Pakistan remains its own worst enemy

Manan Ahmed in The National:

The Taliban are indeed a murderous lot, intent on disrupting and destroying civil society and cowing helpless civilians to their particularly offensive version of piety. But their success in finding a foothold and destabilising Swat relied not on any appeal to a religious cause or tribal brotherhood but on exploiting existing political and judicial imbalances in the region. Pakistan’s federally administered areas have never been integrated into the state apparatus – after 62 years, they lack basic infrastructure, any accountable civil administration, working courts or police, and have very few rights in Islamabad. The inhabitants of these regions have long experienced corrosive resource exploitation at the hands of the centre without receiving any benefit to their own communities.

The 3.5 million or more inhabitants of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, of which Waziristan is a component, only received the adult franchise in 1997 – 50 years after the creation of Pakistan. This area, with the highest poverty and lowest literacy rates in Pakistan, is still governed according to the brutal British colonial legal code: a family or even a village can be punished for the crime of a single individual, there is no protection from multiple sentences for the same offence, and most damnably, the state has no obligation to show cause for imprisonment. Most damaging is the utter lack of a judicial system that can adjudicate civil disputes – one reason for the persistent calls to impose Sharia within the region. The Pakistani state has yet to resolve these issues and, in the meantime, segments of the discontented population have resorted to armed aggression against the centre – which has taken both secular and religious forms. Decades of frustration allowed the Taliban a foothold in Swat, and the same conditions exist in Baluchistan.

So when the Taliban flee south from Waziristan into Baluchistan, they will find another populace suffering, denied their share of the national resources and embroiled in a long conflict with the state. They are likely to find sympathetic ears to their message of chaos and hate – and the military is sure to take this opportunity to move in and crush the existing secularist Baluchi nationalist movement, which has been waging a guerrilla war against the state since 2005.

More here.