Writ of the state to be established in tribal areas: Aziz

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Jan 9, 2014.

Islamabad – The federal government expects to restore control in all regions of Pakistan’s tribal belt soon, said Sartaj Aziz, the Adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on National Security and Foreign Affairs.

“We have restored the writ of the State in six out of seven agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA),” Aziz said. “For the seventh, discussions are going on and I feel that in due course, in the coming weeks or months, the writ of the State will be restored in all the tribal areas.”

The seventh tribal agency Aziz was referring to is North Waziristan, where the Haqqani network and groups associated with the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan are active.

Aziz was speaking with the media after the launching ceremony of scholar Akbar S Ahmed’s book “The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam” at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.

Ahmed, who holds the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at the American University in Washington, DC, posits in his book that the post-9/11 US war on terror has wreaked havoc on tribal societies and the weakening of these societies has led to ideological militants gaining more ground.

Aziz said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government has expressed its opposition to drone attacks at every occasion during the past six months.

“We have called them counter productive and demanded that drone strikes be discontinued,” he said.

He said Pakistan is also starting to receive international community’s support against drone strikes: United Nations (UN) Secretary General issued a statement against drone strikes and the UN general assembly passed a resolution in December against the US drone campaign.

He said the tribal structure in FATA was disturbed by the drone strikes and military offensive there in the past, which has complicated the situation. The government is tackling the situation with a three-phase approach, he said.

“First of all, we have to establish our writ. Secondly, we have to control our border with Afghanistan so there is no illegal movement either from this side or that side and thirdly, we have to work on reconstruction and rehabilitation and reestablish the tribal system,” Aziz said.

Responding to a question about dialogue with the Taliban, he said “some contacts are being established, we cannot predict the outcome but efforts are in progress.”

Aziz said stability in Afghanistan is necessary for stability in Pakistan.

“If there is large-scale fighting in Afghanistan, there would be spillover effects,” he said. “So we are working very hard to promote reconciliation and dialogue among the Afghan factions. We don’t want to interfere in the Afghan matters but we facilitate reconciliation so that there is no turmoil during the transition (after the NATO troops withdrawal).”

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