Pakistsan’s Tribal Areas: Stop Appeasing the Militants

Posted in Broader Middle East | 11-Dec-06 | Source: International Crisis Group

Islamabad/Brussels, 11 December 2006: The Musharraf government’s appeasement of Taliban sympathisers has resulted in a base in Pakistan’s tribal areas that militants are using to stoke instability both at home and in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Tribal Areas: Appeasing the Militants,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines interlinked issues of governance, militancy and extremism in the Pashtun-majority Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). It identifies the challenges the government faces in wresting control of these areas and the stakes for the U.S. and other Western countries.

“Over the past five years, the Musharraf government has tried first brute force, then appeasement. Both have failed”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “Islamabad’s tactics have only emboldened the pro-Taliban militants”.

Since 2001, Taliban and other foreign militants have found shelter in FATA, using it to regroup, reorganise and rearm. Afghanistan is experiencing the most deadly insurgent violence in five years, much of it staged and launched from the border regions. The Musharraf government’s failure to extend its control over and provide good governance to its citizens in FATA has enabled this militancy to flourish.

The government, which made deals with the pro-Taliban groups in April 2004 in South Waziristan and on 5 September 2006 in North Waziristan, has released militants, returned their weapons and agreed to let foreign terrorists stay on a promise to give up violence. This has given pro-Taliban elements license to recruit and arm, resulting in a serious increase in cross-border attacks against U.S., NATO and Afghan forces.

President Musharraf has been reluctant to take more consequential action in the tribal belt because his government depends upon support from radical religious groups and parties which sympathise with the militants. However, it needs to institute broad political and economic measures to curb extremism, beginning by integrating FATA into the Northwest Frontier Province, developing its natural resources and spurring agriculture. It should disarm militants, shut down their training camps, and prosecute those responsible for killing civilians and officials, while opening FATA to the media and human rights monitors.

The U.S. and the EU should make continued economic and diplomatic support to Musharraf contingent not only on such actions but also upon his allowing free, democratic elections in 2007. “The U.S. and Europe need to realise that democratic, civilian government, not military rule, is their best and natural ally against extremism and terrorism”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Director.

“These border areas are still run under colonial-era laws that make their people second-class citizens in Pakistan. Unless the government institutes real democratic change, extremism and terrorism will quickly overtake the entire region”, says Ahmed.

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) 1 202 785 1601

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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website:

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering over 50 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.