Opposing Zarb-e-Azb | Ayyaz Mallick & Hashim bin Rashid
June 23, 2014 § Leave a comment
For the sixth time in ten years, the people of the Tribal Areas are on receiving end of the unleashed fury of one of the largest militaries in the world. Just like the current operation, the preceding five operations against Taliban and assorted militants in the area had also been termed similarly “decisive” but only resulted in greater immiseration and suffering for the people of FATA and PATA, while militant leaders escaped and dispersed over an ever wider area. Meanwhile, the people of FATA have suffered for the last hundred years under policies legitimizing violent pacification and collective punishment. For the last three decades, the region has been used as training ground for the ‘jihad’ franchise run by the Pakistani security establishment in collusion with the US and Saudi Arabia. The general peripheralization of FATA and a regime based on regressive, colonial-era codes (such as the Frontier Crimes Regulation FCR) has resulted in ample space created in the region for the entrance and entrenchment of violent, fundamentalist groups such as the TTP. Moreover, the region’s instrumental treatment by the ruling classes as a “strategic backwater” and launching pad for ‘jihad’ since the 1980s, has resulted in a vast and unregulated war economy which makes the area extremely lucrative for militant groups. For the past decade or so, the people of FATA have found themselves caught between an oppressive triumvirate of violence made up by Taliban and foreign militants, the Pakistan military and American drone attacks. Through all this, their disenfranchisement has reached new levels, a trend amply demonstrated in the continuous cycle of military operations and “talks” conducted with militants without even a semblance of substantive input from the actual stakeholders (i.e. the people of FATA themselves).
As Pakistanis committed to a progressive and pro-people politics, we disavow any violence committed on the subordinate classes, including ethnic and religious minorities, by the Pakistani state, US imperialism or militants (such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan). The Pakistani state and especially the military, far from being part of the solution, are an integral part of and contributors to the problem of religious extremism and militancy. For example, in recent years, even at the cost of widespread misery for the peoples of Pakistan, there is ample evidence that the security establishment has continued to nurture at least some of these groups as proxies in areas such as Balochistan. Moreover, it is no secret that the problem of Islamist militancy in Pakistan is not limited to the TTP nor is it geographically limited to FATA or any other region. It has deep sociological roots in several urban centers (and not just within ethnicised ghettoes in these urban centers). Yet we are supposed to accept the fact that a military operation which specifically targets FATA, and only the TTP and some foreign militants, is an operation against the roots of terrorism.
The Pakistani ruling classes’ imbrications with US imperialism, the general underdevelopment bred under conditions of economic dependency (on institutions such as the IMF) and the security establishment’s nefarious use of militant groups, makes any solution to the problem of religious extremism which goes through the ruling classes, and especially the state’s coercive institutions, extremely unlikely. Furthermore, both past precedent and current analysis make it clear that not only is there no military solution to this issue, the current operation will not even have the limited effect of undermining the organizational capacity of groups like the TTP. Newspaper reports have already revealed that most militants crossed the border into neighboring regions and Afghanistan even before the operation started[i]. All that this operation is guaranteed to do is create more misery for the people of FATA and neighboring regions.
It is for the aforementioned reasons that we oppose the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan and the rest of the tribal areas, and demand its immediate and unconditional end. This is to be followed by a short and long-term program which returns power back to the people themselves not just in FATA but all over Pakistan. In this regard, our demands can be found here.
The authors are signatories of a statement demanding an end to Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan. The analysis presented here is their own and may not reflect the views of all signatories to the statement.