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Taliban insurgency is thriving in FATA noted PIPS new book

After September 11, 2001 the militant networks have become stronger and well entrenched in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (FATA); while the militant economy has surpassed the volume of $ 6bn per annum. The dynamics of insurgency in FATA is very complex and intertwined with the recent developments in Afghanistan and thus have far reaching consequences for the regional security situation. In these circumstances a significant change in the mindset of Pakistani military establishment is visible who now seem ready to crackdown against the militant groups in North Waziristan as well. These views were expressed by the speakers during Pak Institute for Peace Studies’ (PIPS) book launching ceremony “Dynamics of Taliban Insurgency in FATA” on 23 April.
In his opening remarks, Amir Rana, Director PIPS, undertook an in-depth analysis of the dynamics of ongoing Taliban insurgency in the tribal areas. He highlighted the ideological, political, social and economic aspects of the militancy. He maintained this book will help its readers in understanding this rather complex phenomenon in light of historical backgrounds and existing ground realities.

While chairing the session, Naveed Shinwari, the Executive Director of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) CAMP, maintained the book will help the readers to remove many confusions lurking in their minds about the Taliban insurgency in FATA.

Journalist and author of two books on FATA, Aqeel Yousafzai, said the book is very significant; as for the first time any research has underpinned the role of “Arab Mujahideen and their charities which promoted Wahabism in the region. Another critical factor which the book has underlined is the tacit role of Pakistan’s Secret Intelligence agencies and America in the light of solid evidence and undisputable facts. He maintained that the conflict in FATA should be termed a war rather than an insurgency due to the scale and intensity of the conflict. According to him next four to five months are very critical for the militant landscape of the tribal areas because most of the dispersed Taliban are regrouping and they have decided to launch full scale operations across the length and breadth of Pakistan.  He said, “US and Pakistani policies regarding Taliban insurgency are ambiguous. Still terms like “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban” are being used.” Moreover the role of right wing religious parties also needs to be highlighted in this regard.

Presenting a brief introduction and analysis of the book, PIPS Researcher Abdul Basit, said that at a time when a plethora of literature is being produced on FATA, nationally and internationally, a need was felt to bring to fore a book which presents the complex dynamics of Taliban Insurgency “as and how” it is; amid an environment of intensified military operations and reconciliatory tones of dialogue with Taliban. Contextualizing the militancy in FATA and the region at large is imperative not only to demystify recent developments but also to plan a long-term strategy to counter the threat of terrorism emerging from FATA.

Harun-ur-Rashid, famous journalist and BBC Correspondent, recounted his own reporting experiences during the conflict in the tribal areas of Pakistan. He maintained that the tribal areas of Pakistan acted as nurseries and laboratories for militancy. He said in 2002-03 things were much better than existing/current circumstances of FATA. In the absence of a proper economic infrastructure, equitable livelihood opportunities and existing structural flaws a vacuum was created which was exploited by the militants. Moreover, the gun-running culture coupled with the aforementioned problems made these illiterate and misguided youth vulnerable to militant recruitment who offered attractive salaries to them. He opined after their retreat into the tribal areas of Pakistan Al-Qaeda and Taliban gave them a platform.  They just followed them blindly.  The current situation in FATA has deteriorated to such an extent that no journalist can enter Taliban dominated areas for media coverage.

Famous journalist and analyst Zafar Abbas applauded the book to understand the complex dynamics of FATA. He said there is a need to analyze the impact of militancy on the traditional tribal structures and how much the ideology of Al-Qaeda and other militants groups has permeated in the tribal society.

The discussion was followed by a lively question and answer session. While responding to a question regarding the structure of militant networks in FATA, Amir Rana said there are four types of bonds between the militant groups i.e. ethnic-sectarian, Pakistani Jihadi Groups and global Terrorist organizations (who are confused about their ideologies whether to wage a Jihad against Pakistani state or not and even the idea of an Islamic state is not clear among them), Ethnic-Jihadi- Sectarian Movements and lastly Sectarian-Globalist-Jihadis which have a co-relation with third bond. The fourth type of bond is silent right now and they espouse a global Jihadi agenda and any military operation against them can mobilize smaller militant outfits in the country as well.

Concluding the session, Naveed Shinwari, said serious intellectual endeavors of such kind are direly needed to under a complex region like FATA. There is also a need to highlight the governance related issues. Along with improving the security situation through military means; more development driven initiatives are required to restore peace and bring about betterment in lives of tribal people.