The Afghan Islamists’ political failure to produce realistic agendas for change1 is cited by some analysts as an example of the failure of political Islam. Some others however argue that Muslim societies seem to have been characterized in the 20th century by two contradictory structures. The clan, tribe and ethnic group does not seem to exist in a peaceful equilibrium with the state and religion.2 Thus, it is usually the small group versus the larger faith, or the tribe versus the Ummah, or the religious clique against the state which has been the main focus of commitment, as opposed to tension against the state. This ‘dualism’, if you will, also manifests itself in the paradigms of Islam as opposed to Islamism, or the more commonly (but inappropriately) used term ‘fundamentalism’. It is important to differentiate between the two; either all connections between them are cleanly severed, or they remain interconnected, in which case Islam gets paradigmatically linked to the latter. Of course, identifying Islam with fundamentalism, which in itself is an inadequate term for expressing this phenomenon, only adds to the intensity of the furor of Islamophobia.3 Islam as a religion of peace is being overshadowed by the Islam of politics, which vies against the state for expression of its grievances. This political variant is the struggle of the small tribal clique of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) against the state, which, they feel, has marginalized them. It is then a conjunction of traditional grievances, which have joined hands with the rebound phenomenon of radicalism ‘coming home to roost’ as it were, from neighboring Afghanistan. Thus, an insight into the tribal socio-economic and socio-political dynamics is just as important as understanding the religious indoctrination, which has prompted the tribal lashkars (raiding parties) to take on the form of a formidable army.
The Pashtuns of FATA and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (called the North West Frontier Province until early 2010), along with their sizeable populations in Pakistan’s Balochistan province and Karachi city in the Sindh province, account for 38-40 million people. FATA forms a 1,200-kilometer wedge between Afghanistan and the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to the 1998 national census, close to 3.2 million people (the current estimate is 3.5 million) live in FATA, which covers an area of 27,220 square kilometers. The Durand Line divided Pashtun tribes between British India and Afghanistan in 1893, and since then this delineation has been viewed with great contempt and resentment by Pashtuns, the principal ethnic group of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. After Pakistan’s emergence in 1947, this line became a major source of tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan.