Oppression of FATA Women in the name of Cultural relativity.

The question of FATA administrative future has been in Pakistan media, discussion and debate particularly post Pakistan military operation Zarb Azab in North Waziristan. The current debate has been oscillating between the abolition of FCR (1901) operating and functioning in the federally administrated tribal area of Pakistan, to its complete mainstreaming, reforms or granting it the status of provincially administrated tribal area (PATA).
FATA is the most impoverished region of Pakistan where the majority of the population lives in rural areas. According to the official record, FATA total population is 3.17 million, in which female population is 1.5 million, almost making women half of the population in FATA.The literacy rate is 17 percent against the national average of 40 percent while female literacy is less than 3 percent. Finally, we hear about these figures and extreme impoverishment of militancy infested FATA in Pakistan more frequently now,​ and how the time is ripe after more than 68 years to do away with its special constitutional status.

The debate of mainstreaming or bringing about Reforms in FATA, one comes across all sorts of opinion and suggestion. However for a longer period of time, the cultural relativists have dominated and advocated the so-called independent status of Tribal areas, the continuation of tribal Jirga ( council of elders) retaining its Riwaj Dastoor (local tradition and culture), Political agent office and FCR as administrative mechanism best suited to the needs of the area. However, they want to amend controversial articles of the existing law,w​hile keeping the existing state of affairs intact because they don’t want the culture and traditions of the tribal people damaged through outside enforced reforms. The normally beautiful expression used by such group that FATA status should be decided according to the will and aspiration of people living in the area. However the will and aspiration most conveniently skip half of the population, women in this lofty debate. A society’s deeply embedded cultural configuration which does not accept the basic right of her education, right to divorce, marriage and most importantly her right to property.
This debate has made women worst causality of the state along with social and personal oppression.
. She is oppressed by the state where FCR like oppressive colonial laws operate and has no space for her. Only one section (30) dealing with women regarding adultery, although it is unknown why this section was added. Section 30 of FCR states that a woman (married) involved in a physical relationship would be fined and imprisoned up to five years on the complaint of her husband. Her fate has been left to be decided by a mechanism of Jirga or council of elder however she has no such representation in the setup. . There are no other tribunals available to women issues, the only available one is FCR, which also lacks clarity and Jirga that support and strengthen men’s centric decisions only.
Her Personal oppression because of the prevailing patriarchal culture, norms and selectively religiously incited edicts used against her
According to all the cultural relativists Culture, traditions are the sole source of the validity of a moral right or rule to subjugate or guide FATA women existence. Cultural relativists hold that tribal traditions are exempt from legitimate criticism by outsiders, a concept that is strongly supported by notions of communal autonomy and self-determination. The concept of independent and free tribesmen’s of FATA till date advocate their cultural superiority and not to temper with their tradition particularly when it comes to women in FATA. Most of the advocate would proclaim while the mainstream Pakistan offer fundamental human rights and rule of law like courts, their actual practice throws that commitment into question. So we are better off under a system which is just and speedy like Jirga (however they tend to forget that it’s not a just system since half of the population are kept out of it or have no representation in it. Women are not represented in the jury or justice system in the tribal area
To both the state and personal oppression I have my own complicated relations with, and I know when one aspect open an opportunity for women in FATA another one can easily override and cancel it. And I​ will read remarks on this article as NGO sponsored article written by someone propagating​ western agenda. The abrogation of the old colonial system makes some of the cultural relativist very nervous in FATA, and they fear that by streamlining the system our personal issues would be made political and public. How can we tolerate our women going to courts asking for a divorce one advocate says!. Most of them see inequality of sexes and defends it as divinely ordained. . Islam which appears in the form of local cultural practices justified in religious terms, the cultural practices authenticity is rarely looked at or explained. The tribal society entrenched in culture traditional laws usually overrides Islamic laws, which are only used only selectively or adapted in accordance with cultural traditions.
Govt sponsored laws like FCR and political agent office claims the monopoly on the threat of violence or use of violence, but state claim on violence in FATA is illegitimate since it uses oppressive and unjust laws. The enforcement of laws in FATA is the case of oppressive state-sponsored violence. The women of FATA invisibility and oppression are made stable and accepted by the administrative unit operating in FATA.
Cultural or religious reasons along with patriarchal ideology dominate the region. FATA women face extra obstacles that prevent them even from struggling against their own oppression. Even the current debate which has caught on in Pakistan media about mainstreaming FATA has no aspect of inserting gender into the social transformation of the tribal set up. The Pakistan Govt formed committee to look at the reforms in FATA has no female representation. It seems the govt is not looking at the reforms mainstreaming from gender balanced approach and treating women as the invisible entity in FATA.


Are Pashtun a Tribe ?Tracing the meanings of the usage “Pashtun tribe by Shpoon Sial


Let me first discuss the colonial definition of tribal society which has mostly negative connotations. I will discuss the original definition in another post.
The colonial writers have defined tribal as follows.
1. Tribal society is “pre-literate”, which means that tribal societies are oral and they have not yet produced a written script and written literature.
2. Tribal society is at a lower evolutionary stage. that is they have evolved from “bands” into “tribes” but they have yet to evolve into “chiefdom” and then finally into the “state.”
3. Tribal societies have primitive mode of production. which means they are “pre-industrial”. that they do not produce or consume anything sophisticated. they only produce basic foods and basic tools to survive. there are no factories or any sophisticated production.
4. Tribal societies are “lawless” and “unstable.”
If points discussed above are the definition of tribal society then Pashtuns are not and have not been a tribal society for centuries.
Rebuttal to the colonial definition of “tribe/tribal.”
In the last post, I enumerated four features of colonial definition of tribe which I gleaned from various sources. So it does not mean that colonial scholars believed that in order to be a tribe all the definitions need to be fulfilled. But they must have some of the features outlined in the previous post.
My rebuttal to colonial definition:
1. So they say that tribes are “pre-literate”. well, we all know well that we have a Pashto language script for centuries and we have Pashtun authors that go way back in history. So Pashtuns cannot be defined as “pre-literate.”
2. They said that tribal society is at the lower stage and has to go through several stages in order to finally emerge as a state. Well, this is a stupid argument, to be frank. In philosophy, it is called “teleology” that is time moves toward a goal, in this case towards the state.
3. They said tribal societies are “pre-industrial” and have “primitive” mode of production. If that had been true then Pashtuns would have been eating Onion with bread and making only hunting tools. as pointed out by Akber S. Ahmed, go see the arms factories making sophisticated weapon in Darra Adam Kheil. no primitive mode of production can do that.
4. Colonial writers said tribal societies are “lawless”. My head explodes with anger when people say that. How come tribal societies are lawless. Pashtunwali and institutions like Jirga function as laws in tribal areas. if they had been lawless then as Hobbs said life would have been “nasty, brutish, and short” it was never like that. It is now thanks to our state policies, but this is not because of the internal mechanism of Pashtun tribal society.
I want to explain what we mean when we say Pashtuns are a tribe. Following are the defining features of Pashtun tribe.
1. tribes are kinship based group. which means that all Pashtuns consider themselves descendant of a common ancestor. For instance tracing back Pashtuns to Qais/Abdur Rashid or even way back to King Saul (yes, the same King Saul mentioned in the Bible and the Quran). Syeds are therefore not considered Pashtuns because they consider themselves direct descendants of the prophet
You can oppose “tribe” to “Ummah” which is not kinship based but is religious based or nation which is mostly defined territorially.
2. The kinship is patrilineal which means your father must be Pashtun. not necessary for all tribes but for Pashtuns it is.
3. Pashtuns are tribal because it is acephalous society which means that there is no chief or ruler. the society is organized and mediated by cultural institutions such as Jirga and so on. (Malik and Khan were the product of colonial interference. khans worked for the colonial government and were despised by ordinary tribal Pashtuns. Traditionally there was no khan, at least in the sense that we now have. Pashtuns who live under the state control such as in the so-called “settled areas” are strictly speaking not tribal because they live under the centralized authority of the state.
4. Tribal society has patron-client relationship. which means that Pashtuns do not accept a dominated position especially in their mode of production? They value independence and autonomy and control at least of their own household. that is why Pashtuns did not use to do business (especially, cloth merchants, or dukandari, which was left to Hindus and then to non-Pashtuns) because that would automatically put you in a client position, that is you persuade, cajole others to buy your stuff . Another example is Mulla, he is not considered Pashtun because he is a client rather than a patron that is he provides services rather than receiving services. He prays at funerals, leads prayers and so on. All of which are services, similarly, carpenter, weaver, cook, musician, all are considered non-Pashtuns because they serve others that provide services.

written by shpoon Sial


FATA has once again failed to gather the sympathy of Pakistan on its appalling state of affairs .The present government initiative of holding talks with TTP to bring peace to urban Pakistan has nothing in store for 7 million tribal people inside and outside Pakistan. The government prerogatives regarding FATA and its people seem to be stuck in the time frame of 1901, and in the meantime offering only piecemeal solutions to the area. The backwater of Pakistan has only been offered erratic solutions from 1996 to 2011 without seriously analyzing the root cause of the problems.

Pakistan continued with those laws and policies by keeping FATA under a special semi-autonomous status. The first democratic government of new Pakistan (after the Bangladesh separation) led by the PPP failed to streamline FATA under the 1973 constitution. Although Article 1 of the Constitution clearly states the tribal areas to be part of the country, the same constitution under article 247(7) bars the Pakistan parliament from making any legislation regarding the area, negating its own spirit. Moreover, Pakistan’s judicial system does not apply to an ‘integral’ part of Pakistan.

Inclusion in the political process:

The reforms of 1997, which extended the adult franchise to the tribal belt could have developed into something more substantial but they did not. In 2011, after a gap of fourteen years, another set of reforms introduced the political party act, a bit too late and with too little to offer. We saw the outcome of these reforms in the elections of 2013 without any substantial changes to the status quo as most liberal political parties failed to carry out their political campaign, since the belt is literally under the thrall of militancy, fear and insecurity. The irony is now that FATA elected representatives although they draw all the benefits of being the part of the legislature, are unable to legislate for their own respective constituency, nor can they be held accountable to their voters. All this makes a mockery of the whole exercise.

An important milestone in the democratic and parliamentary history of Pakistan took place with the passage of the 18th amendment to the Constitution, which gave greater provincial autonomy to the provinces — but nothing was mentioned for the tribal belt. FATA representatives voted for this historic amendment. However, they completely missed out this opportunity to bring change for their own people. Likewise, the local bodies’ election seems a distinct reality too under the 2011 reforms.

Legal reforms:

Societies function only if ordinary people are able to exercise their right to justice. This process is more crucial for people who are deeply impoverished or belong to marginalized communities.

The judicial tribunal which was established initially under the 1997 reforms to dispense justice to the local people and check transgressions committed by the political agent was further amended and supposedly strengthened or made functional by the 2011 reforms. But both of these reforms were deeply flawed as far as the judicial system was concerned. They failed to create an independent tribunal as it is headed by one retired bureaucrat sitting on its panel of three. Appointment of retired bureaucrats as members with no legal and/or judicial background is against the principle of independence and competence of the judiciary and contradicts dispensing justice to the people. A total of 156 members was recommended for the tribunal. However due to financial constraints and other administrative issues, currently there are only about 39 people working in the tribunal. Of these, only three are regular employees while the others are working on a temporary/contractual basis supported by different entities such as the FATA Secretariat and other donors. Even the tribunal is being run under the aegis of an international NGO that has not only rented the building, but is also paying the salaries. No funds are specified for the tribunal by the government.

The people of FATA now have access to either the justice of one bureaucrat sitting in their agency as the political agent or another one sitting in the FATA tribunal in Peshawar. Not much of choice from the whim of one bureaucrat to another! Another important feature of the reforms was by giving exemption to the elderly and children from arrest under the FCR collective responsibility clause, however it is still happening as per my knowledge. The political agent with his wide discretionary powers from executive to legal and economic, supported by the FCR, is a central figure to the whole administration. He can still carry out the collective responsibility clause with impunity. The current scenario lacks awareness among the people and along with the psyche not to challenge his authority.


Militancy has made even these minor reforms irrelevant to the lives of the people. In 2006 the Pakistani government in collaboration with U.S. and other international organisations initiated a sustainable development program to enhance the socio-economic condition of the tribal regions, and for this purpose around US$2.5 billion were pledged with an aim to improve the literacy rate of FATA from 17% to 30-40% by 2015. All these economic developmental programmes have become irrelevant and redundant. Only a certain quarter of the bureaucracy is getting benefits from it with no concept of accountability.

The successive government in Pakistan has failed to mainstream FATA owing to a number of well- entrenched myths and narratives. These cliched narratives often circulate through our mainstream media. Intellectuals acting as establishment proxies, in particular, popularize such myths. Fact of the matter is, one of the biggest beneficiary of FATA’s vague constitutional status has been the powerful military establishment. The jihad industry, created 1948 onward s, has largely been anchored by FATA. The military establishment has successfully blocked successfully any initiative, particularly by the PPP government, to introduce radical reforms. Maliks, in the pay of establishment, often toe the ‘official’ line.

Establishing FATA people’s fundamental rights as citizens of Pakistan lies not in piecemeal solutions introduced to date but in comprehensive reforms. This has become even more important once peace is established in the area and the writ of the state is established. The first step for such reforms would be that the president of Pakistan should pass a simple order (for which provision already exists in the constitution) by striking down article 247 and establishing the supremacy of parliament the way it is in the rest of the country. By creating an egalitarian society based upon the principle of modern democratic institutions with the extension of the Pakistan higher court to the area. Those advocating CONTINUATION of the old set up and its merits for tribal society, should try advocating the same system for the rest of Pakistan with all its merits if that’s such an ideal system. Laws, institutions, and customs, no matter how well they are arranged must be abolished if they are unjust.

Pip in Great Expectations [by Charles Dickens] says, “There is nothing so finely perceived or finely felt as injustice”. A common man living in FATA would tell you about the ordeal he or she has to go through to get even simplest legal certification done in the area. A visit to our national institution (National bank or NADRA etc.) can be a humiliating experience for many tribals, for the want of credible evidence. Arbitrary arrest of elders is still a common occurrence in the area. And this is just without considering the hardship they suffer from raging militancy.

When will this all end? I’m not sure.

first published in viewpointonline Thursday, 22 May 2014


If we choose to believe our media, the shock which Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) initially delivered to the state of Pakistan and its people since it first struck in 2007, targeting the urban cities, has evaporated. The narrative moved swiftly from rage and anger to the point of calling the Taliban an ‘anti-imperialist’ power and issuing a call for ‘decolonisation’. This discourse is blended with and explained by tribal people’s nature, norms and propensity.

An example of this being PUKHTUNWALI, a code practised in the Pashtun area supporting violence along with their AZAD QABAIL Status (the area was never under occupation and the people are free to follow their own traditions and customs).

One such article appeared March 2, 2014, in The News on Sunday (TNS). This article entitled, ‘Pakhtun ethos for Ghamidi’ suggests that ‘Taliban, too, ostensibly are fighting for decolonisation not only from America but more so from the Pakistani state, which they deem un-Islamic, therefore condemnable’. The writer follows by saying, ‘Taliban in contra-distinction to Foucault, to some extent, fit in well with Franz Fanon’s ideas in which he considers violence as a necessary and inevitable tool for decolonisation’.

Now let’s look at the terms anti-imperialism and decolonisation in light of the TTP intellectual framework, its goals and objectives. What sort of anti-imperialist and decolonisation agenda are they pursuing?

Anti-imperialism can be roughly defined as a movement in which all efforts are made to destroy imperialism as a system where the oppressor subjugates the indigenous population, their resources, labour, capital and uses instruments of domination like arms and a well-equipped army to keep the people oppressed and obedient. Decolonisation was a movement based in calls and demands for independence on the part of the colonies of the imperialist powers.

The TTP ostensibly was formed in 2007 in reaction to the American occupation of Afghanistan and the Pakistan army operation against the Taliban in FATA. FATA, as a special status of political, social and economic isolation, provided the perfect sanctuary to Taliban who, along with remnants of Pakistani jihadist organizations present in the area, were fleeing Afghanistan after the American occupation. From the start the Taliban agenda, if they had an agenda, has been to provide support to the Afghan Taliban against NATO forces, jihad against the Pakistan army’s ‘occupation’, demand a withdrawal of the Pakistan army from tribal areas, abolish all army check posts in FATA and ultimately to implement Sharia Law not only in FATA but throughout Pakistan.

With their strict Deobandi version of Islam and a ‘decolonisation’ agenda, which some of our right-wing intellectual commentators attribute to them, the TTP themselves acknowledge the presence and influence of Arab funds and Arab fighters as well as a drawing of ideological strength from Islam as practised by a monarchy like the house of Saud.

To date, there is no discussion of the cultural realm in the TTP debate on Sharia. Their demands for Sharia show no concern for the religious minorities, sects or social classes or what this might imply under their version of Sharia. Based on their actions it seems the only philosophy they believe in is that of violence and militancy. That may be because they are trained by the jihadi fighters of 1979 and no leaders at present have any substantial Islamic education or training. This is apparent in the Shia-killings in Kurram Agency, the targeting of Christians in the Peshawar church blast, as well as their recent statement regarding Kailash and Ismaili communities in Chitral and the rest of Pakistan. How does the targeting of religious minorities achieve ‘anti-imperialist’ or ‘anti-colonial’ objectives?

Another prerequisite which the TTP as a national decolonizing movement lacks is the crucial support of the ordinary people of the area. According to some estimates, since 2009, more than 2.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes in areas under their domination/occupation. These are mainly people from Bajaur, Mohmand, South Waziristan, Khyber and Kurram agencies in FATA and the Swat Valley. While many internally displaced people (IDPs) from Swat and areas rescued from the Taliban have returned, significant numbers still remain as IDPS. One internally displaced person spoke to Al Jazeera TV in these words ‘we fled our homes because of [the Taliban] – there is no point in sending us back to them’. This must be a very strange version of ‘anti-colonialism’ whereby ‘liberated’ people prefer escape the decolonised spaces. Ironically, the theoretician behind the theory of Taliban-as-anti-colonial-force himself works at Cambridge University.

The withdrawal of American forces in December 2014 should now see the end of TTP ‘anti-imperialist’ policy since it will be an all Afghan affair in the coming months. If opposition to the presence of the Pakistan army in the tribal area is one of their goals and if under this context people are attributing their rise as ‘anti-colonial’ power, then probably some fact checking is required in this regard. Tribal areas were always effectively under government control with Frontier Corps border forces operating in these areas since 1907 with more than 21 forts under their control. The interesting detail which most of us choose to ignore is that this border force ensuring the territorial integrity of Pakistani state is mostly manned and recruited from the tribal and Pashtun belt.

Furthermore, the TTP has made no demands of abolition of this set up under the Frontier Crime Regulation, 1901 – a crude instrument of historic British imperialist power. Perhaps they want the FCR and its oppression to continue because it suits their needs, and to get the requisite right-wing support without talking about poverty, deprivation in FATA or other unresolved issues since 1947.

Their philosophy seems to stem from slavery, forced recruitments in the tribal areas, violence and savagery. In fact they are the coloniser who has played havoc with the system operating in tribal areas, by targeting the Jirga, a local population, with throat slitting, occupying their land, targeting the locals Aman Lashkar and holding them hostage in a situation not of the majority’s doing.

No matter how much Frantz Fanon is quoted by the Cambridge professor, or others justifying TTP’s violence as having a therapeutic effect on the colonised. The fact remains that their wanton violence has terrorised the very people they wish to represent and made them hate these so-called ‘anti-imperialists’. I would rather put TTP in the bracket of colonisers by referring to Aimé Césaire here, ‘societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined (Jirga system), lands confiscated, religions smashed (they pursue a violent ideology in the name of Islam), magnificent artistic creations destroyed (artist killed or banished), extraordinary possibilities wiped out (schools destroyed and girls education banned)’.



It was fascinating and disappointing at the same time to see Mr Ghamidi a religious scholar of his calibre trying to answer a political question in his show on Samaa Pakistan TV channel. Mr Ghamidi tried to explain Taliban beheading of 23 Frontier corp soldiers  in the view of tribal culture and its people as primitive and savages, where a 7 years old boy will have no hesitation of beheading another human being .

Mr Ghamidi tried in his show to explain tribal societies which according to him all over the world are violence prone barbaric, hence throat cutting or beheading is a  part of the violence rituals practised by these  tribal humanoids.

He also condemned the Pakistan Govt for keeping Pakistan   tribal areas in political, social isolation resulting in society where violence is synonymous with tribal pukhtun culture and is a norm.

Mr Ghamidi well intentioned explanation of pukhtun tribal culture although goes all politically wrong. And this is I guess  what happen if a religious leader is asked to explain a political phenomena with half-baked truth dished out to progressive Muslim all over Pakistan. Or maybe it was an attempt to deflect the blame from the source which lies somewhere in the heart of Pakistan.

Mr Ghamidi completely forgot in his  analysis while  responding to one question by the anchor of the show  and  that was “ how can people behead and kill each other in such manner”  Mr Ghamidi justified it that this is part of the tribal culture  and has been happening in all  primitive societies , but nobody conveniently  remembers on the show  the fact that those FC beheaded soldiers who were fighting for the state sovereignty against those very same  forces , were also from the same tribal culture which Mr Ghamidi justifies and condemns in the same tone.

The ‘Frontier Corps (FC) are a Federal paramilitary force manned mostly by people from the tribal areas, lest we forget  the same area which Mr  Ghamidi and the callers equated with violence and beheading .

Jirga which compromises a major component of tribal justice system, does it condone beheading or prescribe it as form of punishment for any criminal offender?  No it does not.  At least I have not come across it. I would happily hear from anyone who has seen beheading as official practise of the tribal society. Hundreds of tribal elders were also brutally killed and humiliated in Waziristan, Bajaur, Orakzai and Mohmand agencies, the elders with white beards (speen geeray) were the revered and respected part of the tribal society. . ? Mosques funeral schools ,children women none were spared . Was this a part of tribal culture too?

A caller in the programme calls the whole society of tribal as mercenaries and paid killers who has been doing killing for years. I think the people sitting and shaping this narrative completely forgo the details, that there are at least 3 million people sitting displaced from their homes as IDPs. People who do not wish to be part of that violence, people who are tired of gunpowder, killings and want to have security of lives for themselves and their families. Mr Ghamidi and the anchor did not take the trouble to talk or dissuade the caller that the whole population and society cannot be in one breath declared as mercenaries.

When the whole society and area was being militarised under the guise of Islamic jihad of 1979, then no voices were heard by calling people from FATA as mercenaries, rather at that time, they were called Nobel savages ready to fight Pakistan and Americanised jihad in Afghanistan .Qabil brothers and children provided or had no choice but to provide human fodder to the jihad on which whole of Pakistan thumped its chest   and happily lead the Muslim ulema.  An analysis of the economic indicators of tribal areas places them in the fourth world. FATA which comprises of seven political agencies along with FR areas   remains Pakistan   poorest region, with 3.1 million population which according to unofficial estimate has reached over seven million. Nearly 66 % of the population lives below the poverty line.  How did Afghan jihad mercenaries benefited from being the Nobel jihadi. Maybe by letting state establish 1000 debandi madrasah’s which preached jihad and they continued to play the role of jihadi for the state and establishment.

How do one justify the urban violence in Karachi Pakistan’s largest city, which generates around 70 per cent of national GDP and has been declared the mega violent city in the world according to one major US publication, citing a murder rate of 12.3 per 100,000 residents 25 per cent higher than any other major cities in the world?  If violence and beheading is tribal society phenomena then Karachi experienced its deadliest year on record in 2013, with 2,700 casualties, mostly in targeted attacks and we also heard the concept of body bags, which possibly resulted in 40per cent of businesses fleeing the city to avoid growing extortion rackets. However all provincial capitals as well as the national capital suffer from similar problems and threats. So is violence only centric to tribal pukhtun culture?   Or  are we ready to condemn and berate the culture of people residing in one of the biggest metropolitan city of Pakistan too.

Taliban which is primarily now only equated with pukhtun and tribal ethnicity, but it is the Punjabi Taliban which drives extremism in the rest of Pakistan and has its strong roots in Punjab. There are approximately 150,000 insurgents belonging to jihadi and fundamentalists organisation active in Punjab province, carrying out their activities in the rest of Pakistan.   Quetta Peshawar, Karachi is a major target of violent sectarian groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has its home base in Punjab .The Sunni extremist and southern Punjab-based Lashkar-Jhangvi (LeJ), which was instrumental in the TTP’s formation (now equated with pukhtun and tribal only), continues to be a major player in sectarian violence and minority persecution all over the country.However we chose not to talk about that aspect of violence ,where Ahmadi graves are dug up and Shia are shot on point blank in the civilised cities of Pakistan .

Pakistan army operation in tribal belt  previous and current acknowledges the presence of foreign militant like Uzbek, Chechen and mostly Arab  since more than 15,000 Arabs, Uzbek and Chechen were repatriated to and settled in FATA to fight holy war against the Soviets. So can we assume safely  that instead of being a pukhtun tribal culture, beheading is more of Arab culture and part of their pre Islam and post Islam war ethos? Wasn’t Imam Hussein (ra) head carried on an arch and paraded in the city of Kufa?



As Pakistan is about to define the parameters of talks with Taliban, certain questions and concerns are missing from our media, particularly analysing the current debates on electronic and print media.  The question of Women plight in federally administered tribal areas (FATA) has so far eluded the discourse on our mainstream media.

During the past decade, FATA was reported only in the context of drone attacks, martyrs vs non-martyrs, US War or our own war, military operations and the subsequent displacement of large number of IDPs. The human side of this war especially its gender aspect remained least discussed in our media.

The miseries of women in FATA due to mass migration, internal displacement, Rape abuses, and killings in this war on terror received little attention or sympathy. No help is available to women who were widowed, sexually abused, and their children orphaned during this war on terror. Women and children in camps and different villages are traumatized, but due to conservative cultural norms and traditions, they can’t seek help or counselling. According to a recent study a great majority (71% of respondents in IDPS camps), believe that they have suffered depression, anxiety and other psychological issues particularly among women and children. Women are less likely to share their burden and have learnt to dull their feelings with silence.

The already existing vacuum created by article 247-b of Pakistan’s constitution, which put FATA outside the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s Supreme Court and parliament, has further isolated   the region due to the ongoing militancy.  The vacuum was filled with traditions, local customs, tribal Jirga’s, and FCR ( frontier crimes regulations) further widened when Taliban entered the area, exploiting the situation and have now made this administrative system ineffective.   Their stern dogmatic views have made Women right to education, vote and free movement as the main casualty in the current situation.

With estimated seven million population of FATA women   constitute up to 60% of the work force in the agricultural sector, mainly to earn their sustenance and support their families.  With the Taliban take over many were restricted to stay indoors. The loss of work force pushed some of the families, especially those families who has no male breadwinner into extreme poverty.

Taliban foremost ideological agenda seemed to be annihilation of educational Institutions across FATA.  Girls were banned to attend schools coupled with bombings of girl’s schools in FATA by Taliban.  There are news reports that the remaining schools were taken by Army as base camps. According to official data of Fata Secretariat, 450 schools in FATA has been bombed in recent years. With less than 3% literacy rate among FATA women, and the destruction of infrastructure, and forcefully stopping girls from going to school has further effected the lives of the women in one of the poorest region in the world.

Along with education sector bombing of schools by Taliban, health sector has had major setback by targeting polio workers in the region.  The already non-existent health infrastructure in FATA further deteriorated due to the ongoing militancy. FATA has 41 hospitals for its estimated seven million populations. There is one bed in hospitals for every 2327 people as compared to 1450 in the rest of Pakistan. For a population of 8189, only one doctor is available and a mere 43% people have access to safe drinking water. Taliban banned women stepping out of the house without a mehram. With restricted mobility, women and children cannot visit health clinics thus affecting their health and wellbeing.

The recent developments of talks offer to Taliban by the state of Pakistan and subsequent demand of Taliban of imposing shariat ignores the women question, in fact the lives of people in FATA altogether . Does this mean that the impending imposition of official shariat will replace the old system operating in FATA? Will imposition of shariat with state blessing acknowledge the basic rights of women? Will women right to education, health, and free movement be ensured?

The implementation of shariat by Taliban even in its very strict sense ideally should not have affected the education, health and work rights of these women.  But unfortunately with their myopic understanding of  shariat girls were forced to stay indoors, schools were closed and their mobility was restricted in the Taliban controlled areas in FATA.  It is very much clear that Taliban are averse to women role even limited one, like women in FATA has outside their homes. This is their policy agenda of shariat regarding women.

Taliban rule in FATA has created a system that runs parallel to the one already operating (somehow dysfunctional though) making it more oppressive and subjugating for women of the region. During Taliban shariat rule in Afghanistan many women died of minor alignment because of their restricted mobility, only allowed to travel with mehram and restriction that women would be seen only by female doctors.

Pakistani Taliban shariat version, which is more tribal and customary in nature rather than Islamic. Taliban in Pakistan have given the same edicts which were given by Taliban in Afghanistan regarding women, making it one of the most misogynists’ regimes in the world.  Taliban has achieved its aim of becoming non-state national actor  ( offering talks)  by showing its concern about the constitution ,and the future political agenda it wants to set but we know that these concern will only be entertained by Pakistan in areas which doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of the  constitution like FATA. However with state approval this tyranny will become official.

All these basic concerns of women in FATA who are already burqa-clad has restricted mobility, and suppressed in the name of Patriarchy however should be addressed if we want to talk about durable solutions in the region. Women become the Worst victims of war – and the biggest stakeholders of peace. How do our country expect a ‘return’ to peace (and we need to question the composition of such a peace where women who are already a part of marginalised system (FCR, JIRGA, DASTOOR, RIWAJ) will be further persecuted with state blessings and tribal selective shariat. The precedence of Taliban rule and their treatment of women are just next door to us and is not a very healthy one. Ignoring the women question and their stakes in the possible imposition of Taliban version of shariat in FATA, in our dialogue with them is a criminal neglect, and on which our liberals are quiet since achieving peace is somewhat desperate priority by the state of Pakistan. However achieving peace by ignoring half of population will be a farce.

REFERENCES http://www.sangatsouthasia.org/pakistan-conflict-ridden-region-federally-administered-tribal-areas-noreen-naseer.html#.Uu1DsPl_uSo

2. http://www.fatareforms.org/study-launched-idp-challenges-way-forw

within the group where it intends to change nature of influence from military to political and also to

be a national non-state actorard/

3. http://www.acted.org/en/pakistan-jalozai-camp-emergency-situation-camp-idps

From Nobel Jihadi savages to Terrorists part 2








The transformation of people of FATA from Noble jihadi to terrorists for Pakistan did not take long.?  FATA was mostly left to its own devices, used and discarded whenever needed.

The utility of FATA and its people for Pakistan state can be traced back to Kashmir jihad of 1948, when the slogan of Islam was used by the state. . From providing human fodder to drugs factories, Jihadi madrasa all were produced, operated and executed with the blessing of Pakistan state. Afghan jihad was the seal of authority which stamped FATA and its people as Noble Jihadi for Pakistan.  . When  the  time span of jihad as military option  in Afghanistan  expired with the disintegration of soviet union , the exalted  status of FATA was lost on our state, however  it continued to keep FATA under laws introduced by British 1901,basically as part of Pakistan but isolated politically ,socially and economically .

The break from romance of Noble jihadi savages to Terrorists came when 9/11 happened. American war against AL Qaeda and its consequences for Pakistan in result of suicide bombing in settled areas and ultimate operations of Pakistan army. The jihad theatre constructed by the state in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which preached jihad against infidels came back to bite its mentor .Pakistan Military has launched twelve major operations since 2002 against Taliban, Al-Qaida and minor operations trying to cleanse FATA from the bad jihadi   and or give back FATA exalted status of producing  and more importantly hosting for decades now only the noble jihadi or the good Taliban ,to be used by the state post America withdrawal from Afghanistan.  

 One such operation or reprisal (not sure which word would be correct) took place in December 18 2013 when a suicide bomb attacked an Army checkpoint in North Waziristan, a stronghold of Haqqani group and TTP, and another recent   reprisal on Tuesday 21 took place in same place Mir ali and Miranshah after a bomb exploded in Royal artillery BAZAR Rawalpindi killing soldiers, and a wave of attacks on security apparatus by the militants.

 Army threshold of tolerating the strategic assets went low with the series of attacks particularly in Rawalpindi bazar and they are effectively conveying to the militants by these reprisals, that beyond FATA they are not game.

More than 70 civilian lost life in the December operation  and another 40 civilians in Tuesday air force strike  , although our army spokesman denied the civilian casualty on both c counts and claimed to have killed terrorists (now) and mostly foreigner like Uzbek and Chechens in the December operation. The drone supporter although kept quiet   .  The liberals of our media cheered both the times these operation, mostly citing the reasons that Taliban were not ready for peace talks and hitting the nerves of the state and declared the civilian casualty of women and children as collateral damage.

While the military denied in December operation that it’s was prelude to a bigger military operation “This is not, and I repeat, not the beginning of a larger military operation in North Waziristan,” said Major General Bajwa of the ISPR.

 The military sympathetic journalists with better access to military mind-set described the December operation as  it breaking of the code by the villagers, citing one article published in response to December operation  here the writer  says this is what happens when you break the code.

 The agreement with [Taliban commander] Gul Bahadur has been standing since 2006. It clearly stipulates upon the locals that either they take care of the foreigners, or we do. That’s why it’s reasonable for army to deploy just one division [with roughly 10,000 men] in an area where there are over 20,000 hardened fighters (Haqqani network and foreign fighters)…because there’s a code.”

 Under the” COLLECTIIVE RESPONSIBILITY” rule  of FCR 1901 (FRONTIER CRIME REGULATIONS), not only those harbouring the terrorists who dared to attack the security apparatus   but the whole village and area is responsible for the crime committed against the state, so everybody from children to women are responsible and must bear the brunt of army shelling, cobra gunship helicopters and mortars and now the aerial strikes by Pakistan air force  used for the first time after govt struck a ceasefire agreement with local Taliban chief in 2007. Now Nearly 5,000 to 6,000 families have left their homes in North Waziristan due to escalating tension on the ground. Another IDP humanitarian disaster in the making with already 3 million displaced from their homes in FATA.

If military claims that they had to take out foreigner to perform their sting operation in December then nobody dared to asked   our military” why is this area still hosting remnants of Afghan jihad? Is this why the people of these area has to contend with Drones along with Pakistan air force Ariel strikes now,

  And when these elements challenges and target the military, only than military retaliates to take them out and in the process punish the whole of population indiscriminately? In plain words Army holds the whole civilian population including women and children to take care of   jihadi remnant, foreigners of afghan jihad. Even now the feelers coming from Islamabad is that military is about to launch another operation in North Waziristan forcing the locals to flee the area in hundreds. Will Pakistan launch an operation to target the people it needs to target like Haqqani network and TTP?

If drone kill militants along with local populations than do understand the fact that not only drones but these state gone wrong proxies  and Pakistan Army are equally responsible for the murder, displacement and misery of the people of FATA.

“This hadn’t been planned before, and Pakistan air force fighter jets were called to hit hideouts of the militants involved in attacks on security forces,” said one military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.     Which state would bomb its people unplanned and try to achieve what objectives. How fighter jets could prove an effective tool of counter-insurgency operation? 

 Our military has a plan or does it just react to when it’s under attack. Or maybe they are  hoping to be push back the militants  into Afghanistan post American withdrawal and currently FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa left to The militant so they  can use it  as training ground ? .   

The liberals can cheer all the operation but it’s not these unplanned partial operation (where the likes of fazlullah of swat ending up in safe haven) which will bring peace to the rest of Pakistan if the rest of Pakistan include other than Punjab.  It might even help in the recruitment drive of the Taliban exploiting the already bruised emotions of the civilian, as we are already  seeing  video’s and pictures being circulated on social media of civilian deaths and internal displacements .

  . Once again another story regarding FATA misery which had hit headlines of Pakistan newspaper will die down.

The golden goose called FATA for Pakistan establishment, military, TTP, and other vested interest will continue to play the role which it has been playing since 1948 Kashmir jihad. We will continue to have places in our villages called sheedano danda (our martyrs burial ground). The question is for how long?