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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tribal Museum vs. Urban Slum

Tribal Museum vs. Urban Slum Part-1
Muhammad Arif

What the Daily Times editorial (1) termed as a “Tribal Museum” seems a very pathetic label when evaluated superficially and points towards an abyss of lawlessness, a “guesstimate”, a “badland”, an “ilaqa-ghair”, a land of “proxy” wars, “having a special status” and where only the draconian laws of FCR hold away. The editorial is cognizant very well of the “state-induced sectarian conflict” there and suggests remedies of introduction of Political Parties Act as an anti-dote to the so-called wave of “irredentism” in FATA. The following lines will dwell upon the quoted terminologies on the one hand and compare the “Tribal Museum” with the “Urban Slum” on the other hand.

A desirable Pashtun perspective of FATA is much debatable and it would conform with the editorial of Daily Times but it would also seek a dividing line which would also seek a solution to the problem of FATA in an indigenous way. While no sane Pashtun would support lawlessness, sectarianism, terrorism, and “ilaqa-ghair” the special status of FATA and the point of irredentism can be debated so that no confusion is left.

The very notion of irredentism embarks upon the perception that the Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists have almost virtually established the Islamic Emirate of Wazristan and they have been trying to extend their influence as far as Swat and other parts of Pukhtunkhwa and have the capacity to penetrate deep in to the mainland of Punjab and would have paralyzed the whole state machinery if the political government in Pakistan had not started the military operations in Swat and elsewhere. This mode of perceived irredentism is poles apart from the one which had been lingering in FATA in different shapes and which embodied itself in the Pashtunistan movement. While Pakistan silenced down the Pashtunistan movement with an iron fist and never allowed the Afghan government to take advantage of the tribal areas, the issue of terrorism using FATA to weaken the writ of the Pakistani state has never been addressed seriously and deals were made with the such actors who were not representative of the tribal Jirga and who had given sanctuaries to the foreign terrorists. Even Talibaniztion in the settled districts of Pukhtunkhwa was largely ignored and anti-terrorists local population was not backed by the government. Inside Paksistan the media and right-winged political forces and majority of the population were more concerned with the drone attacks violating the sovereignty of Pakistan than with those militants who had weakened the writ of the Pakistan state. It would be interesting to see when such offenders of the state like Muslim Khan or Sufi Muhammad will receive an open trial for high treason and sentenced or exiled like Baacha Khan, Samad Khan Achakzai and Wali Khan.

The “special status” of FATA was an unwritten understanding between some of the tribal elders and Muhammad Ali Jinah in which the later would ensure the freedom of the tribal areas which they had been enjoying during the colonial period while the former would have cordial relations with the establishment in Pakistan. The 1973 constitution has seven clauses (2) regarding FATA which recognizes the collective say of the tribal people through a Tribal Jirga and the president of Pakistan through the governor NWFP is responsible to honour the “understanding” reached between the tribal elders and Muhammad Ali Jinah. Any government is Pakistan has the responsibility to hnour this unwritten accord. Unfortunately Pakistan has used this area for proxy war inside Afghanistan and the people of these areas should demand from the international community why their land is used by the Pakistani governments and intelligence agencies to harbor international terrorists


Part - 2

TribalMuseum vs. Urban Slum Part-2

(You have thrown us to the wolves." Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan)

My aim is not to eulogize wars as Pashtuns have fought many and won many. According to the Imperial Gazetteer of India the Pashtun tribes pushed back fifty-four aggressive military expeditions of the British between 1849 and 1902 excluding the Anglo-Afghan Wars. I also don’t want to alert my readers with the mention of Faqir of Epi, Haji Saib Turanzai, Mullah Powindah, Syed Akbar Akhundzada, the Hadda Mullah and Mullah Mastun etc and in no way I support any Taliban leader whether he is Baitullah Mahsood or Commander Wali Khan. What I want is a slight reference to the point that the tribal people have been giving many sacrifices for their own freedom in particular and Pashtuns in general. The militant nature of the tribal people is also debatable but in my view a people with a rough terrain and scattered population are best suited for a military struggle than a political movement of the plain, agrarian or commercial areas. The people of FATA have been bearing the brunt of the draconian FCR just for a return of freedom whose meaning is so vague in their mind but whose strength they can feel when they are face to face with any aggression either external or internal as is the case of Talibanization theses days. Waziristan is an exception where hundreds of tribal elders were ruthlessly killed before the terrorist took control and even if we compare Wazristan with Swat, the tribes don’t feel that much fear which the people of Swat still feel even after the military declared the area as “clear”. The freedom and the special status of FATA is a plus point for them amid the clashes of global and regional imperialist advances and vis-à-vis Pakistan domestic and foreign policy lines which abhor pluralism and which is engaged in crushing a so-called insurgency in Baluchistan. Pashtuns, on the other hand are an easy prey as in every nook and corner of Pukhtoonkhwa there are multitudes of Radio Mullahs who are directly or indirectly the brain children of the historical right-winged security paradigm of the state of Pakistan. It took years by the Government of Pakistan to decide to go after the militants in Swat and the result are still unwelcome.

Like a true follower of the non-violent philosophy of Baacha Khan, I hate wars, aggression, terrorism and violence in any form. But sometimes I feel doubtful what good this ideology has done for us. Most probably we have accepted the word “non-violence” in its literal sense and forgot how resistance can be adopted against oppression while remaining non-violent. What horrors the people of Swat passed through is a case study. The people of Swat were the most non-violent liberal among Pashtuns but it is very unfortunate that they didn’t resist the medieval obscurantism and barbarism of Fazlullah. The plight of the people of Swat which they have been passing through is unprecedented in the recent few hundreds years of Pashtun history. Hundreds of them were butchered like wild animals, hundreds of them became the victims of suicide bombings and in the end they lost everything, their homes, family members and their very Pashtun honor. They were too much complacent that the state would respond for its “peaceful citizens” but it was too late when the “Green Chowk” tainted with the blood of innocent men and Mingora Bazar echoed with the pathetic cries of our chits who were widely beaten by the wolves of Swat and elsewhere.

I don’t think such incidents can happen in FATA despite of a more conservative society and despite the fact that the militant commanders like Mangal Bagh are in full command there. This anti-Pashtun phenomenon of Talibanization is alien to Pashtun culture and places where Pashtun’s traditions are less intact they are more vulnerable to bigotry and obscurantism and foreigners or outsiders can take hostage of the whole population without showing their presence or direct involvement. Before the Swat operation, our so-called modern and developed settled areas of Pashtunkhwa have virtually no writ of the provincial government and we have been at the verge of a civil war or militants’ take over.

Talibanization in FATA is an obvious case study and one can trace its root since the Afghan Jehad (Fasad) and Pakistan’s direct involvement in the area without the will of the people of FATA but Talibanizaiton in the settled areas of Pashtunkhwa points towards an urban slum—the cultural slum, the land of the cunning, the dirt and filth and excretion of thousands years rotten scene.

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