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Pakistan’s Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA), which include Swat and six neighbouring districts and areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK), remains volatile more than three years after military operations sought to oust Islamist extremists. Militant groups such as the Sunni extremist Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) and its Pakistani Taliban-linked Fazlullah faction are no longer as powerful in Swat and other parts of PATA as they were in 2008 and early 2009, but their leaders and foot soldiers remain at large, regularly attacking security personnel and civilians. If this once dynamic region is to stabilise, PATA’s governance, security and economic revival must become a top priority for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government in Islamabad and the Awami National Party (ANP)-led government in Peshawar – and for their successors following the next general elections.
While the militants continue to present the main physical threat, the military’s poorly conceived counter-insurgency strategies, heavy-handed methods and failure to restore responsive and accountable civilian administration and policing are proving counter-productive, aggravating public resentment and widening the gulf between PATA’s citizens and the state. Meanwhile neither the federal nor the KPK provincial government is fully addressing the security concerns of residents.
Public and political support for action against the TNSM and allied Pakistani Taliban networks in Swat and its neighbouring districts remains strong, demonstrated by the outrage against the 9 October 2012 attack by Mullah Fazlullah’s Taliban faction on Malala Yousafzai, a Swat-based fourteen-year-old activist for girls’ right to education. That attack has also further eroded public confidence in the military’s claims of having dismantled the insurgency and underscores the grave security challenges that PATA’s residents face.
The military’s continued control over the security agenda, governance and administration in PATA and the state’s failure to equip KPK’s police force with the tools and authority it needs to tackle extremist violence lie at the heart of the security and governance challenges. Some serious efforts have been made to enhance police capacity, functioning and presence on the streets, including by increasing the size of the force and the number of police stations, particularly in Swat. However, they are insufficient. The KPK police should be properly trained, equipped, and accountable. Islamabad and Peshawar, KPK’s provincial capital, need to abolish parallel law enforcement entities such as Levies, dismantle state-supported tribal lashkars (militias) and give KPK’s police the lead in enforcing the law and bringing extremists to justice.
Yet, the complexities of PATA’s legal framework still make upholding the rule of law a daunting task. Unlike the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)... || Subscribe to our email newslette