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Talibanization of Pakistan

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Message Khalid Aziz
The reason for the security problems of Pakistan and its rapid descent into Talibanization lies principally in the Legal Framework Order of 2002. A shortsighted compendium of laws aimed to turn Pakistan into a security state under the domination of the military and institutionalized through the National Security Council. This was “gifted” to Pakistan by Gen. Musharraf to entrench the military permanently in the corridors of power. The LFO was made a part of the constitution through the 17th amendment passed in 2002.  This law, thoughtlessly passed by the National Assembly, has changed the nature of the country and provided space for its rapid Talibanization. It removed administrative institutions, whose principal job was the maintenance of the state. It is indeed a great paradox that in trying to make Pakistan into a security state, we not only became insecure but also laid the seeds of the take over of the state by armed religious and ethnic groups including the Taliban. The 1973 Constitution established a federal and a parliamentary form of government, where power was divided between the federal and provincial governments.  Prior to the 2002 election, Gen. Musharaff issued more than 300 legal instruments.  Many of these were against the provisions of the Constitution.  For instance, under the Local Government Ordinance, powers of executive authority in the districts and sub-divisions were taken away from the provinces and handed over to the local government, which was set up as an equal partner to the provincial government. Under Article 70 of the Constitution, local government is a provincial and not a federal subject. The federation could not legislate in this area. It was done through the maneauvre of the 17th amendment. We will note in detail the mischief brought about by this change. Another reform of disastrous proportion was the fiddling with the country’s administrative structure; some commentators say that this was necessary for converting Pakistan into a security state permanently. If the gridlock of district administration was in place, could Talibization succeed? Would situations deteriorate as rapidly in many places simultaneously had a magistracy system been in operation? The answer is an emphatic no; at least not at the same speed and direction. Now Talibanization is given a free run. Unlike as in the past, now the weakened district administration is forced to rely on the military instead of the police. Is this the desire of Pakistan’s military establishment to make the civilian institutions reliant on them for solving all problems? Before the implementation of Local Bodies Reform in 2002, by the military, Pakistan like other ex-British colonies, relied on a civil service based district administration.  This was the steel framework that had maintained state security, law and order and protected rights of the rural agriculturists by maintaining the record of rights in land and water.   Over night, this system was abolished and replaced by dysfunctional local government system, which has failed to protect state rights, maintain law and order or the rights of the poor in the rural regions, where more than 55% of the country’s population lives.  The local government gave power to the feudals over the peasants and the impoverished and the balance maintained by the state between different classes in the rural areas collapsed. Oppression and crime has increased many fold. State regulation has diminished and the record of rights in land and water made dysfunctional. In NWFP, the local government reform created a vast vacuum for the radicals to fill.  They regained control over vast tracts because the state abdicated its responsibilities; some say that this was done purposely to create a need for the military to remain in power and to keep the U.S engaged in this region. Now criminal gangs and radicals have moved in and control sizable areas. They are a threat to the state. It is feared that the so called Taliban will play a crucial role in the border district with the tribal areas, in the national elections due later this year.  Simultaneously, the country has weakened by adopting two other disastrous policy changes.  Under the misconception of achieving a Westministerial ideal in Pakistan, the magistracy system of crime control through a district magistrate was abolished under the rhetoric of separation of judiciary from the executive.  This policy change was an abject failure of analysis of the socio-cultural context of how Pakistani law and society operated.  The district magistrate was answerable to the High Court for all his actions under the criminal procedure code.  So were all the magistrates. However, we missed this factor in our analysis and we failed to note it. It was wrongly thought, that somehow the executive was mixed in the judiciary.  Therefore, in our fervour of reform the baby was thrown out with the bath water.  The consequence in the deterioration of the state control is plainly visible.  Our military’s penchant for social engineering did not stop here.  Chaos was introduced into the working of the police force at two levels.  According to principles of hierarchical  administration, which is the best solution for dealing with law and order related organizations, the hub of police activity at the thana level (police station), was transformed into a nightmare and a quagmire of confusion and mixed responsibilities.   Where previously the station house officer of the police sub-district was personally responsible for watch and ward as well as crime, the police reform brought in a division of in this responsibility by introducing a parallel authority in the form of another police officer responsible for investigations only. It reduced the effectiveness of the station house officer and resulted in producing an adverse crime situation throughout the country. At the higher level of administration of police, we in our wisdom, while living in the sub-continent with our specific cultural and historical background, borrowed the police supervisory system from Japan.  It was believed, that such a system would de-politicize the police and make it perform efficiently.  How wrong we were, is amply and conclusively proved by the tragic events of 12 May, when we witnessed a major dereliction of duty by the Karachi police, they watched and did nothing when people were being murdered by gunmen.  On this sad day, premeditated ethnic violence was allowed to be perpetuated by the MQM, with the full knowledge of the police; the police knew that their deployment was meant to encourage a mini genocide. They allowed it to happen in front of their eyes. How shameful!  The least that Gen. Mueenuddin Haider and his colleagues of the National Police Commission can do is to resign. One hopes they have the honour and the dignity to do so. The erosion of the state at the district level has produced the Taliban nightmare in North West Frontier Province.  It is premature to conclude whether the removal of the district administration tier is pre-meditated or caused by an abdication of responsibility by the government? the result is the same. It has led to an increase in Talibization of the province in the absence of the strong bulwark of the magistracy to confront it.    NWFP so far  has had more than 14 suicide bombings; some of these as in the case of a suicide bombing in Lakki Marwat a couple of months ago involved a student from the local Madrassah.  I have failed so far to obtain a satisfactory reply from senior police officers, why the head of the Madrassah was not charged with murder, since the student was obviously brain washed to undertake the horrendous act under his tutelage. At the Constitutional level, the Legal Framework Order has disempowered the federal and provincial legislatures and cabinets since they cannot amend, change or even discuss the 300 plus laws, ordinances and regulations protected under the 17th amendment of the Constitution. Under it any law or action taken by Gen. Musharraf prior to August 2002, cannot be touched. Even a 2 / 3rd majority in Parliament cannot make changes; only the President can. Many of these untouchable laws, including those relating to district government, the police, and executive magistracy are provincial subjects as defined under Article 70 of the Constitution. Now since they are protected under the Legal Framework Order, the provinces where Pakistan’s 160 million people live, cannot amend these laws. The scheme of “one unit”, where the state was managed as one unitary structure abolished in 1971, by Gen. Yahya, another military dictator, has been restored through the back door. Pakistan is no longer a federal state as laid down in the Constitution but a unitary form of government. Secondly, according to the Westminster type of parliamentary democracy adopted in Pakistan, the Prime Minister, advises the President to issue the necessary legal and executive orders. The 17th amendment has changed this.  Under Article 260, consultation between Prime Minister and President has been redefined to mean that the Prime Minister’s advice is not binding on the President; in the provinces, the Governors are similarly not bound by the advice of the Chief Minister. We thus have an irresponsible system of government.  It is thus obvious, that neither the parliament at the federal level nor the assemblies in the provinces can conduct any serious business. Their powers have been taken by the President and the Governor in the provinces.    Similarly, the political executive composed of the Prime Minister and his cabinet at the federal level and the Chief Minister and provincial cabinet in provinces are also disempowered.   The picture that emerges is one of chaos, disempowerment of political institutions, coupled with a confused approach to policing and administration at the district level.  Pakistan today does not now have the administrative or the political capacity to prevent the creep towards Talibanization.   According to Britain’s foreign development agency, DFID, the indicator of state fragility can be measured by four important indicators.  Firstly, what is the effectiveness of state authority in ensuring safety and security? Secondly, does the executive hold effective political power that is not subject to outside control?  Thirdly, is economic management transparent and does it follow the rules?  Fourthly, does the state provide access to social services to all its citizens?   The preceding discussion informs us that we are not in alignment with the first and second indicator for the reasons discussed. Two comments are made regarding the third and fourth indicators defining a well-managed state.  We have seen that economic management as witnessed in privatization of state assets leaves much to be desired. The Supreme Court has already highlighted the malfeasance in the privatization of the Karachi Steel Mills.  The manipulation of the Karachi stock market and cartelization of the key sectors of the national economy including sugar and cement are all well known. The gifting of state land as bribe to political supporters is also discussed openly in the newspapers.     The level of social services has fallen despite abundant foreign assistance. A recent report emerging out of the findings from the Living Standard Measurement Survey 2005-06, found that despite government claims of poverty reduction and improvement in social services, the living standards in Pakistan have fallen in the last five years.  Total enrollment in government schools has declined from 74% in 2002-03 to 65% in 2005-06; immunization has fallen from 77% in 2004-05 to 71% in 2005-06. It is thus evident, that if Pakistan’s health is measured on the DFID scale of state fragility, we are hovering at about 30% of the scale out of a maximum possible 100%. One of the attributes of a wise man is to see reality and not live in a make believe world of denials.  Our top leadership believes unrealistically, that everything is honky-dory. Only on 19 May, the Prime Minister of Pakistan claimed at an international conference in Jordan, that political reforms had ensured good governance through transparency and accountability.  I only wish it was true. It is evident that our experiments with state institutions have resulted in giving the ground to the Talibans who are spreading rapidly.  We must deny the large space that we have provided gratis to the radicals. In order to put our house in order, we will need re-visiting the LFO and undo the 17th amendment. This contrivance is nothing but a recipe for national disintegration.    Institutions and laws are living systems; they provide the desired social goods if properly designed.  The LFO is puerile and must be rubbished.  It is also clear now that the war in tribal areas of Pakistan has restarted in real earnest with the demise of Dadullah. Let us realize that the season of treaties in tribal areas is over.  It will be wise to upgrade our security warning to red. There will be more kidnappings, attacks on districts bordering tribal areas and suicide bombings in Peshawar and other major towns of the province. We in NWFP and tribal areas will pay a very heavy price for our shortsighted reforms introduced through the 17th constitutional amendment. It has been a gift to the Taliban In the final analysis, one agrees with Gen.Abizaid former commander of CENTCOM, who said that military solves only 20% of the problem. The rest has to be sorted out diplomatically, economically and politically. Pakistan and NWFP have an uphill task but let us make the right choices that are in line with our national and international obligations and remove the advantages provided to the Taliban through our thoughtless tinkering with administrative structures. 


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I am a retired government officer having served more than 30 years, many of those in the tribal areas of Pakistan. I head the Regional Institute of Policy Research & Training in Peshawar. These days we are involved in various projects dealing (more...)
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