HOME HOME
© 2021 Oriental Institute, The Czech Academy of Sciences, Kevin L. Schwartz, and Ameem Lutfi
THEMATICS THEMATICS
In August this year, three soldiers from the gendarmerie Balochistan Levy Force were killed in a landmine explosion in Ziarat, a southwestern town of Pakistan. A parlat (sit-in) ensued as the deceased's relatives and well- wishers refused to bury the corpses and blocked a highway. The protestors became further enraged by the arrival of a provincial government minister and his attempts at placating the situation. They demanded an immediate evacuation of the military and a roll back of its expanded presence in the region. They complained that paramilitary forces regularly fire hundreds of rounds during training in close proximity to a civilian population, terrorizing children and not letting anyone sleep quietly at night. One of the irate   protestors   wailed, “Who flies a drone over the village? What a blatant disregard to  chadar-o-chaardiwari (honor of the house)!” Refusing to bury the dead bodies and rejecting  khatir (deference) of the minister are uncharacteristic actions in the honor-based Pashtun society that treats both the corpse and visitors with great respect. But such has been the norm in the northern and western tribal regions of Pakistan since the rise of a social movement, the Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement, four years ago. The preplanned and coordinated jalsa (political gathering) as the main mode of political expression has given way to parlat sit-ins that do not await a prior approval, announcement, or mobilization from leaders or political organizations. Such uncoordinated spontaneous efforts sometimes amass into large gatherings that outmatch jalsas from the past and attract leaders and followers from across political divides. The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), earlier known as the Mehsud Tahafuz Movement, emerged in response to the Pakistan military’s many reckless operations in the northern tribal region. Among these, Zarb-e-Azb 1 (sharp strike), proved as the most lethal operation that took a heavy toll on the local populations who came to scathingly call it, Zarb-e-Ghazb (wrathful strike). The operations were launched by the Pakistani state in response to growing domestic pressure to limit the frequent militant attacks and in line with the   United   States’   “Af-Pak policy,” which viewed expanding the Global War on Terror (GWOT) to Pakistan’s tribal region — where the Taliban and other militants held hideouts — as crucial to its success Like the American-led war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond, the Pakistani military also indiscriminately rained bombs over civilian populations and continued to permit the U.S. to conduct drone strikes at a varying level of frequency in the northern tribal region. Mirali bazaar in the North Waziristan Agency, a sizable and bustling marketplace in the area, was left devastated like a ramshackle archeological site from the past. Those who got killed in the operations were reported as “militants” without proof or identification and those who went missing never returned. PTM claims that the missing person list surpasses 4000 men, and this is not a definitive total. While accurate figures are hard to come by, the operation resulted in the displacement of about 800,000 people . Since 9/11, Pakistan has lost more than 80,000 lives due to the war. Beyond these deaths and destruction, the counter-terrorism operations put the Pakistani military in a new role to oversee civilian affairs even more meticulously. While there is nothing new about the Pakistani military interfering in civilian affairs, its operational capacity, influence, and spatial reach touched new limits during the war decades, particularly in the tribal region. In the past the military made a show of force, quelled local resistance, and returned to its cantonments. But during wartime it worked with and dominated the civil administration permanently. Visa and border control regimes have been established by the federal government with the assistance of the military to regulate hitherto free movement of people and goods in and out of the country at an unprecedented level. Fencing   and   manning of the borders with Iran and Afghanistan are near completion while military check-posts now dot the entire landscape in the North and Southwest of Pakistan. Moreover, in the Baloch areas, international mining companies have been awarded lucrative contracts by the federal and provincial governments without consultation with the local populations, while the Pakistani military provides security at such sites including the security of Chinese engineers and laborers working on the Pakistan China Economic Corridor. The military’s engineering of politics at the local level has reached new heights as well. In Balochistan, these efforts have culminated in the creation of a military-orchestrated political party, the Balochistan Awami Party. The military, however, has been mindful of its rapid-paced intervention in tribal society. It has set up new military-run schools, increased recruitment intake from the troubled region, and, most importantly, provided security solutions to businesses and efficient dispute-resolution mechanisms to the mining industry run by locals. The civilian administration and courts have an outdated and compromising setup to deal with complex mining disputes in a society transitioning from tribal and family-owned land and enterprises to individual and private ownership. In this instance, at least, the ineptness of an unmotivated civil bureaucracy has allowed the military to build its legitimacy anew. The military’s capture of the civilian functions is but one aspect of state-making in the tribal areas; civilian institutions too got overhauled. The civilian security setup got beefed up as new police units were launched to enhance the state’s combat capacity. The working   perimeters   of the regular police were increased by adding areas from the control of tribal police, the Levy Force. These militaristic interventions have been supported by increased surveillance mechanisms, such as issuing biometric identification cards . In big towns, gun-toting men and the display of light weapons in the bazaar area is no longer a common sight as it used to be fifteen years back. The movement of people is now more closely tracked and regulated. Drones are being used for purposes other than war and combat. And the people of Balochistan and Northwestern frontiers are being increasingly subjected to the country’s taxation regime, a feat that the British state could not achieve, which had to either to waive taxes altogether or keep them at a minimum to not risk its authority. But these invasive state-making efforts have attracted a nemesis in the tribal borderlands. The Baloch are militarily resisting the militarized capital-extractive state expansion with broad- based ethnic solidarity, unlike tribe-specific revolts of the past. The Pashtuns, if less secessionist now than before, have become even more critical of the new security regime. They are resisting the military establishment through a social movement, PTM. The current unrest is yet another episode of capitalist transformations and modern state intrusion in tribal society. Both modern state authority and capitalist interventions have emerged on the former imperial borderland in a perpetual war-like condition and continue to tightly knit “war and security” in a way that bears the hallmark of what Benjamin Hopkins calls “frontier governmentality.” 2 As both the militants and the state are deploying new war technologies and tactics that are increasingly encompassing the civilian arena, the PTM and its allies among nationalist parties are emerging as the new hope for anti-war politics and a future without military domination.
September 20, 2021 War and State (Un)making in Tribal Borderlands of Pakistan Source: Inter Services Public Relations
If you are interested in contributing an article for the project, please send a short summary of the proposed topic (no more than 200 words) and brief bio to submissions@911legacies.com. For all other matters, please contact inquiry@911legacies.com.
CONTACT
Web design made by Nyx Alexander Design ; Icons, logo and photos provided by Daniel Brown
HOME HOME THEMATICS THEMATICS
In August this year, three soldiers from the gendarmerie Balochistan Levy Force were killed in a landmine      explosion in Ziarat, a southwestern town of Pakistan. A parlat (sit-in) ensued as the deceased's relatives and well- wishers refused to bury the corpses and blocked a highway. The protestors became further enraged by the arrival of a provincial government minister and his attempts at placating the situation. They demanded an immediate evacuation of the military and a roll back of its expanded presence in the region. They complained that paramilitary forces regularly fire hundreds of rounds during training in close proximity to a civilian population, terrorizing children and not letting anyone sleep quietly at night. One of the irate protestors   wailed, “Who flies a drone over the village? What a blatant disregard to  chadar-o- chaardiwari (honor of the house)!” Refusing to bury the dead bodies and rejecting  khatir (deference) of the minister are uncharacteristic actions in the honor-based Pashtun society that treats both the corpse and visitors with great respect. But such has been the norm in the northern and western tribal regions of Pakistan since the rise of a social movement, the Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement, four years ago. The preplanned and coordinated jalsa (political gathering) as the main mode of political expression has given way to parlat sit-ins that do not await a prior approval, announcement, or mobilization from leaders or political organizations. Such uncoordinated spontaneous efforts sometimes amass into large gatherings that outmatch jalsas from the past and attract leaders and followers from across political divides. The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), earlier known as the Mehsud Tahafuz Movement, emerged in response to the Pakistan military’s many reckless operations in the northern tribal region. Among these, Zarb-e-Azb 1 (sharp strike), proved as the most lethal operation that took a heavy toll on the local populations who came to scathingly call it, Zarb-e-Ghazb (wrathful strike). The operations were launched by the Pakistani state in response to growing domestic pressure to limit the frequent militant attacks and in line with the    United    States’    “Af-Pak    policy,” which viewed expanding the Global War on Terror (GWOT) to Pakistan’s tribal region where the Taliban and other militants held hideouts as crucial to its success Like the American-led war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond, the Pakistani military also indiscriminately rained bombs over civilian populations and continued to permit the U.S. to conduct drone strikes at a varying level of frequency in the northern tribal region. Mirali bazaar in the North Waziristan Agency, a sizable and bustling marketplace in the area, was left devastated like a ramshackle archeological site from the past. Those who got killed in the operations were reported as “militants” without proof or identification and those who went missing never returned. PTM claims that the missing person list surpasses 4000 men, and this is not a definitive total. While accurate figures are hard to come by, the operation resulted in the displacement     of about   800,000   people . Since 9/11, Pakistan has lost more than 80,000 lives due to the war. Beyond these deaths and destruction, the counter-terrorism operations put the Pakistani military in a new role to oversee civilian affairs even more meticulously. While there is nothing new about the Pakistani military interfering in civilian affairs, its operational capacity, influence, and spatial reach touched new limits during the war decades, particularly in the tribal region. In the past the military made a show of force, quelled local resistance, and returned to its cantonments. But during wartime it worked with and dominated the civil administration permanently. Visa and border control regimes have been established by the federal government with the assistance of the military to regulate hitherto free movement of people and goods in and out of the country at an unprecedented level. Fencing   and   manning of the borders with Iran and Afghanistan are near completion while military check-posts now dot the entire landscape in the North and Southwest of Pakistan. Moreover, in the Baloch areas, international mining companies have been awarded lucrative contracts by the federal and provincial governments without consultation with the local populations, while the Pakistani military provides security at such sites including the security of Chinese engineers and laborers working on the Pakistan China Economic Corridor. The military’s engineering of politics at the local level has reached new heights as well. In Balochistan, these efforts have culminated in the creation of a military- orchestrated political party, the Balochistan Awami Party. The military, however, has been mindful of its rapid-paced intervention in tribal society. It has set up new military-run schools, increased recruitment intake from the troubled region, and, most importantly, provided security solutions to businesses and efficient dispute- resolution mechanisms to the mining industry run by locals. The civilian administration and courts have an outdated and compromising setup to deal with complex mining disputes in a society transitioning from tribal and family- owned land and enterprises to individual and private ownership. In this instance, at least, the ineptness of an unmotivated civil bureaucracy has allowed the military to build its legitimacy anew. The military’s capture of the civilian functions is but one aspect of state-making in the tribal areas; civilian institutions too got overhauled. The civilian security setup got beefed up as new police units were launched to enhance the state’s combat capacity. The working perimeters   of the regular police were increased by adding areas from the control of tribal police, the Levy Force. These militaristic interventions have been supported by increased surveillance mechanisms, such as issuing biometric identification cards . In big towns, gun-toting men and the display of light weapons in the bazaar area is no longer a common sight as it used to be fifteen years back. The movement of people is now more closely tracked and regulated. Drones are being used for purposes other than war and combat. And the people of Balochistan and Northwestern frontiers are being increasingly subjected to the country’s taxation regime, a feat that the British state could not achieve, which had to either to waive taxes altogether or keep them at a minimum to not risk its authority. But these invasive state-making efforts have attracted a nemesis in the tribal borderlands. The Baloch are militarily resisting the militarized capital-extractive state expansion with broad-based ethnic solidarity, unlike tribe- specific revolts of the past. The Pashtuns, if less secessionist now than before, have become even more critical of the new security regime. They are resisting the military establishment through a social movement, PTM. The current unrest is yet another episode of capitalist transformations and modern state intrusion in tribal society. Both modern state authority and capitalist interventions have emerged on the former imperial borderland in a perpetual war-like condition and continue to tightly knit “war and security” in a way that bears the hallmark of what Benjamin Hopkins calls “frontier governmentality.” 2 As both the militants and the state are deploying new war technologies and tactics that are increasingly encompassing the civilian arena, the PTM and its allies among nationalist parties are emerging as the new hope for anti-war politics and a future without military domination.
© 2021 Oriental Institute, The Czech Academy of Sciences, Kevin L. Schwartz, and Ameem Lutfi
© 2021 Oriental Institute, The Czech Academy of Sciences, Kevin L. Schwartz, and Ameem Lutfi
War and State (Un)making in Tribal Borderlands of Pakistan
Written by
Graduate student at the University of Michigan. His research interests are illegal trade, borders, state-formation, and tribes-state.
If you are interested in contributing an article for the project, please send a short summary of the proposed topic (no more than 200 words) and brief bio to submissions@911legacies.com. For all other matters, please contact inquiry@911legacies.com.
CONTACT