Pakistan is fighting terrorism for more than a decade. Over these years, a number of anti-terrorist operations have been conducted in the tribal area. The peace agreements between the militants and the government were signed to ensure peace in the region. But when religious, educational institutions, army installations, airports and residences were targeted, it became essential to weed out terrorism. The ongoing military operations in FATA are ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ in North Waziristan and ‘Khyber-I’ in Aka Khel. Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar disclosed, on February 18, 2015, that the cost of operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan may exceed US $ 1.3 billion. The Federal Minister claimed that the Government had already spent US $ 400 million on the operation and IDPs. The military operation “Zarb-e-Azb” widely supported by the locals has debased the militant networks in North Waziristan. As claimed by the military more than 90 percent of the area has been cleared of terrorists. According to ISPR, more than 2100 militants, including foreigners have been killed in the offensive. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is the prime instigator of violence in FATA. The terrorist group has been involved in attacks throughout the country. TTP was also behind the attack on a school in Peshawar, in which children were martyred.
The fighting in the tribal area has led to huge displacements. Approximately, 1.6 million people from all agencies have been rendered homeless. The roots of militancy in FATA and the conflict that now engulfs the area lie in the regional and international patronage of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Afghan civil war, Taliban uprising and the War on Terror (WoT). Three waves of refugees from Afghanistan have been witnessed during the last 30 years. Consequent to these developments, the area was infested with terrorists from across the region, posing security-related implications for Pakistan.
The military action, enrolling of FC men and civil militia (tribal lashkars) to fight along with the army against the insurgents, taking tribal elders in confidence has strengthened the government’s writ in FATA. Apart from the military operations, efforts are also being undertaken to uplift the area’s economic well-being. The Annual Development Programme (2014-2015) for FATA is Rs. 19 billion, including Rs. 1.9 billion foreign aid component. The government is working on implementation of the twenty points of the National Action Plan in an effort to counter terrorism in the country. One of these points relates to FATA. It states: “Steps would be taken for immediate return and rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons; and administrative reforms and developmental activities would be expedited in FATA”. A Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Unit (RRU) has been established in FATA Secretariat to act as one window facility for Development Partners and to plan and manage the rehabilitation and reconstruction in FATA.
Rehabilitation Assessment by RRU in Khyber, North Waziristan and South Waziristan with assistance of political administration is in progress. A ‘FATA Sustainable Return and Rehabilitation Strategy’ has been drafted by FATA Secretariat. One of the prerequisites identified in the strategy “is the return of 1.6 million displaced people from all seven tribal areas and adjoining Frontier Regions by December 2016”. So far 20,744 families have returned to Bara in Khyber Agency, South Waziristan Agency and North Waziristan Agency.
FATA is a resource rich area; copper deposits worth US $ 280 billion are in North Waziristan Agency, second largest deposits in Pakistan after Balochistan. In addition, marble stone deposits along with oil and gas reserves are also found in FATA. These resources need to be explored. Due to the military operations, terrorist outfits have been considerably marginalized. The economic initiatives undertaken will boost the socio-economic indicators of the area. These developmental endeavours will create a conducive environment for investment and progress. The locals, in particular, the youth would be educated and offered economic incentives. Meanwhile, the Pakistan-Afghanistan relations have also improved significantly since the new government took over in Afghanistan. Bilateral visits have taken place between the two sides. Afghanistan wants to bolster security and defence ties with Pakistan including cooperation in training and border management. The recent signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between ISI and Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) is an indication of both countries resolve to curb terrorism. This MoU will also serve as a bulwark against anti-Pakistan forces, which through Afghanistan have been trying to destabilize Pakistan. Thus, the simmering campaign to destabilize Pakistan and to thwart the establishment of a secure economic corridor with China will be frustrated.
Amna Ejaz Rafi,
Researcher, Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.