Having successfully cleared the Tirah valley and its adjoining areas of the anti-state militants the military has lobbed the ball into the civilians’ court to do their part.
The military is expected to do only this much; how to preserve the military gains it is now up to the civilian authorities. It was probably the hardest fought campaign, carried out since March this year as the Operation Khyber-2, as it cost the forces disproportionately more in terms of casualties.
The major challenge is revival of civil administration and law enforcement apparatus to take control of security once the soldiers are gone.
The ground under their feet was mined meter by meter as militants stood the ground to fight back. And this was not new to the place with its peculiar history – the Tirahis had successfully resisted the army of Mughal emperor Jahangir and they also defied the British Empire by refusing to surrender the abductor of Miss Ellis, Ajab Khan Afridi.
But the latest contest of power in rugged, mountainous Tirah valley was not between the locals and the Pakistan military; it was between the armed forces and a mixture of foreigners of the Al-Qaeda brand and those driven out of Swat by an earlier military operation.
The ground and air operation in Tirah was all the more challenging also because the otherwise rival militant leaders had joined hands to take what they perceived as their last chance to stand up to the government forces and fight back.
Some of them like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had fled military operation in North Waziristan and reached the safe haven of Tirah, while others like the Jamaatul Ahrar had come to share the burden of depleting strength of Mangal Bagh’s Lashker-e-Islam.
But they lost – by the end of Khyber-2 the military has taken control of all three important mountain passes that connect Afghanistan with the Tirah valley – Mazatal, Kando Gharibi and Dramudrad. The toughest fight was for the control of the Kidney Ridge where military lost about a dozen men including a major. Two small pockets that remain to be cleared, Kachkol and Rajgal, are being now subjected to precision targeting.
What to do now that the Tirah valley and its adjoining areas stand have been cleared of the militants, the work is already cut out for the civilian administration. And for this the civilians have to get engaged as promptly as possible – to avert repetition of what happened in the Swat valley after it was cleared of militancy by the forces but the civilian administration had failed to take over leaving the door wide open for the return of blood-smelling terrorists like Mulla Fazluallah.
The major challenge is revival of civil administration and law enforcement apparatus to take control of security once the soldiers are gone. If the local administration needs extra hands the federal government should respond obligingly. Then comes the revival of normal pace of life – the schools should reopen, hospitals should have doctors and medicines and supply routes for daily needs of people should be secured and made safe.
At the same time rehabilitation of displaced persons who fled the conflict should be taken in hand; their return would definitely contribute to efforts aimed at restoring normality in this strife-torn region.
The local demand for a tehsil office in order to spare the people time and cost of going to other places should get a serious consideration. All in all, it is important that government puts up a palpable presence in major population centres of Tirah region, which was not the case before the militants moved in to fill that space.
And as soon as immediate basic needs of the local population are catered to a long-term view should be taken to mainstream the people to break out of their terrain-imposed isolation and stultified cultural and traditional norms. There is absolutely no moral or ethical justification to discriminate the people of Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) by denying basic rights and privileges which are available to others under the country’s constitution.
Yes, the people in there have their strong cultural moors, but that is no reason they should not have normal laws and penal codes that are in vogue in the country. Everything looks so much impossible until it is done, said Nelson Mandela.
Source: Business Recorder