Militancy in the Pakistan Belt; Perspective of a Peace Jirga

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Khalid Aziz [*]


(The radicalization of Pakistan and Afghanistan with its attendant extremist violence has destabilized both countries. The process began with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the subsequent resistance to its decade-long occupation of the country. The liberation struggle was spearheaded by the mujahideen who were trained, financed, armed and indoctrinated primarily by the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The number of madrassahs or seminaries, where the fighters were indoctrinated to relentlessly wage Jihad against the godless communists, rose alarmingly. The eschatology of martyrdom was a recurrent theme. The fundamental strategic blunder committed by Pakistan and the so-called free world was to rely excessively on Islamists instead of the traditional tribal leaders. Had the latter not been ignored, the subsequent violence which the region and the world was to witness could have been avoided. The need for reform and rectification of previous mistakes is urgent. The Pakistan-Afghanistan Peace Jirga held in August 2007 was an important, though belated, first step. Problem identification needs to be reinforced by remedial measures. This can be achieved if the two countries formulate and implement policies, in cooperation with each other, to defeat extremist violence and terrorism. Editor).

Ethnographic map of Afghanistan

District & tribal area map of Pakistan


Afghanistan and Pakistan are passing through a critical phase in their history. The Pashtun belt of Pakistan, including the tribal areas and Baluchistan and Afghanistan has been disturbed by continuous violence and fighting since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1978. Afghanistan suffered more due to the fragmentation of the state. Ironically Islamic fundamentalism was introduced and funded by the US, the Saudis, and the free world to fight communism.

This paper examines militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan from the dynamics of both the countries and suggests solutions based on discussions with the Afghans, in the context of the Peace Jirga’s Joint Declaration issued in Kabul on 12 August 2007.

Radicalization of Pakistan and Afghanistan began with the start of Jihad in 1979, when the West with the help of Wahabi ideology and Saudi charity decided to resist the Soviet occupation. However, from 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban were in power, Afghanistan and Pakistan faced rapid radicalization by the Islamists.

The fallout of this radicalization included weaponization, drugs, sectarianism and proliferation of madrassahs (seminaries); some of the latter emerged as schools for the training of Islamist revolutionaries.

According to one calculation, $66 billion worth of weapons were introduced into Afghanistan and tribal areas during the period of 1978 – 1992. The value of weapons provided to various parties during the Taliban militancy is in addition [1]

President General Zia-ul-Haq converted the Pakistani military into an Islamic force with a radicalized officer corp. The class composition of the military was also changed.[2]

General Zia-ul-Haq introduced Islamic laws and changed the political culture of Pakistan in order to create a power base with the support of the Islamist Jamat-e-Islami. The tribal area was used for training and launching of warriors for fighting the Afghan Jihad.

Pakistan’s foreign policy became an instrument of the military and was uni-directional;  it focused mostly on the Pashtuns as the foot soldiers in the Islamic war and it consequently marginalized other Afghan nationalities, who subsequently united under the Northern Alliance and became virulently anti-Pakistan after the removal of the Taliban in December 2001.

Pakistan and the free world made another serious strategic blunder by ignoring the traditional leaders on both sides of the Durand Line and created new structures headed by obscure religious personalities. Of the 23 initial eruptions of Afghan rebellion against Soviet intervention, eighteen were led by traditional elders, and only five by Islamists. The Hizb leadership led by Hikmatyar,[3] which later became the spearhead of Jihad with US and Pakistani support, preached Hijrat.[4] This clearly showed that there was no need to base the resistance on non-traditional leaders. Had the traditionalists been supported this region would have witnessed a different outcome.[5]

The role of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and the Muslim diaspora in radicalization must not be overlooked. Huge amount of money came to Pakistan, often tied with a political message, aimed at turning Pakistani and Afghan society towards the narrow definition of Wahabism with negative after-effects.

Today, there are more than a million students studying in more than 8,000 well-endowed madrassahs, many better funded than state schools.[6] The largest number of these madrassahs are in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Pakistani madrassah students receive a religious education based on Islamic jurisprudence and an Islamic way of life, as portrayed by the Wahabis. This is a puritanical version of Islam originating in Saudi Arabia and mixed with the conservative version of Islam practiced in NWFP.

A review of the curriculum of the madrassah education by the Supreme Court of Pakistan found that it did not contain any training in marketable skills, except those of a religious scholar or a Mullah.[7]

At the same time, the reduction in public sector funding of education, places Pakistan today behind India in literacy. India in its 60th year of independence has a 65 percent literacy rate, while Pakistani literacy is currently at 49 percent and falling. In Pakistan, 83 percent of adults of 15 years and above are illiterate. Amongst women the problem is worse and 65 percent are illiterate.[8] As poverty increased, the country’s poorest were forced to place their children in the madrassah system.

Institutional crisis in Pakistan

The fighting in Afghanistan, the tribal areas of Pakistan and NWFP has destroyed the institutional system of governance, resulting in increase in crime and the taking-over of the region by drug traffickers. This problem is more acute in Afghanistan. However it may be noted that during the Taliban period before the US invasion, poppy cultivation was banned through an edict as it was considered to be against the teachings of Islam. At that time the Taliban did not need funds from the narcotics trade because they were receiving Arab money through Wahabi charities. It was only after 9/11 that they reverted to poppy cultivation and the drug trade as they had no other means to acquire funds.

In Pakistan, the disintegration of the institutional structure was senselessly encouraged by the Local Government Reform Ordinance, 2001 whereby the administrative structure based on magisterial control over security was needlessly abandoned. According to some analysts, this was done to make the civilian administrative structure permanently dependent on the military!

Prior to this reform, state institutions similar to the French prefectural system managed Pakistan’s districts, which on an average have a population from a million to two million. The district magistrate was responsible for state security in his jurisdiction. He was answerable to the provincial government and on the administrative level to the head of services.

The abolition of these offices provided vast open space to criminals and the drug mafia. Having been weaponised, the criminal gangs began challenging the state; there was no meaningful state presence to prevent it. This is perhaps one of the most dubious tinkering of the system undertaken by President Musharraf and which helped the Talibanization of the NWFP.

Presently, criminal gangs have taken over wide swathes in the tribal areas, NWFP, and Baluchistan and challenge the state.

In the NWFP, the police fail to taken stern measures against gangs of criminals, since they are labelled as Taliban and confrontation is avoided. Ordinary criminals have borrowed the Taliban rhetoric along with their trade mark long hair and beards, but are actually highwaymen. A similar but worse situation prevails in Afghanistan, where the drug mafia has influence over the local administration.

Policy failures

A review of the situation between 1992 and 2001 shows that the following important events, which had a direct bearing on the current lawlessness in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Firstly, Pakistan and the international community including Saudi Arabia failed to play a responsible role in making the Geneva Accords succeed, which would have led to formation of a government in Afghanistan after the relinquishment of office by Dr. Najib. This would have stabilized Afghanistan.

Secondly, the presence of warlords, involved in the drug and weapons trade, ensured that such a settlement would not be achieved. They were already occupying   positions of influence within policy formation mechanisms in the Jihadi groups as well as in other institutions involved in the peace process.

Thirdly, after the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan and the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1990, the US abandoned the region leaving behind the legacy of the Jihad years for the new Afghanistan and a radicalized Pakistan to solve. Washington’s focus shifted to Europe where it sought to consolidate its gains from the outcome of the Afghan Jihad.

To make matters worse for Islamabad, Washington also imposed Pakistan-specific sanctions under the Pressler amendment in 1990, which stopped US financial assistance. An ally was thus undeservedly punished although, at great risk to itself, it had helped end the Cold War, assisted in the freedom of Eastern Europe and enabled the US to become the sole super power.

This was even recognized, albeit indirectly, by the Soviet Communist Party Secretary General, Yuri Andropov, when he conceded that he was unable to send  forces into Poland to neutralize the rebellion of Lench Walesa, because the Soviet military was committed in Afghanistan. He remarked that the Poles should go and pray in the mosques to thank the Muslims. Otherwise, he would have repeated what the Soviet military did in Czechoslovakia or Hungary.

The sanctions had a serious effect on the Pakistan economy, which was dependent on US assistance for development and modernization For instance in the NWFP, there was an ambitious $ 3 billion programme to boost primary education in the province and providing it with an annual growth rate of between 7 and 10 percent per annum with special emphasis on the female child.

The programme was approved in 1989 under US AID assistance and was terminated soon after the imposition of the Pressler sanctions. The impact was particularly devastating on education. Fresh students could not be accommodated. It compelled parents to send their children to the madrassahs. At the national level, foreign exchange reserves fell to dangerously low levels and the country was forced to obtain emergency assistance from the IMF.

Globalization was just kicking in under the principles laid in the ‘Washington Agenda’ which, among other things, advocated reduction of government public sector spending. As the fiscal space diminished for public spending, money was shifted out of education to other sectors.

This period saw an increase in Saudi funding for madrassahs, and the number of such institutions grew substantially. Due to the financial meltdown, poverty increased rapidly. The poor were perforce left with no other option but madrassah education. In time, it created a large army of radicalized youth who did not have employable skills except to take over mosques as mullahs or to wage jihad whenever the opportunity arose.

This extensive network of Jihadis and underground groups of veteran fighters spread everywhere. They rallied behind any cause they perceived as Islamic. Most were trained in either Afghanistan or camps run by Pakistan for its proxy war in Kashmir.

Importance of the US – Pakistan relationship for stability

Pakistan, a developing country, is faced with acute poverty and a record of political instability. Both have the potential of unleashing the forces of serious turbulence. What makes it worse is the failure to generate enough employment opportunities for the youth who, as noted earlier, constitute almost 83 percent of the current population. Countries with such a demographic profile are a time bomb waiting to explode. This would have horrendous effects, if it ever came to pass.

If Pakistan faces another crisis in the availability of resources, as could happen under the new variant of Pressler, the 9/11 legislation, matters will become volatile. The Pressler experience also informs the Pakistani military establishment not to be in a hurry to assist the US to accomplish its mission so easily and readily. It is likely that this lesson is not lost. The resolution of regional problems demands more honest and long-term brokering. Otherwise, they will continue to fester and keep the US engaged.

The chart at Annex-1 of this article has been prepared to depict the nature of the relationship between Pakistan and the US. An improved relationship leads towards higher GDP growth, less fundamentalism and poverty.

It clearly indicates that a friendly US policy is essential for Pakistan’s economic growth and keeps the genie of fundamentalism in check. It is obvious that US disengagement in economic terms will spell disaster for the region and seriously impact on globalization and world trade.

The chart also shows the increase in the trend-line of fundamentalism due to the Afghan Jihad when it was the policy to engage the USSR. The trend becomes higher, when the region was left unattended by the US and it led to the advent of the Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The trend-line of fundamentalism ratchets up a few notches above the projected norm due to Pakistan-US policy to pursue a Jihadist agenda during Zia-ul-Haq’s presidency. After 2001 the trend-line drops, due to suppression by US, and NATO forces. Unless political and modernization plans are put into place and implemented to neutralize the youth bulge, disengagement from Pakistan will be unwise.

The prescription for the US policy in Pakistan is to stay engaged in the long term.

Problems in tribal areas

There are many reasons for the crippling of the administrative structure in the tribal areas.  One of the main reasons was the move of the military into the region in December – January 2001-2002, in support of the US operations in Afghanistan. A study into the institutional weakness of the tribal areas commissioned by President Musharraf in April 2006, found the following causes to be responsible for the destruction of institutions:

  • The establishment of militant training camps on both sides of the Durand line for the training of Mujahideen, or religious warriors recruited from inside Afghanistan, the Afghan refugee camps, some other Muslim countries, and local Pakistanis;
  • Establishment of a host of madrassahs, or religious seminaries, where, besides  traditional Islamic learning, prospective recruits for the Jihad effort were motivated and indoctrinated, not only in Afghanistan, but in support of Islamic militant movements world-wide. These madrassahs and their Taliban, or religious students, owed their allegiance to the leadership of the Tanzeemat[9] and more importantly, to the leadership of the religio-political parties of Pakistan.[10]
  • The emergence of a number of militant Islamic groups in Pakistan, supported by the religio-political parties, for assisting the Jihad in Afghanistan and supporting the freedom struggle in occupied Kashmir;
  • Intensified sectarian conflict as most of the militant Islamic groups were fundamentalists in nature and consider the minority sects as outside Islam;
  • The Afghan Refugee camps, training camps, madrassahs and the militant Islamic groups mutually reinforced each other in their efforts to attain the ultimate objective – Islamist supremacy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and success of Islamic movements all over the world;
  • National policy at all levels actively supported the Jihad effort through the channelling of international financial and logistic support for the war in Afghanistan and help in the establishment of training camps for the Mujahideen on both sides of the border.,. Financial assistance and moral support of the establishment, or up-gradation, of madrassahs was a part of public policy;
  • The training of locally recruited Pakistanis in guerrilla warfare and sabotage techniques in the raining camps. It was this trained manpower, which later joined the religious militant groups and were the perpetrators of terrorist acts in the country.
  • The siphoning away of sophisticated weapons light arms and heavy guns into the hands of the tribesmen of FATA and the locals of NWFP and Baluchistan.
  • The establishment of bases by the Mujahideen in the tribal areas for cross-border incursion and the motivation of the tribesmen to assist in the Jihad in Afghanistan against the Russians on the basis of a common religion, language and culture and the tribesman’s fanatical adherence to Islam, resistance to foreign forces and the code of Pashtunwali;
  • Encouragement of the tribesmen to rehabilitate the Mujahideen and the Jehadi elements on their soil;
  • The congregation of a large number of militants from the Islamic world including Arabs, Algerians, Egyptians, Sudanese, Central Asians, Chechens and others from across the world as fighters for the Afghan cause.
  • Integration through marriages and the prolonged stay of a large number of Afghans and other Muslims of foreign origin with local tribesmen.
  • Retaliation by the Afghans against Pakistan through sabotage and terrorist activities against vital infrastructure and civic facilities as punishment for fighting Soviet Russia in Afghanistan. This was done in the NWFP, Baluchistan and FATA.

This official report however overlooked the substantial loss of administrative capacity due to the submergence of the political agent’s role under the military. Since December 2001, the military gives policy advisories for tribal management, rather than allowing the political agent to use the dynamics of tribal administration for achieving peace.

The presence of the army has disrupted the freedom of Islamists and the drug mafia, who have challenged it in other parts of NWFP, tribal areas of South and North Waziristan and Bajaur. The resistance has been in the shape of skirmishes, ambushes and use of booby traps. The military retaliated strongly in Waziristan by the use of force, thus increasing co-lateral damage leading to retaliation by tribes who are the joining Islamists, and who are considered to be fighting for Islam.

Absence of a political strategy

Today, there are large areas of the NWFP, which are not under government control. In Waziristan groups of tribesmen take part in ‘Jihadist operations’ against US troops in Afghanistan. Most of the actions are in support of the Taliban. Tribal supporters of the government are assassinated with impunity and more than 250 of them have been killed so far. Development activity has stopped in some agencies.

In a scale of five, government control will measure one in Waziristan and more in other agencies except Bajaur. Even in these agencies, the situation is deteriorating rapidly. It makes the administration of the tribal areas, particularly of Waziristan and parts of Bajaur, difficult.  Tank , D.I. Khan, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Kohat and Hangu districts in NWFP are in the grip of lawlessness and the writ of the government is weakening. These are settled districts adjoining the tribal areas. It is possible that the former religious alliance government in the NWFP will benefit from this situation in the t elections scheduled in February 2008.

In the northern part of the Bajaur and Malakand divisions about four million people live under the rule of the Mullah. Health and education sector programmes are suffering. Mullah Fazlullah in Swat issued a fatwa (decree) against girls’ education and the delivery of polio drops. In both the northern and southern parts of the NWFP, suicide attacks are a regular feature and have caused many deaths.

Part of the explanation for this state of affairs lies in the absence of a political strategy to deal with radicalization. There is a military strategy and regular military operations take place, but no long-term political strategy to combat radicalism is visible. The mind of Pakistan officialdom is confused; they wonder whether rooting out fundamentalism is a personally safe policy to implement; most of them are terrified of retribution.

No serious effort has been made to launch a major movement in support of traditionalism and against the hostiles. The region has lapsed into gang warfare – tribal versus the special ops troops! There is no traditional leader who is given support to hold the middle ground. This is not a strategy to win this war. Policy makers must examine this aspect closely; only then will they be able to put a political strategy, based on the dynamics of the local conditions, into place.

Revival of social structures

One obvious factor visible in the Pashtun belt is the breakdown of the traditional patterns of leadership.

The Afghans and the Pakistani tribal leaders feel that an important reason for the lack of influence of the state is the bypassing of traditional leadership during the last thirty years. Capacity building of traditional patterns of leadership is important for re-establishing the influence of the tribal chiefs, which will help in the strengthening of state authority for confronting terrorism.

Conditions in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the attraction of the Taliban was their Islamic rhetoric, the creation of an effective central authority and the maintenance of law and order, albeit mixed with a terrible human rights record. They succeeded in reducing poppy growth to a negligible level as reported by the UN.

However, this period is also known for the narrow base of the Afghan state, which was dominated by the Pashtun of eastern and southern Afghanistan. It ignored other ethnic minorities. This is where the problem lay for the Taliban.

The result of this narrow support base was the isolation of those, who later went on to form the Northern Alliance. They were earlier by-passed in the distribution of money and weapons during the Jihad years, which was a weakness of the US-Pakistani policy.

Later, the Taliban suppressed the minorities. The suspicion of the Northern Alliance against the Pashtun exists even today and, therefore, they are wary of any settlement with the Taliban. This division may cripple Afghanistan. Presently the Afghan government and bureaucracy are dominated by the Northern Alliance who are predominantly non-Pashtuns and an ethnic minority, notwithstanding that President Karzai is a Pashtun. Thus once again there is ethnic disparity creating fuel for discontentment leading to increased Pashtun recruitment in the rank of the Taliban.

It is evident that Pakistani military advice played a prominent role in the installation of the Taliban government in Kabul, which was disliked by other important minorities. It provided space to Russia, India and Iran to exploit such ill-will and create pockets of influence in the region; during my recent visit and discussions in Kabul, it was evident that Russia and other neighbouring  countries are again active in Afghanistan and will try to keep the Afghans split in ethnic divisions.

During the Working Committee of the recently concluded Peace Jirga in Kabul held in August, 2007 a participant said:

“Afghanistan must provide the Pashtuns with their rightful share in important jobs in Afghanistan. We have been ignored. It is one important reason for the unrest in Pashtun areas.”

There was an immediate reaction to this, when a Tajik retorted angrily:

“You should not speak of Pashtun, Uzbek, Tajik or Hazara, we are all Afghans. Pakistan must understand this and stop thinking about Afghanistan on ethnic lines.”

The division in perception is obvious; there is an underlying ethnic tussle, which is going on. This remark also tells a lot about the issue of power sharing and the marginalization of the Pashtuns, who are now the front line of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Who are the Taliban?

During Dr. Najibullah’s regime, the last Communist ruler of Afghanistan, the pro-west Mujahideen factions were involved in fighting for power in the country resulting in a ruthless period of instability.

Some of the former Mujahideen including Mullah Omar were critical of this factionalism and began a movement for restoration of order, justice and de-weaponization of Afghan society.

They attracted thousands of disgruntled Mujahideen from different factions, which constituted the Taliban movement. They were mostly Pashtuns. Therefore, they proclaimed Kandhahar as their capital and marched towards Kabul, which has been seen in history as the Pukhtun citadel and which was then under the control of Ahmed Shah Masud, a Tajik.

While capturing Kabul, the Taliban were joined by the Pashtun members from the forces of other Mujahideen commanders; this resulted in the reduction of influence of Hikmatyar, Sayyaf and others. From this it is clear that the Taliban represented the Pashtun nationalists who had fought the domination of the foreign Soviet forces. Thus they still consider themselves as the defenders of Afghanistan against foreign occupation –   this time in the form of US and NATO forces.

The Taliban should thus be recognized as a resistance movement in contrast to the   Al-Qaeda, which is an Arab movement, directed against the West for its policies in the Middle East.

It may be recollected that these Arabs were brought into Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and were always thought to be a burden on the Afghan Mujahideen. Secondly, the Arab countries sent their radical elements to Afghanistan to buy national peace of mind. After the war they stayed on as they were not welcome in their own countries.

This also explains the attempt of the Taliban before 9/11 to work out the handing over of Bin Laden to third parties; a proposal which was unfortunately not accepted by the US.

It is evident that the Pakistani support for the Taliban was aimed to re-establish a central government in Afghanistan. It is a moot point what the final outcome of history would have been had they been engaged by the West and reformed into a responsible government.

Role of drugs in Afghanistan

The security situation in Afghanistan is delicate. The country-side particularly, the south and south-east is mostly under the command of war-lords and other criminal groups, some of them posing as Taliban as in Pakistan. The genuine political Taliban is a small group. I learnt in Kabul that most of the kidnappings there were committed by criminals, who then sold their prisoners to the Taliban for money.

Many members of the Pashtun Peace Jirga agreed that the political Taliban were suppressed but not defeated. They further agreed that the political Taliban was without central leadership; each district had its own leader, which made negotiations difficult.

The power of the drug mafia in Afghan politics was repeatedly stressed as one of the most serious problem facing President Karzai in the re-establishment of a viable state. One important Afghan member of the Peace Jirga said:

The drug traffickers are very rich and influential in Afghanistan. No important government posting takes place without the support of the drug mafia. They have even penetrated the inner advisory ring around President Karzai by bribing the key personnel. All important civil and police appointments are controlled by the Afghan drug mafia. They have built huge financial assets in Turkey and elsewhere which will now be impossible to dismantle. It is they who would wish the war in Afghanistan to go on.”

Another Afghan Jirga participant narrated how Juma Khan, an Afghan Baluch and a former enemy of Iran has been won over recently and will provide IEDs to those fighting the US forces in Afghanistan. In return he will be permitted to take drugs to Turkey. It was also learnt that there was a close nexus between the drug mafia and Al-Qaeda and the political Taliban.

Other Peace Jirga members narrated similar cases of maladministration and linkage between the drug barons and Afghan administration; one of them asked:

“Why was Haji Zahir released after being arrested recently with more than 800 king of heroin? How come he is sitting at home?”

Another inquired:

“Why is one of the biggest drug dealers of Helmand a speaker in the Afghan parliament?”

It is apparent that Afghanistan will not stabilize unless its administration and politics is cleansed of corruption and the influence of drugs.

Dialogue for peace

The Pak-Afghan Peace Jirga Declaration is attached at Annex-2 to this report. It commits the Jirga to achieve the following outcomes:

a)     Afghanistan should undertake to promote traditional leadership amongst the Pashtuns.

b)    Pursue process of dialogue for peace and reconciliation with opponents.

c)     Both the countries agreed to take strong measure against narcotics in view of its link with terrorism.

d)    Terrorism was condemnable as anti-Islamic and a threat to both the countries.

e)     The war on terror should be accelerated along with pursuing peace and reconciliation.

f)      Both the countries should prevent the use of their respective territories for the commission of terrorist activities. Information should be shared on this score.

g)     Bilateral relations must be strengthened between the two nations.

It is obvious that if the declaration is to be implemented, it will be necessary to engage the Taliban and Hikmatyar in a dialogue. In order to do so, it will be necessary to recognize them as resistance rather than terrorists. Secondly, the Taliban should also be distinguished from the Arabs, who are an outside phenomenon. The Taliban are a part of the Afghan nation and should be recognized as such.

The Peace Jirga discussed the matter of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan because in any future negotiation this will be the first demand. Taliban and Hikmatyar have demanded that a timetable be given for such a withdrawal.

The implications of such a withdrawal must be studied beforehand to find whether there will be any conditions attached to it? Particularly the complicated issue of maintenance of order to prevent Afghanistan lapsing into another civil war; these are questions yet to be answered.

Secondly, the US must begin to think about troop withdrawal. What will be the pre-conditions for it if any? Will the withdrawal occur after one year, or more? What will be the impact of this move on Afghanistan’s political situation? These and other questions must be examined now.

An unambiguous announcement of the intent to withdraw in the future will start the ball rolling for negotiations and would bring the Taliban, Hikmatyar, the Pakistani JUI (F) and the North & South Waziristan tribesman to the negotiating table. It will thus complete the Jirga. This is a most important element for success. The question of a future election under international auspices with guarantees of security may be considered with other aspects.

Another issue, which may complicate matters in the future, is the role that the Iranians or the Russians may play in this matter. The US needs to do some smart strategic thinking to meet such an eventuality in the future.

Recommendations for Afghanistan

The following are some of the steps that can taken by Afghanistan to improve governance in the country. It will help in battling many of the ills facing it today:

  1. The traditional leadership pattern must be re-built to reflect Afghan and tribal society.
  2. The eradication of drugs from Afghan society is a must; may be like Turkey the state should purchase the crop and then destroy it, if it cannot be sold for medicinal purposes. It will help in the restoration of the Afghan state.
  3. Afghanistan should consider the recruitment of rural Pashtuns on a large scale to reduce unemployment and to provide them a feeling of being stakeholders in the Afghan state.
  4. Appointment of Governors, Ulaswals and Police heads must be placed under the President by creating a strong Cabinet Division and a scrutiny system which will bar the influence of the drug mafia and war-lords.
  5. Only those should be appointed who are clean and have no connection with drugs or the warlords.

Recommendations for Pakistan

a.       Pakistan should deal with Afghanistan through the Pashtuns of NWFP and Baluchistan. As noticed in the Peace Jirga, we can talk of many things to each other and yet remain friends. This would be unacceptable to Afghans coming from Pakistanis belonging to other provinces.

b.       As proposed for Afghanistan, Pakistan should also undertake to promote traditional leadership amongst the Pashtuns.

c.       For Pakistan the time has come to accept responsibility not only for the reduction of radicalism and armed groups in the tribal areas but in the districts as well. The appearance of such groups in Islamabad during the embarrassing Lal Masjid episode is a cause of serious concern and introspection.

d.       Radicalism must be fought through police methods instead of relying on intelligence services only; there is conflict of interest involved in too much use of the intelligence services.

e.       Capacity building and higher recruitment from the radicalized districts should be undertaken to strengthen the police and paramilitary civil armed forces.

f.       The military should stop monopolizing foreign policy for Afghanistan so that a multi-dimensional policy is introduced. A pragmatic foreign policy must be adopted.

g.       It is high time that the madrassahs are brought under state control and their curricular revised to make them progressive so that they provide students with employable skills also.

h.       The Peace Jirga Secretariat must be made effective by approving a budget and staff for it. President Musharraf has already appointed a top ministerial core team of five members to this Jirga on 21 August. This is a positive step.

i.        President Pervez Musharraf may wish to have more Pashtuns in his inner council for addressing Pashtun sensitivities relating to the war on terror and Afghanistan.

j.        Finally, further steps must be taken by Afghanistan and Pakistan to hold discussions within their respective ministries to implement the declaration of the Joint Jirga announced on 12 August 2007.


The Joint Peace Jirga between Pakistan and Afghanistan has provided an opportunity for peace in the region. However, a lot of work remains to be done in different areas identified in this paper as well as in the Jirga Joint Declaration.

The time has come to jointly plan a regional political strategy for combating radicalism; it will define an outline for a possible negotiating position for talks to start with the Afghan resistance. Time is of the essence and the momentum for peace must not be lost.

As US election rhetoric begins to generate heat and we in Pakistan muddle through our political crisis, both countries must realize that they have joint long term interests in bringing peace and prosperity to a volatile region. Failure will result in unimaginable pain and tragedy.




Kabul 12 Aug, 2007

  1. Pak-Afghan Joint Jirga met in Kabul, Afghanistan, from August 9 to August 12,  2007. The concluding session of the Jirga was addressed by President Hamid Karzai of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and President Pervez Musharraf of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The two presidents congratulated the two Jirga Commissions for holding the first successful Joint Peace Jirga and conveyed their support for its decisions/ recommendations.
  2. The Joint Peace Jirga resolved to constitute a small Jirga that will be a permanent body and will be mandated to strive to achieve the following objectives:
  1. i.      Arrange regular meetings in order to monitor and oversee the implementation of the decisions/recommendations of the Jirga.
  1. ii.      Plan and facilitate convening of the next peace Jirga.
  2. iii.      Pursue process of dialogue for peace and reconciliation with the opponents (Mukhalifeen).
  3. iv.      Taking cognizance of the strong linkage between narcotics and terrorism, the Jirga calls upon the two governments to wage relentless campaign to eliminate poppy cultivation and drug trafficking by offering generous incentives to the growers to switch on to alternative cash crops as quickly as possible and make effective laws to curb this menace. The Jirga takes note of the responsibility of international community in enabling the Afghan government to undertake this tremendous responsibility.
  4. v.      Terrorism is anti Islamic and constitutes a threat to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  5. vi.      The war on terror should be accelerated and reinforced along with pursuing peace and reconciliation processes.
  6. vii.      The territory of Afghanistan and Pakistan should not be used for terrorist activities or sanctuaries for terrorists, extremists, anti-state and subversive elements. Information concerning these elements should be provided to the concerned government authorities by the concerned tribes.
  7. viii.      Make recommendations, and suggestions to the two governments for further strengthening of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

3.       The details of the recommendations made by the five working committees are attached as annexure and form part of the Joint declaration.


[*] Khalid Aziz is a former Chief Secretary of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

[1] Col, Steve; Ghost Wars, the Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, bin-Laden, p.238, London 2004.

[2] During President Zia’s rule, additional points were given to a candidate who applied to join the officer cadre in the military, if he could recite the Quran by heart. Later, the sons of ordinary ranks were automatically selected for officer training, if they qualified in the preliminary selection test. The few remaining vacancies were then available to the top qualifying civilian candidates. It indicates the attempt of the military to transform themselves into a class as posited by Marx.

[3] Hizb means a party or group, Hizb-e-Islami of Hikmatyar is an Afghan Islamist party first supported by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto to embarrass Sardar Daud the Prime Minister of Afghanistan in 1975-76. Later, this party was patronized by the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, to fight the Afghan Jihad.

[4] Hifrat is a term with connotation of religious duty for Muslims to leave Dar ul Harb, or lands where one cannot freely perform one’s Islamic duties and take abode in the Dar ul Islami.e., lands where one can perform one’s religious obligations.

[5] Rubin, Barnett; The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, pp.186-87, OUP, Karachi 2003.,

[6] Dayrymple, Willian, “The ‘poor’ neighbour,” Guardian, UK, 14 August 2007.

[7] Civil petitions for Leave to Appeal No. 1569-Lect, 16 August 2005,  Supreme Court of Pakistan, Islamabad.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Means a Muslim Jihadi organization created to fight the Jihad in Afghanistan from 1979-90.

[10] Report. “Aziz rules out clipping judiciary’s powers,” The News, Islamabad 28 August 2007, p.12. Pakistan’s failure to reform the madrassah system of education is evident when its Prime Minister stated on GEO TV, that the government was in favour of religious seminaries and no restrictions will be place on their working.