Stories about FATA

The brilliant minds of our insurgents

As Zarb-e-Azb moves towards a ground offensive in Miranshah, bomb disposal units are assigned the daunting task of safely detonating troves of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) precariously stacked in numerous factories scattered across town. A junior military officer, part of one such unit, reflected on a mission he had successfully carried out earlier in the day. Referring to the IED composition, he said, “They (TTP) are damn experts, awesome work. Brilliant minds how they use local materials urea and the likes to make IEDs, awesome. I wish I could get trained by them”. Simply by an apt assessment of the adversary’s skill set, in this case ...

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Do we want our children to be paralysed in Naya Pakistan?

The daily theatre of political brinkmanship that Pakistan has been witnessing as of late has led to a number of negative consequences. I am not going on a long lament, listing a plethora of things wrong with Pakistan but will bring to attention a very important issue that is grossly being neglected at the moment – polio. Do you know that Pakistan is the biggest polio endemic country in the world today? We may hear that Pakistan is only one of the three countries where polio exists, including Nigeria and Afghanistan, but what we do not hear is that we ...

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Is the ISIS really in our backyard?

One day, you see shalwar-kameez clad Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters in Iraq and Syria, and the next day you hear news of their fighters infiltrating Pakistan. Is there any connection? According to the Foreign Office (FO) of Pakistan there isn’t. Obviously. The FO, on Wednesday, denied reports regarding the presence and infiltration of ISIS, also known as ‘Daesh’, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and FATA region. But did this denial ring any surprising bells? After all, the same FO, along with the authorities, was oblivious to Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad for many years, leave aside the ISIS. Yet, one has to ...

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FCR: Man playing god with the people of Fata

FATA is home to approximately 10 million people. These people may be called ‘Pakistani’ citizens, but the reality is – they are not. Even after 67 years of independence, despite being a strategic part of Pakistan, the constitution of the country simply does not apply here. Why? Good question. What is worse is that the laws that do, in fact, apply are a set of colonial laws formulated and enacted by the British more than a century ago! Some of these date all the way back to 1893, when the Durand Line was drawn by colonialists. A single visit to Fata will demonstrate ...

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Bringing FATA into the mainstream

The much talked about and supported military operation, Zarb-e-Azb, has been initiated in North Waziristan with the objective of clearing the region from local and foreign Taliban sanctuaries. The military strategy has already displaced thousands from the war-torn region at a time when the internally displaced persons (IDPs) affected from previous conflicts and disasters haven’t returned to their homes yet. Up to 30,000 soldiers are involved in the current operation, while more than 800,000 people have fled the area over security and an uncertain future. The operation was launched after the failed attempt at peace talks and demands from the ...

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Stop blaming FATA and take responsibility for the IDPs, Pakistan

After months of dithering, the Pakistani government finally approved the long-awaited offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) last week. The decision came in the wake of the audacious terrorist attack on the country’s largest airport that reportedly killed at least 29 people. While the decision is a welcome move, the way it was arrived at revealed the ‘reactive’ nature of and the laxity and arbitrariness associated with the country’s policy-making process. Given the existential threat it poses, terrorism should have been the foremost priority of the new government and therefore must have been dealt with in a more pro-active and robust way. Unfortunately, ...

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I am from FATA and, today, I don’t feel Pakistani at all

I was shocked when I heard that the governments of Punjab and Sindh have barred Waziristan’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from entering their provinces. Belonging to the tribal areas, I know how much our forefathers have sacrificed for this country. It was our people who took part in Pakistan’s first war against India in 1948, to save Kashmir – and this was when Pakistan’s own army general had refused to fight. Today, whatever part of Kashmir comes under Pakistani territory, it’s all thanks to the efforts of my people. When the USSR attacked Afghanistan and Pakistan decided to be part of the United States-led ...

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Don’t ignore your IDPs, Pakistan!

The military operation in Swat five-years-ago led to the displacement of approximately two million Pakistanis, who had to abandon their homes, commodities and lives overnight to a bleak and uncertain future. Facing obscurity, these two million refugees trekked to safer locales with infants and elderly in tow. According to United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) statistics, released as of September 11, 2012, there were 160,063 families still resigned to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) status, of which 12% (18,783 families) were still residing in camps and 88% (141,280 families) were residing in host communities two years back. Though the World Food Programme (WFP) assisted ...

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Will Zarb-e-Azb bring peace to Pakistan?

After much dillydallying, useless discussions and utterly unsuccessful peace talks, Pakistan has, finally, launched a “decisive” operation, code named Zarb-e-Azb, against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in the North Waziristan Agency. The Pakistan Army claims that around 180 Taliban have been killed so far, with dozens other captured and their safe havens and ammunition depots taken out, in jet bombings and face-to-face skirmishes. All exit points from North Waziristan Agency have been cordoned off and the Taliban are not being given any opportunity to slip to adjacent areas and elude the fire. There is a growing impression that the Taliban have been cornered. However, the ...

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The curious case of drone strikes in FATA

Peter Bergen – a US security expert on drones, militancy and Af-Pak relations – recently revealed that the United States may have finally ended its drone programme in FATA, Pakistan. At least, this is how the media in Pakistan showed its surprise. But Bergen was careful in his words and thus indicated towards a hold in these strikes and how it could, eventually, lead towards a total halt. Bergen, an author and a journalist who also heads the International Security Programme at the New America Foundation, has for long been tracking and reporting on the US drone strikes. Thus, with his experience and background, his revelation could not ...

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