to fight
conventional armies; they have little experience in fighting insurgencies. Like any fighting
force, the Taliban have strategic depth from Afghan side that enables them to move at will
and avoid certain death. The Afghan border provides effortless access to weapons and
foreign fighters from Afghanistan. It is for these reasons that Pakistan Army has to clamber
in the rough terrain for months with limited success and despite recent peace deal; there
are chances that skirmishes will continue in the foreseeable future. Similarly Mohmand
agency also shares top leadership of TTP; however it gets inspiration and guidance from

It would be erroneous to assume TTP as a rag tag movement. TTP has a clear objective of
ousting the government at all cost. It has a hierarchal structure that includes chief, sub
leaders, local commander, and media spokesman, an efficient network of spies and foot
soldiers that includes bomb makers, trainers, fighters, suicide squads and executioners.
Taliban attack comes as full scale attack from bunkers and trenches with ample supplies of
weapon and food; unlike Iraq, where insurgent would attack without planning. Such tactics
shows that Talibans are neither mindless nor reckless; they have thorough understanding of
warfare. It is for this reason that Talibans fighting lasts for days and weeks, as has been
happening in Swat, Bajaur and Mohmand agencies.

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Unlike Iraq which is paved with roads and plain deserts making it navigable; FATA has a
tough terrain with high mountains, treacherous valleys, rocks and boulders at every corner
providing excellent cover for the militants.

The TTP and its affiliated groups are engaged in a deliberate strategy of assassination of all
tribal elders and politicians, who they perceive opposed to their ideology. A rough estimate
suggests that more than 300 to 400 tribal elders have been killed. Some of these killings
include suicide attack on Jirga in Orakzai Agency on 10th Oct, 2008 that resulted in the death
of hundreds of tribal elders, almost annihilating the pro government leadership in the
Orakzai Agency. The tribal leadership has been hijacked by the younger generation of
militants, who have systematically exterminated the pro-government Maliks and Chiefs.
Recently a list of 43 politicians was issued by militants, whom they believe are pro-
American, corrupt and deserve to die. The aim of such targeted killing is to deprive state
from leadership and allow them to fill in the vacuum.

During the past few years, US have bombed numerous villages and homes in Afghanistan on
faulty intelligence killing hundreds of children and women in weddings and funerals. The US
received inaccurate intelligence from cunning afghan elements, who wanted to eliminate
their rivals through bombing- in which they have been successful. Unfortunately US never
bothered to patch up these mistakes nor ever tried to compensate the innocent victims. The
result is a widespread perception in the Afghanistan and FATA that US is killing them
because of their race and religion.

It would not be erroneous to say that the chaos in FATA is fallout from US invasion of
Afghanistan. The foremost reason has been US haphazard invasion of Afghanistan with
diminutive planning and little understanding of post war scenario. Without any strategy and
planning it was natural to see crisis after crisis that finally spilled over to Pakistan.
Unfortunately Pakistan government is trying old methods of organizing traditional tribal
lashkars which is is not only flawed but it also haphazard. In the past, laskars were formed to
evict petty gangsters or robbers from

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FATA. It is futile to fight back the experienced militants, who are not only well trained, but
have advanced vehicles and equipment including an efficient network of spies and with an
entrenched ideology of overthrowing government rather than be happy with small times
robberies and thefts. Recently NWFP Provincial Government has tried peace deals with the
militants, however the real issue is, how far these deals can last and how much power
militants acquire through these deals.

The Talibans have one clear message; any one supporting US (and Pakistan) will lose life and
they are able to inflict the damage at will. Most local leaders in the FATA are dead; while
remaining few (including member of parliaments) are leaving for safer places. Militancy in
the FATA is the product of the crisis in Afghanistan. Pasthuns on both side of the border
have a perception that their homeland is under occupation by foreign forces and Pakistan is
acting as proxy for US and NATO forces. Unless these perceptions are not removed, the
militancy in FATA will continue.

The Cost of War on Terror

According to the US National Counter-Terrorism Center’s annual report, the rate of

terrorism on Pakistan has been increased by 137 % in 2007 with 1335 fatalities. In 2008, 61
suicide attacks have occurred killing at least 889 people and injuring 2,072.
The total number of suicide blasts in Pakistan since 2002 has risen to 140 that are rising by
the day. In 2007 alone 56 suicide bombers have struck including attack at Benazir Bhutto. In
2008 the numbers of suicide attacks have risen to 61, with 29 alone in NWFP. FATA tops the
list with 11 suicide bombings. All the tribal agencies, Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur, Orakzai,
Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan have witnessed either one or more suicide
attacks during 2008. The NWFP provincial capital Peshawar was struck by four suicide
attacks in 2008. The Koocha Risaldar incident in Peshawar has been the worst terrorist
attack in the NWFP that resulted in 34 deaths and 120 injuries. The blast triggered a fire that
engulfed several buildings causing millions of dollar loss for local business community and
residents. Punjab witnessed 10 suicide blasts, five in Lahore and three in Islamabad

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including the deadly attack on Marriot Hotel. The Marriot tragedy is termed as 9/11 of
Pakistan, where 60 people were killed and over 200 wounded.

Apart from 61 suicides bombing, 12 suicide bombers were caught by the security agencies
before hitting their targets. These attacks not only brought death, they pushed Pakistan
economy to the edge as year after Pakistan lost billions of dollars. Whatever paltry support
Pakistan received from US went on equipping security forces to fight US war. Pakistan has
lost much more than it gained. For example in 2008, the cost of War on Terror in Pakistan
reached 678 billion rupees (US$ 7 billion), which is 40 percent up from 2007. In 2007, War
on Terror cost 484 billion rupees. Whatever progress Pakistan has tried to achieve in the
past 60 years lie in shambles. Taliban and its affiliates are blowing up schools, police
stations, banks, bridges, factories, electricity and power stations. Due to war on terror,
Pakistan has to spend much more on upgrading its security forces that could have been
spent on socio economic development.

FATA is ethnically Pasthun and the deposed group of Taliban government in Afghanistan has
close links with their brethrens across the border. Pakistan U turn after September 11
became a betrayal for various disgruntled Pasthuns groups and the resentment increased
after the arrival of former Taliban and Al Qaeda members in FATA. TTP initials target were
limited to small towns and cities, but as the FATA military incursion and drone attacks
enlarged, the Taliban elements took war to the Pakistan main cities. Karazai may be
Pasthun; however he is a paper tiger with no support from Pasthun majority. As long as
Pashthuns in Afghanistan are not made share holder in Afghan government, Taliban will
wreck havoc on both sides of the border.

US drone attacks may help in eliminating some Al- Qaeda and Taliban elements; however it
is creating sympathizers for Taliban cause. The drone attacks depict Pakistan as a weak state
that cannot guard its sovereignty from internal and external invaders. The flawed policy of
drone attacks is wining more recruits than supporter that has to be stopped of US own
interests. The FATA crisis demonstrates the thoughtlessness of a tragic war that is taking its
toll not only on human lives but also accelerating war cost in the wake of global recession
leading not only Pakistan to bankruptcy but pushing US to the brink as well.

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The recent announcement of President Obama that US would redesign its Afghanistan and
Pakistan strategy is a good omen, if it can bring peace and change life of FATA people in a
good way. However if redesigning strategy means increase in troops, more bombing and
incursions, it can hurl Pakistan into instability that is not in US interest. The US policy makers
need to discern that a stable Pakistan is not only in the interest of Pakistan alone, but it is
also fundamental to US security.

Afghan war is a shadow war with ghost elements that does not require tomahawk missiles,
tanks or regular army; instead it requires solid intelligence and active support from the local
people, which US has never tried to build. The Bush administration perused a one sided
policy without understanding the aspirations of the Pakistani people that proved a costly
blunder. Obama Administration needs a mature reassessment of US policy that has been
faulty since its inception. The war on terror should not be fought on cosmic lines making it
an eternal war between evil and good; instead it should be based on realistic objectives with
Pakistan’s interests in mind that are achievable or US would be chasing illusive enemies in
the mountain and deserts of Afghanistan and FATA forever.


FATA belt from the days of Alexander the Great has been the most important route to
Indian subcontinent. Being a transit route for invaders, the tribal people in FATA remained
in eternal peril of captivating doom that over the centuries made them suspicious of all
foreigners. This sense of insecurity has prevailed among Pasthuns for time immemorial;
especially, if an intruder wish to change their way of life (religion and traditions); a
vehement resistance flares up among all Pasthuns that often leads to deadly consequences.
In the past two thousand years, Pasthun’s land have been invaded by great military generals
including Alexander the Great (326-330 BC), Mahmud Ghaznavi (998 AD) Mughal King

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Aurangzeb (1673-75),Great Britain (1841) and Soviet Union (1979). Pasthuns survived all
these mighty incursions due to their resilience and fighting spirit.

If some invasions were only skirmishes by the fleeting invaders, others were determined to
control the fierce tribes through brute force. It is not unusual for a superpower to dismiss
the less-wealthy people as backward and uncivilized relying completely on military strength,
the British and Soviet Union were no exception. The British aversion (in 19th century) to
comprehend FATA’s psyche at first cost them dearly; they lost campaign after campaign
except few Pyrrhic victories. However British were shrewd enough to learn lesson from their
mistakes and resorted to diplomacy that helped them to keep the FATA in peace with
limited control till Pakistan independence.

Soviet Union as an ideology was based on expansionism. For Soviet Union dividing
Afghanistan and Pakistan was its natural right to reach Middle East. Being triumphant in the
past, for Red Army the whole campaign of conquest of Pasthuns land was no more than few
months long adventure that proved a fatal mistake. The Soviets brought violent change in
Afghanistan without understanding the nature of tribal people in Afghanistan. It feels
splendid to sit inside a comfortable office and initiate brutal change in a country which is
little understood. For Red Army invading Afghanistan has never been a problem, they had all
of Afghanistan in few weeks, the real concern was, how to stay alive after invasion.

Pasthuns are divided into many clans and tribes, living not only in tribal belt, but they are
also sprawled in the semi-tribal areas all over North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and
Baluchistan in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan. All Pasthuns tribes are banded
together due to common language, religion, and traditions. Majority of the Pasthun tribes
have been living in their tribal enclaves for centuries according to their own norms and
traditions. It is not uncommon for a visitor to find bleak mud house in middle of nowhere. It
may look outlandish for someone living in the city to come across such diverse life style, but
this has been the way of life for tribal people since aeons. Being removed from modern life,
the attachment to tribe is must for an individual due to the inhospitable nature of the land.
The remoteness from city life has created a sense of unlimited freedom among all tribal
people, where an individual is responsible only to his tribe and no one else.

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Such thinking has given rise to an inflated ego in all Pasthuns, where loyalty to the clan is
must at all circumstances. This way of thinking has divided a Pasthun world into two shades
of thoughts “We versus Them”. Thus a Pasthun can be extremely loyal towards his own
tribe, and hostile towards outsider, if he finds himself under threat.

Centuries of harsh life have made Pasthuns masters of their area; no one knows their terrain
better than them. Having indigenous knowledge of the terrain and being skilful in the art of
fighting, it is common for a Pasthun to be expert in ambush and sabotage. Having command
over the valleys and its mountains, tribesmen effectively use this indigenous knowledge for
their advantage in the wake of a conflict. Be it fighting with the casual invaders or regular
army, Pasthuns have been protecting their identity throughout the ages by launching Jihad.
The invading army often targets one single area in a mistaken belief that the conflict would
be over in few weeks; which never comes true. The history is vivid with such examples
where kings and emperor miscalculated their adventures, such as Mogul Campaign, British
Campaign of Afghanistan, British Campaign of Waziristan, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. All
these events started as minor skirmishes and ended up in decade long campaigns with
disastrous results.

The tribal people snare the invading army into to their terrain by allowing easy conquest in
the beginning. As the invading army advances into the tribal heartland, they find themselves
embattled in a never ending conflict with clan after clan. In every village religious leaders
clamour for Jihad against the infidels invoking Islam and tribal honour creating an army of
never ending die hard fighters that Kipling has apply depicted;

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,

And the women come out to cut up what remains,

Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

And go to your gawd like a soldier

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A typical Pasthun is simple by nature, but can be easily flared into passions, if he finds his
Pasthunwali and religion (Islam) under threat. Both are touchy subjects which are attached
to honour and respect for an individual and tribe as well. Pasthuns are often depicted as
stubborn lacking diplomacy and negotiation, which is far from true. Despite ferociousness,
Pasthun is proud as an individual and does not want inferior treatment. If provoked a
Pasthun is happily willing to die rather than live with dishonour.

The British understood this side of Pasthun’s nature, they selected Political Officers who
were not only brave and courageous but treated the tribesmen with respect and honour.
These gallant British Officers not only learnt Pashto language, but followed many tribal
norms. In some cases they married in the tribes. These British Officers earned respect and
honour through dedication becoming leaders of these untamed tribes. They organized tribal
militias, where tribesmen brought their guns and spilled their blood for British Raj against
their kinsmen. The people of FATA have never compromised their freedom and have
retained it throughout the centuries. For US and its NATO allies in order to succeed in FATA
and Afghanistan, they have to think beyond military solution, which is engagement with all
Pasthun elements on both sides of the border.

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From the earlier discussion it is clear that FATA is extremely impoverished region ignored for
decades that has made it an easy prey for militants. In order to achieve objectives of war on
terror, it is inevitable that US and its allies isolate militants from the ordinary tribesmen by
changing the environment that breeds violence. This section outlines a FATA Development
Strategy that may be followed in order to counter the insurgency.

• Isolating the Core Militants

All tribal people are not Talibans and all Talibans are not hardcore. Majority of the
tribesmen become part of their movement due to various reasons, such as money, power or
fear. As Taliban movement gained momentum; people’s assurance on the government
started to erode with no remedy in sight. This confidence can be regained, if soft elements
within the movement are isolated from the core. This isolation is possible by winning over
support of the majority by entering peace agreements and deals. Once peace returns to
FATA, militant leadership will find it hard to survive without support from the people and
may end up ignominiously in some remote cave or desert. There seems to be a kind of
uncertainty about recent peace deals in Swat and Bajaur; however, US has done similar
deals in Iraq with Muqtada Al Saddar and other militant leaders that helped US to overcome
insurgency in Iraq.

• Recruitment of local people

The Taliban offer three things to the discontented elements in FATA; revenge for tribe
members who are killed in bombing, regular monthly salary up to US$300/400, and a cause
to fight (jihad). Ironically an FC soldier is not only poorly equipped but is barely surviving on
a miserable salary of 80- 100$ per month without any cause and purpose. Talibans on the
other hand have most up-to-date weaponry and equipment including Humvee and satellite
phones with popular support to wrestle with security forces. It is critical that security forces
get better salaries, incentives, training and compensation; especially when they are
combating their own tribesmen.

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• Empowering the people

The people in FATA are hostage to the militants; however they lack power to counter the
militants, who are well equipped and trained. It would be decisive to form local militia based
on individual tribal leaders /retired army officers to counter the militants. An example can
found in Dir region (NWFP); where local people resisted the Talibans. However in Ferzokhel
(Orakzai Agency) when local people chased out Talibans, the consequence is regular
beheading and kidnapping of this tribe. FATA people are eager to battle, if they have
suitable training and support.

• Investing in the economic development

The people of FATA have a number of issues that include high birthrate, limited education
and health facilities with fewer job opportunities. Most of the schools in the area are
mosque based lacking critical facilities. The total budget for FATA is US$103 million, which
are peanuts compared to the amount of economic development essential for the area.

The FATA Development Plan 2008-2009 has mentioned few projects related to education;
however education is a long term issue that cannot be solved overnight. The pressing issue
is to solve the unemployment for the FATA youth. Similarly there is critical need of
increasing scholarships for deserving students, who can bring skill and knowledge from
overseas and help in changing the mindset of the people in the long term. The two table
below shows detail of FATA development in 2008 and 2009.

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• Projecting positive US image

US have a negative image problem all over the Muslim world. This negative image is
exploited by mullahs, militant leaders, and gangsters alike for their petty interests in
creating violence. During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, immense PR activities were carried
out to project positive image of US in the media that is missing now, except drone attacks.
It is vital to bring out magazines and papers in local languages, engaging with local editors
and media personals for US image enhancement. Another PR building activity will be
offering support to the displaced people of FATA who have left their homes due to

Political and Economic Review of Orakzai Agency Page 26
• Harnessing the religious elements

The only way of subsistence for imam or religious leaders in FATA ( and Pakistan) is to
survive on charity and handouts from the people. Being deprived from any government
support, it is natural for these elements to build up abhorrence for the Govt of Pakistan. The
easiest way to manage religious elements in FATA is to put them on government payroll
(similar to Turkey and Singapore) and offer them financial handouts. Another opportunity is
to provide alternative education and skills to the religious students who can make a living
out of their education rather than ending up frontline fighters.

• Bringing out the intellectuals

There has been no effort to construct a platform for the intellectuals and scholars of FATA
who have indigenous knowledge of the FATA and its traditions. The intellectuals from FATA
can help in isolating the majority from minority though dialogue and negotiation. These
intellectuals and scholars can help US universities and research centers to provide
indigenous knowledge and help in devising wining strategies

• Solving the Afghan Issue

The FATA crisis is spillover of Afghan crisis. Afghanistan has been deserted for years at the
stake of Iraq; with no clear planning. The Talibans are Pasthuns who make up majority of the
Afghan population. Replacing majority with minority will bring resistance from all Pasthuns
that includes Pasthuns across the border. Most of these tribes live on the border and have
relations on both sides of the border. The solution to FATA crisis lies on Afghan side; the US
and NATO forces need not only more strength in numbers, but also require a political
solution. If US is able to solve crises on its side of the border, the insurgency in FATA will
subside automatically.

Political and Economic Review of Orakzai Agency Page 27

The fight against extremism is a war of ideas, where limited numbers of extremists are
thrusting their ideology on a vast population that needs to be rescued by all means. It is not
only crucial to isolate the core leadership, but also diminish the underlying conditions of
violence through dialogue and negotiation. The rise of militancy is not unique to Pakistan; it
has been taking place all over the world ranging from Spain to France and in Latin American
countries. In all these conflicts, violence is used as a political weapon to challenge the state,
where militants effectively use violent acts to force state into a reaction that often leads to
higher civilian casualties and wider conflicts. Such tit for tat reaction creates ideal breeding
ground for recruitment ensuing a never ending violence and revenge, where success on
both sides is measured by number of killings.

The success of counterterrorism strategy should not be based on high number of killings or
number of villages destroyed, because brutal use of force cannot defeat an ideology. Any
indiscriminate force will lead to new grievances and a start a never ending revenge cycle
that will allow the militants to justify their actions. Killing a few terrorist can bring a sense of
sweet revenge, however it cannot bring end to terrorism, unless the root causes of
terrorism are not addressed. The ideal strategy would be combination of hard and soft
policies with intensive economic and political development for the people of FATA to end
the breeding ground of terrorism.

Political and Economic Review of Orakzai Agency Page 28

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