New adjustments

November 19, 2017

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SOME 43 million Pakhtuns are currently shuttling between peace, extremism, modernity and tradition. Fata, created as a buffer, has gradually become an incubator of extremism. The inaccessible administrative apparatus here revolves primarily around the political agent, with the maliks, or tribal leaders, working as intermediaries. With the emergence of militant groups, the maliks lost their significance and status.

In 1997, granting adult franchise to Fata diluted the electoral influence of 37,000 maliks. Gradually, the clergy emerged as a challenge. Urbanisation, media penetration and extremism have jolted the edifice of the hujra as an alternate dispute resolution mechanism. Elders enjoyed unity of command, but the import of shura challenged not only the Frontier Crimes Regulation but also the institution of jirga. Some areas witnessed the revival of lashkars. Subsequently, terrorists targeted lashkar members. Money earned by Pakhtuns in the Middle East — who imported alien cultural and religious influences — had an impact on the area’s egalitarian composition, and funding of mosques by Arab charities kindled ‘Arabisation’.

After 9/11, Pakhtun areas experienced a demographic transition. KP, already facing with terrorism and hosting Afghan refugees, now also had to manage the IDPs. Historically, economic compulsions had pushed the Pakhtuns towards migration but increased insecurity accelerated the pace of transit. Presently, in Hangu district, the majority of the population is from Orakzai Agency. This has changed the electoral landscape and reduced the sociopolitical clout of local Bangash clansmen. In Dera Ismail Khan, the Wazirs, Mehsuds and the Bhittanis purchased extensive land, while in Peshawar the Mohmands, Afridis and Shinwaris bought property, marginalising the Hindko-speaking inhabitants. Mean­while, with 7m Pakhtuns, Karachi has the largest urban concentration of this ethnicity anywhere.

Pakhtuns are contending with several changes.

The influx from Malakand and Fata has changed Islamabad’s demographic profile, while increased insecurity has led to sectarian imbalances as a sizeable number of Shia families have migrated from Hangu, Dera Ismail Khan and Kohat. The presence of 2.5m refugees has had a significant impact on the sociocultural and economic landscape, while the long war in Afghanistan and the post 9/11 scenario has strengthened the clergy that challenged ‘khanism’.

The violence has compromised public-service delivery and established counterterrorism as a top priority, affecting crime management. Fortified police stations made it even more difficult for citizens to access justice. To improve public service, KP police introduced Police Access Service and Police Assistance Lines. Since 2015, PAL has facilitated 368,849 citizens while PAS has processed 14,169 complaints. For the instant registration of FIRs, online services were introduced and so far 4,967 online complaints have been registered. To resolve disputes, 41 dispute resolution councils were established during current year and 11,954 complaints registered.

Changes in the modus operandi of criminals and terrorists have posed new challenges to the police. Prior to 9/11, the police were not trained to investigate targeted killings, IED and suicide attacks, and extortion. However, the police eventually established the Counter­terrorism Department. Since 2013 in KP, 276 persons have been killed in incidents of targeted killings. The prime targets were either policemen or members of a particular sect. During the last 14 years, 2,134 IED blasts were reported while 21 mosques, 18 shrines, one volleyball match and four cinemas have been attacked.

Easy access to weapons has not only increased crime against persons but also fostered growing into­lerance. The missing persons issue has widened the gulf between the state and affected families. Since 2009, in KP, about 1,000 persons have reportedly gone missing, of which some 560 have been traced. There is a general impression that the majority of untraced persons may have voluntarily joined militants in Afghanistan. In many cases their relatives know about their presence across the border, they intentionally report them as missing to avert the law-enforcement agencies’ pressure. Of those who have actually gone missing, their dependents are usually not aware of the existence of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, nor do they know of the procedure to report such events. Thus, more public education is needed.

On the other hand, owing to judicial activism and the media, honour killings are being treated as the criminal offences they are. In Pakhtun society women are often deprived of inheritance; but because of enhanced female literacy, judicial activism and an assertive media, inheritance and divorce litigation have recorded upward trends. In 1998 in Peshawar courts, 80 divorce petitions were received, while in 2012 more than 1,000 petitions were filed.

The transit plan to normalcy demands incorporating input from all stakeholders to result in collective ownership of peace.

The writer is a police officer.

Twitter: @alibabakhel

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2017