Original Articles

Mr. Holbrooke, in order to understand the situation in Pakistan, you need to have a grip on the Mullah-Military Alliance in Swat….

A dangerous trend — Talimand Khan

Why has the security apparatus failed to cut the militants’ supply lines; how come random journalists can talk to Fazlullah but security forces are unable to track him down; and if the state’s helplessness is genuine, how was the administration able to successfully hold general elections in Swat?

Swat, the paradisal valley that once attracted throngs of tourists, has been devastated by the insurgency that gained momentum in 2007.

The military has already conducted two concerted drives to root out extremist elements, and is now in the midst of a third. Each time, natives were told that this would be the last operation. Yet the extremists return and so does the military. Civilians then face the brutalities of the militants on the one hand and collateral damage on the other.

The people of Swat have never been extremist in their outlook towards religion. Even today, as evidenced by surveys, virtually the entire population of the valley abhors the militants.

That said, there is an extremely dangerous sentiment that is setting in among the people: anger and resentment at the state security apparatus’ inability to tame the militancy. Indeed, increasingly, the people of Swat are finding holes the state’s explanations of why this is so, and are growing alienated from the army. This is the real problem, whose repercussions could be dire in the long run.

Let us view the situation from the perspective of the Swati people.

There are three popular explanations provided for the Swat insurgency.

First, that a legal vacuum prevailing due to a dysfunctional judicial system allowed the Taliban to step in, with the people remaining indifferent. Proponents of this view argue that after the merger of Swat district with Pakistan proper and the imposition of the PATA regulation, a legal vacuum was created which disappointed the people who were used to the quick justice of the Wali era.

This argument is correct in that the natives were not satisfied with having Swat, a relatively more developed and civilised part of the country, relegated to a status equivalent to the underdeveloped Dir and Malakand areas through the notorious PATA regulation. However, there was never any serious debate on moving towards an Islamic system — sharia — let alone one that is as narrow and harsh as that of the Taliban.

The second, more mainstream, argument is that extremist elements — read Sufi Muhammad and Maulvi Fazlullah — had considerable leverage with the locals and thus managed to facilitate their insurgency. In reality, Sufi Muhammad was neither indigenous nor was he brought to prominence by local actors. Rather, as Major Amir (retd), then DG IB, said on record, Sufi Muhammad’s Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi (TNSM) was organised thanks to subtle manipulation by the local administration of the erstwhile Malakand Division as well as by elements from the agencies. The objective was very limited: the then administration of Malakand wanted to regain the power that it enjoyed under PATA, an arrangement that had been dismantled through a Supreme Court order.

Similarly, Maulvi Fazlullah initiated his activities from an extremely small establishment. He was banished from his neighbourhood mosque due to his extremist views on jihad; locals also pleaded with the police to stop his radio transmissions.

However, the local government, in a meeting with the jirga, of which this author was a part, flatly expressed its inability to do so given that communications was a federal subject! Then, despite repeated requests from the locals and editorials in the country’s liberal newspapers, the establishment continued to ignore Fazlullah as he went on a rampage across the valley with his pro-jihad message.

The third and final argument is that the militancy in Swat is a reaction to the American-led occupation of Afghanistan. Again, facts do not back this position. There has hardly ever been any Swati presence in jihadi organisations, be they oriented towards Afghanistan or India. Swat is not known as a place where ultra-right sentiment flourishes. In fact, among Pakhtuns, Swatis are known to be a more materially driven people.

Further, before the non-Pakhtun presence was witnessed within the militant enclave in Swat recently, the area was never seen as a sanctuary for Afghanistan-linked militants. In fact, even Fazlullah, apart from his modestly-sized band of militants, has been unable to recruit natives to join his cause. In short, while resentment against the ‘American agenda’ grows, it is no worse than in the rest of the country.

As none of the societal arguments hold for the Swat insurgency, Swatis are wondering whether the state argument, i.e. the state has not been sincere in its efforts, is more realistic.

Swatis ask why Sufi Muhammad was not kept in check by those who facilitated his rise; why was Fazlullah not tackled when he had been condemned by his society and was running a lone propaganda project; why did the intelligence agencies fail to predict Fazlullah’s behaviour and movement; why, even at a later stage, did the state not take notice of the public burning of CD shops and TVs (the same led to a major offensive by the state in Islamabad)?

Further, why has the security apparatus failed to cut the militants’ supply lines; how come random journalists can talk to Fazlullah but security forces are unable to track him down; and if the state’s helplessness is genuine, how was the administration able to successfully hold general elections in Swat?

The above is not to point fingers at the state. Rather, it is to highlight the questions facing the embattled people of Swat. They remain unsure about their state’s sincerity in fulfilling its social contract with the people. This is an extremely dangerous trend which, if not tackled, could further alienate the people from the state. It is high time that the state rethinks its security paradigm and become more open in its communications with the people. It should clear up the contradictory picture that is forming in the people’s minds.

Talimand Khan is currently based at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad and is a native of Swat. He can be reached at talimand@sdpi.org (Daily Times)


Situation in Swat and FATA: What do ordinary Pakistanis think?

(in the context of Geo TV’s special program on current situation of Swat (Swat ki soorat-e-haal) . Rahimullah Yousafzai, Afrasayab Khattak and Rustam Shah Mohmand offered their views in the program)

savage said:

Following questions frustrate or amuse me.

1. why our self-proclaimed “One of the world best armies”, who conquers Prime Minister house at will, PTV Islamabad Station (I can’t forget herioic picture’s of jawan, climbing PTV walls), Supreme Court and bloody civilians are so ineffective this time, I guess it is not their fault, this time enemy is carrying guns too, and these poor guy were only train to confront harmless, armless civilians. They have been wasting tax payers money for years, but till now they couldn’t even get any of their middle tier leadership let alone Mullah FM. If journalist can find them whenever they want, why our brightest couldn’t do anything?

2. Why their FM stations are still running, in this hi-tech age where even Mullas are using FM radio, our Govt can’t jam the frequency or pin point from where they are broadcasting.

3. I hear this question being raised again and again on talk shows by Govt representatives, “from where they are getting funds and arms?” that makes me laugh. These guys have all the govt resources, yet they think people should answer that question.

4. If other countries are involved as it has been stated by officials on many times, why they are not raising this issue on international forums, TV talk shows or press conferences are not diplomatic tools.

5. Religious parties and some people still supporting these khawarjies, and I simply can’t not understand their reasoning, “chewnkay umreeka iss khitay mein hai iss leya hamaray aisay haalat hai”. Why don’t these khawarjies go and fight there? if some thing bad is happening in your neighbor’ house would you start blowing your own people and your assets, specially children schools???? Islam teaches you reasoning not the stupidity.

9 February 2009 at 5:18 am

Parrhesia said:

well done savage.

We have one of the best army is just a propaganda. Our army is NOT one of the best armies. we have seen this in 1965, 1971, Kergil, and Siachen.

I seriously doubt that army wants to act against Extremism. Your points are simple. There is some thing BIG wrong with Pak Army. As history shows that our army has been engaged with EHMAQAANA strategic policies so we may not rule out that army is not willing to limit extremists.

In lieu of this, either the army aims to keep on engaging US in Pak-Afghan border or it wants to generate problems for the civilian government or does not want to give the perception that a civilian government can resolve ALL issues without military help.

If our army thinks that it can engage US and Allies and do with them what it did to Soviet Union then God bless us. We are at the blink of the disintegration of Pakistan.

Shah30 said:

I would like to say it is not Army, Its a gang with guns, missiles and nuclear bombs. They do not have any ideology and they work on the commands of just one General.

I believe there should be some legislation to bring these war mongers, thugs and goons under some rules and regulations.

hadi26 said:

Get real people, stop venting your anger at the army, what is it that we want to prove by lashing out our frustrations at the army. Its not easy operating in such a terrain, if army acts, civilians die….u can’t expect them to completely decimate these so called extremists.

Yes, surely there is a lack of POLITICAL will and Resolve.. Remember the Lal Masjid? Everyone wanted decisive action .. and once it was done, we all know the outcome… People blamed the army for it.

It is an extremely complicated issue, till we develop the courage, both as a nation and individually to root out the inherent hypocrisies in our beleifs there is very little hope of us acheiving the desired outcome.

Basharat said:

@ Hadi26

Yes we still remember the Lal Masjid, no one asked army to kill innocent kids and daughters of this nation by using Phosphorous bombs. Other than politicians, ARMY is mainly responsible for whole chaos created in this country. Pak Army doesn’t have very bright past that we should start telling praise stories, we do forget quickly but can’t forget what Gen. Ayub, Yahya and Zia had done to Pakistan. ARMY has to proof first that they are the servant of this country not the kings. Gen. Pervez destroyed the whole judiciary, shook hands with the same people once he blamed for corruption. The guy who should be trailed in court for violating the constitution of this country is a VIP guest of army in Army house Rawal Pindi. With such a bad track record how can we trust this army about their operation in SWAT?

hadi26 said:

Basharat saab..

This is exactly the kind of emotional and baseless propoganda I absolutely detest.

Killing “innocent kids and daughters of the nation” … who gets to decide if they were innocent? one day they are religious fanatics taking over the capital …. the next day when we see dead bodies they become martyrs who need to be glorified and army vilified?

Phosphorus bombs, I would not even comment on that, these are probably the stun gernades used in such commando operations, which you are making out to be some sort of an atomic weapon…. I am absolutely in no way justifying the lal mosque operation, All I am saying is that WE, because of our own hypocritical beleifs and actions, put our Army in a position where they are cowards if they don’t act… and murderers if they DO!.

If you just think about it for a second, you will see the hypocricy I am trying to highlight, your whole argument is flawed as on one hand u are cursing the ARMY for using too much FORCE and in the same breath condemning them for not using FORCE to over come the Taliban in Swat?

shandana said:


It does make sense whatever you wrote…

If you look at the newspapers right before the day operation-lal-masjid started, you’ll be amazed to see how every body was blaming army for not doing the operation. The atmosphere was like …….Islamabad is going under the control of those ‘terrorists’ girls. Right after the operation, all those ‘terrorists’ became heroes.

IMO girls were innocent but not the two brothers, they have played their plan very well, used the girls-card effectively but the result got flipped.

Parrhesia said:

@ shandana

Lets not put blame on the two brothers only. They started the evil but army peaked it. Lal masjid issue spanned over many months. Under the Army Rule 600000 active personnel and four intelligence agencies could not exactly understand the situation or estimated the potential threat just five kilometers away from President House and 15 kilometers from GHQ????????? Was it a failure or deliberate negligence??????

The most important thing is who brought these brothers from jail to Lal masjid????

I have sympathy with both, Innocents and Commandos. Both of them became victim of the bloody game of Mush (Army) and Jahil Mullas.

Da Chamkani Pukhtoon said:

@ Savage,

You cannnot fight against Talibaan or any local in swat for a very simple reason, that these guys have lived all their life in those mountains and they know every cave,tree, bush and houses around that area. If you have been to Swat, you would have realised that a guy sitting on top of a hill or in trees can very easily target a moving object even in night.
Its almost impossible to defeat these taaliban in swat or even in FATA. The best way to get them is to infiltrate them with your oen people and do a target killing. Its very easy to find people (local) who will do this for you for few thousand of $$$. I don’t see any reason for pakistani army to waste their bullets,energy and get their jawan killed. They should announce a ceasefire, accept their conditions and tell them that the govt will support their “Sharriah” law and provide them with Moderen Technology (Mainly Cell fone bugged and have a tracker fitted) give them some Prado and plant some remote control bombs.

Pak Army should do some work up about these people instead of attacking them blindly. None of British Imperalists, USSR or neither will American succeed to conquer Pakhtoon nation per sae! Majority of Pakhtoons are against these so called “Taaliban” and would gladly oblige to carry these assasinations as long as its done carefully and well planned.

savage said:

@Da Chamkani Pukhtoon,

My main point was that it’s been around 2 years, since army launched this offensive, tell me one top level khawarji which they captured or killed? None. Doesn’t that mean there is something wrong either with their motives or the way all this is being conducted.

Da Chamkani Pukhtoon said:


brother, I don’t think there is any element of “Not wanting” to capture them by the army. Once a Jawaan is down by the opposition, Its always the rule of ALL FORCES to hunt down and KILL them instead of even trying to arrest the. I will stick to my original argument that you can not hunt them unless they want u to hunt them. The Northern side of Pakistan and most of Afghanistan is a death trap for any army of the world specially when you have to deal with one of the courageous but ” EMOTIONALLY BLIND” nation called “Pakhtoon”.

The only people who can deal with them are “Them”. An ordinory Pakhtoon can fight with Army for days with his 3.3 riffle but when he sees a “Malayssha force” he prefer to run away entirely cuz Malaysha force are Pakhtoons as well and equally “Pakhtoon” LOL

savage said:

@Da Chamkani Pukhtoon,

I know the terrain as I myself belong to Hazara but I guess I’m still not making my point clear, point is, where is the ground intelligence, no operation could be successful without good intelligence. My argument is not about winning or loosing, they did not achieve anything during this time, on the other note, if they are willing to hunt down they sure could do, we do know what they did to Bughti, he was living in same kind of terrain.

Parrhesia said:

@ Da Chamkani Pukhtoon

Why u forget that army guys, so called fighting in swat, are also from northern areas. Not all but majority. War is not about being native of the area. Talibans who are coming from the Afghan side do not know area that well so the advantage is not of much value.

Even if it is an advantage, why u dont consider advantages of the military like big budget, structured command and control, strong intelligence network, heavy artillery and precise weapons. Moreover its not PAKHTOONS who r fighting. They are a mix of many nationalities.

If army wants to defeat them, its a matter of days only.

I am sorry but I dont like your boasting of PAKHTOONS. If u see history u would easily know that PAKHTOONS always preferred bribe over fighting. For more information read 200 years old booklet of the British Col who formed the first regiment of the native Indians. He states that if u want to get Pakhtoons done something, bribe them and they will follow u.

I seriously condemn your views abt PAKHTOONS. If they are so fight-oriented why they ran in front of US and Allied forces in Afghanistan? Why didnt they stayed to fight? Why are they still looking for support of extremist elements of pak fauj to regain their territory.

It is right that PAKHTOONS fought against aggression but their ultimate need is some money and they start fighting for the Giver. They are fighting from Baitullah side bcz he is paying 10000 per month. In this case they dont think why and who they r fight against.

Utmankhel1 said:

Get your facts right dears,

The so-called Taliban are a mix of many nationalities. As was stated in an earlier programme, they have around 5000 punjabi taliban. They also have around 7000 foreign elements, of which many are chechen, uzbeks, tajiks, and arabs.

This is not a Pakhtoon phenomenon. This is GHQ rawalpindi phenomenon. This is Jihadi phenonmenon, none of them is ours.

Also, don’t put lame excuses to save asses of army, they are not going to eliminate them. They want’t to keep them for strategic depths and kashmiri waters.

Da Chamkani Pukhtoon said:


As regards to your initial comments about Pakistani army fighting in Swat have more people from northern region of Pakistan is your “Assumption” but not a fact! I know people who were actually being stationed and who took part in that operation and the fact of the matter is that though they do have local people but mainly they r not from “Pakhtoonistan”.

As regards to quoting comments about “Pakhtoon’s” by a British soldier is quite Pathetic. Pakhtoon’s have fought British Imperialists and made them run away and now you want me to actually, respect the “Pearls of wisdom” by a British Col. Historically, It was only “Pakhtoon’s” who gave them a tough fight in this part of the world and Sad but true that all attacks on Afghanistan were being helped by then inhabitants of Punjab.

Your Quote “I seriously condemn your views abt PAKHTOONS. If they are so fight-oriented why they ran in front of US and Allied forces in Afghanistan? Why didn’t they stayed (STAY!) to fight? Why are they still looking for support of extremist elements of pak fauj to regain their territory”

You condemn my views about Pakhtoon’s cuz you think that they are not fight oriented? Or you can’t hear the truth?

Your accusation about Pakhtoon’s fleeing Afghanistan is baseless and absurd. Its only Pakhtoon’s who are fighting Pakistan’s War in Afghanistan, First Gen Zia give them training and arms and ammunition and Pakistani nation were behind that “JIHAD” but when the time came after 9/11, one threat from US was enough for Mr. Mussharaf to disown them and pull the plug on all support. But despite that they are still there and are fighting. As regards to running away or hiding from Americans! You live in a KO KO land! If you knew the tactics of war in a mountain range then you wouldn’t comment like this. But just to explain that to you… If you don’t have an air aid, like the Afghans in a war against US, then your best bet of fight and survive is to commence on, what we call, hit and run! You target a convoy, hit and then leave that area for their air force to come and raid the stones! Infact instead of blaming Afghans (Pakhtoon’s) one should be ashamed of ducking in your comfortable houses in fear of American attack. What is happening is Pakhtoonistan and the death silence from the biggest province does say a lot of things between the lines!

Your Comment “If army wants to defeat them, it’s a matter of days only” can make every one laugh! Why is then, that there are news everyday of army Jawaan surrender in that region? Guess, Army wants to take its time to play, cat and mouse though I am not sure who is the cat in this instance!

Also, please avoid baseless accusation about “Pakhtoon’s”. Do you have a PROOF that Pakhtoon’s are working for Baithullah for 10000? I can say same thing about you that you work for ISI and get 100000 or call you an Indian agent (which will be an instant hit in our country)

If you have to condemn a group of people or a party then do it with all fairness! Just by trying to twist history won’t achieve you anything. The History of Pakhtoon’s is older then the history of Pakistan which will upset you again!

Da Chamkani Pukhtoon said:

When speaking of the Taliban, and regarding them as brothers by Pakhtoons……..while this may be true relavant to Afghan Taliban movement……… it is certainly NOT the case with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. This organization, headed by former AQl-Qaida combat cell commander Baitullah Mehsud is a “creation” of Al-Qaida strategists, and designed to place a Pakistani face on a foreign inspired ideology!
The Pakhtoon of FATA know this!!!!!!!!!!
Hence the resentment and efforts of these tribes directed AGAINST Al-Qaida and it’s domestic TTP stooges! If the resistence against AQ and TTP, is as suggested by some people in media is fraud, then why…….. pray tell ….. are they(terrorists) so interested in killing tribal leaders and elders???????
They have murdered over 140 of them since the first Jirga organized by Musharraf!!!!!!!!

The Pakistani, Afghan and NATO representatives have been busy bribing tribal leaders to hold meaningless “jirgas” with a view to turning the Pashtuns against the Taliban . . . without any success. The Saudis held meetings with Taliban and Al-Qaeda representatives, also, without success.
Inept and incompetent application of military power has failed to subdue a militia movement – Al-Qaeda, has undermined a new administration in Islamabad, failed to secure another in Kabul, alienated tribes on both sides of the Durand Line and is fast developing into a situation that could spell the collapse of a nuclear-tipped nation. Washington will soon see the exit of a “goof-ball” President, but, it needs to ensure that his policies go with him !

FATA belongs to the Pakhtoons and it’s more than apparant that Pakhtoons want these guys out of FATA, but like a “tick on a dog”.Al-Qaida has “dug in” after duping the good people of FATA into believing that they were there to help them (Pakhtoons) when in reality, and as tribal leaders are discovering, they(Al-Qaida and it’s domesic surrogates) are there ONLY TO HELP THEMSELVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!