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Frontier Tribal Regions of Afghanistan
Fortunately Afghanistan does not have such areas, which are administratively and politically separate and where all the articles of Constitution do not apply, as is the case with FATA in Pakistan. But despite this fact the border tribal regions of Afghanistan are so much backward and poor as those across the border or rather more backward in most respects.
Generally all the provinces from Wakhan to Rabat are frontier and tribal. So we include provinces of Nooristan, Kunar, Ningrahar, Paktia, Khost, Paktika, Zabul, Kandahar, Helmand and Nimroz in the said category. But there are areas in these provinces, which cannot qualify as tribal, like big centres of Jalalabad and Kandahar. How to categorize and concretize this term of frontier tribal region with respect to Afghanistan, is question need to be answered. I personally think with the exception of these centres, all other areas are tribal and should be treated as such.
The Afghan society should get rid of weapons, enmities and fighting and people should engage in production and labour. Internal dangers and conflicts must come to an end. The tribal warlike structure of frontier regions can jeopardize the peace and stability of Afghanistan at any moment. It is of utmost importance for the prosperity of Afghanistan that the said areas should come out of tribal anarchy and misfortune, join the general mainstream process of production and work and do not get time to engage in lashkar formation on any pretext whatsoever.
If we cast a glance over the past, we would find that time and again the Central Governments of Afghanistan have got destabilized from these areas. These tribal masses must get involved in the peaceful political development of their country and like civilized people must join other peoples of the country to collectively and peacefully owns its destiny.
The social and economic life of these areas must be analyzed and assessed sympathetically in order to find out the ways out of it. The current rise in terrorism cast its shadow on other parts of the country from these and through these areas by crossing their co-tribesmen from across the border. If any part of Afghanistan is unstable where the government control is tenuous, then it is either these areas or has been conveyed instability from the paths of these tribes.
Our people are proud of their tribal affiliations and hold these dear as heritage of their forefathers. The reason is quite clear. The people have experienced no other alternative to tribal protection they feel. If life changes due to natural course of economic development and progress, people would welcome and accept it like they did in other areas. But until now no one has provided them with the resources of change and they are forced to guard whatever they have.
Right from Nooristan to Rabat, there is a long stretch of tribal land. The Pukhtoon tribes are important in it. They should be participants in the economic development plans. When we speak of frontier tribal provinces, it cannot be construed that other parts of the country are not worth attention. Our goal is that if these tribal areas develop through social and community based process, then other parts of the country could also live in peace and security and make progress.
The adoption of a Constitution is evidence of the fact that Afghans believe in one indivisible country, they demand progressive and modern society, and they support democracy and rule of law and thus want to travel in unity and conformity with the international community. Keeping in view this principle, we should assess the ground realities about the tribes. Then we can reach any conclusion about them.
Like FATA, which since the British times have been neglected in the decisive policy announcements, the same can be true about the Afghan frontier tribes who have been relegated to marginal status. Everyone accepts their importance in words, but in practice nothing is seen. Except few years of King Zahir Shah Monarchy when late Mohammad Daoud Khan was Prime Minister, who due to the then declared policy set up Rehman Baba Lycee for internal tribes and Khushal Lycee and three schools in Nangrahar, Khost and Kandahar for tribes across the Line, nothing tangible has been done for them so far.
Now the political atmosphere has changed. The policies of premiership of Daoud Khan are no more practicable. But that drive and determination of progress and development with respect to tribes need to be revived. The national priorities announced under the National Development Framework are too general and there is nothing specific about these areas.
Right from Nooristan to Zabul, the land is largely mountainous and from Kandahar to Nimroz it is mostly sandy and desert. Except Jalalabad and Kandahar, there is no other big city. But the regions contiguous to border are barren and mountainous. There is dire need of more concretizing the tribal regions.
Long Term Neglect
Generally, land is scarce in the frontier tribal area. Irrigation is non-existent and agriculture is equal to nothing. Whatever forests existed in some of these areas has been cut down in the course of two and half decades. Roads are not there and overall the condition of physical infrastructure is pathetic. Electricity is not even known to many people of the area. The state of education is bad. Schools are very few or absolutely non-existent. The girls' education is inconceivable. A few madrassas set up by extremist elements do exist which not only cannot fulfill the modern education needs of the children, but are also hotbeds of extremism. There are no hospitals worth the name or are a few clinics. In most of the areas, one cannot see any sign of modern civilization. There is no industry. People own meager livestock and help themselves in abject poverty. There is no place to find job and work. In some places people have no alternative but to grow poppy and charas or resort to smuggling between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Due to illiteracy, ignorance, unemployment and poverty, people mostly depend on nature. They can easily be misguided by extremist religious slogans and when someone show them the way of material benefit alongside these slogans, then they easily fall prey and become tools and means of terrorism.
This is the joint duty of all the interested parties to bring them up from this sorry state of affairs. This is possible only when first the problem is realized in the Centre and then the way out is pinpointed. The current seminar is an important step to that direction.
The National Priority Programmes announced under National Development Framework cannot fulfill the needs of frontier tribal regions. For Example the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, which envisages certain projects in the whole of Afghanistan under the National Emergency Employment Programme (NEEP), does not give anything substantial to these areas. Except Gardez and Ningrahar, most of its projects are concentrated in other parts of the country. The projects underway for 2005-2006 for all 34 provinces cost 25,111,368 US dollars, i.e. average 738570 US dollars per province. But nothing would be spent on Nimroz and Kunar and the remaining eight provinces would receive 4758175 US dollars, i.e. average 475817 US dollars per province.
On the other hand what Provincial Reconstruction Teams are generally doing in these provinces is also negligible as compared to other PRTs doing in other provinces. So method has to be changed. The pretext for not doing enough is stated to be absence of security. But there are areas where security does exist and still they are ignored.
There is also general sense of disillusionment among these areas as they are mostly deprived of electricity. While all the provinces bordering Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran are getting electricity from those countries; the provinces bordering Pakistan are deprived of such facility because of reluctance of Afghan Government to purchase power from Pakistan despite of her expressed willingness to provide it.
PRTs on the Border Areas
Generally the PRTs were well received by the people. The concept behind its creation is also the same with which the tribes are familiar, i.e. linking security with development. Though they are staffed by military and civilian personnel both, yet they are concentrating mostly near the centres or in the centres of the provinces. The far-flung tribal areas are still neglected. While the PRTs are designed to work in high-risk areas, the neglect of the border tribal regions in itself provides opportunities for terrorist to operate from those areas.
Insurgencies or lawlessness only survives with the support of the local population. When the people are left behind in the race of development, it gives birth to resentment and atmosphere is created for the criminals and terrorists to operate easily. There is growing understanding among the experts working in post-conflict zones that provision of humanitarian services and establishment of long-term development programmes counter the enabling environment for insurgency and terrorist operations. There is growing of vigorously pursuing the developmental task in these areas.
Until and unless the atmosphere of normal development is created in the country, specifically in the tribal zone, the existence of army along with civilians working together in unison like in PRTs will be there. However, one thing must be kept in mind while carrying out any work of development. The tribal people live on traditions. They know that across the border in Pakistan once the British were there, and whatever they built, buildings, bridges or roads, they are still fully functional after the lapse of more than a century. Secondly, they have the Russian experience in their country that’s built buildings and other constructions are strong and sturdy and are of high quality. Whatever PRTs or other donors build in the country, they are of poor quality and cannot survive for long. This negatively affects the image of Americans and international community.
There is need of some grand projects in the region. This would positively affect the tribal mind. Until now there are small projects like building some schools, small bridges, digging wells, constructing some link roads, no great project work is underway in the whole tribal region for public utility.
What is to be done?
The international community must change its approach with respect to the frontier tribal areas. The national priority programmes announced by the GoA face hurdles in their implementation. But with relation to tribal areas those hurdles are double. The frontier tribes, which need urgent advancement and development, cannot accommodate under present framework. It would be better to draw short-term, medium term and long term plans for these areas.
Special Frontier Tribal Development Fund should be created by donors like USAID, European Union, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan and others, which should cover both cis-border and trans-border tribal areas. Projects are to be designed and approved for implementation. Strong international monitoring system has to be devised over the spending of the Fund. It would be better to introduce a joint tripartite commission in developmental matters, as it exists in security affairs. The proposition that a non-official consultative organization consisting of unofficial Afghans and Pakistanis be made, which would present its findings and recommendation to the international community, is also worth exploring. Then it depends upon international community to act upon their recommendations.
A special institution committed to the frontier tribal development should come into being inside Afghanistan, which is unreservedly devoted to this task. This sort of institution can be made out of the present ministry of tribes, nationalities and frontier. This ministry has lost its traditional role for obvious reasons and its new role is undefined and nebulous. It would be better to transform it into frontier tribal development ministry. The present tribal and political personnel is devoted to work with the tribal communities and another professional personnel is added to it, which should devise projects, present then for approval and implemented in accordance with rules and regulations laid down by the Fund.
1. Education: The most urgent task for these people is the spread of education among their children, both boys and girls, of these areas. These regions either have very few or no schools at all. Only through knowledge and literacy can we relieve the tribesmen from the current misfortune. If the international community really wants to free these people from extremist influences and like civilized human beings they should concentrate on their lives and surroundings, then it should divert its attention to the spread of education among them. Since these areas are situated near the border with Pakistan, therefore, special English language schools and centres should be opened there, so that people of these areas may compete with those across the border. Education must be given topmost priority.
2. Health: Health facilities are very few in these areas. These people take their patients to the cities of Pakistan and some centers insides Afghanistan, when their chances of survival are lost. Due to lack of medical facilities in their own areas, these illiterate and simple people are forced to depend upon amulets and the uneducated quacks and pirs or imposters as doctors, who by prescribing various unhygienic methods bring patients on the brink of death and then force the relatives of the diseased person to take him/her to Pakistan or inside the country. As far as mother and childcare are concerned, there is no arrangement for their health. Mothers die while giving birth or child dies unnecessarily due to lack of birth practitioners.
3. Media: TV, Radio and press play important role in shaping the modern human beings. These tribal people do get varied radio transmissions, but these are mostly playing music. Radio transmission should be devoted to education of these tribes. Providing electricity to the people should be followed by TV station(s) set up beaming transmissions specifically to these areas.
4. Livestock: People are mostly engaged in this sector so it would be better to help them raising good pedigree cattle. Veterinary clinics should be opened for them and tribals should be provided with training for raising cattle of good breed.
5. Forests: Some of the frontier tribal areas which had forests or those areas where forestation can be done should be reforested with the understanding and help of the tribal communities and they should be given the responsibility to look after their forests. It would be better to assist them in planting fruit bearing trees. Some areas are conducive for tea plantation; tea farms should be experimented there. Likewise orchards can be encouraged to be grown.
6. Agriculture: Tribal people are traditionally known to this sector. Rather many of them are engaged in it. Since they live in mountainous areas, there a lot of possibilities of building small dams. These dams on the one hand can serve the purpose of irrigation and can produce electricity, on the other.
7. Handicrafts: A survey is needed to be conducted as to how better employ the people, especially womenfolk there. Training centers should be opened for this purpose, where these people are taught different trades. For example in some areas of Khost shrub-pine is naturally grown, which has engaged a substantial number of people in making various traditional products out of it. This can assume a modern and organized industry if they are taught the art to make other more sophisticated goods out of it for the Western consumers, so that these can be sold in the markets of Europe and America. This would give employment to many people.
8. Timber: There are some areas in Nooristan, Kunar, Paktia and Khost where you can find timber and which is being smuggled to Pakistan. In order to block the way of smuggling, cut the trees in accordance with set rules, small furniture factories can be installed in the said areas. This would generate income for many people and give employment to the unemployed army of youth.
9. Minerals: The region is full of various types of minerals. A programme to extract these is needed. For example chromites are found in abundance in Spira, Tani and Gurbuz Uluswalis of Khost, which are being daily smuggled creating security problems too. Why not to dig out these methodically according to scientific methods and process it in Khost and export it to the consumer countries. The underground gas and oil reserves are also believed to be found in the region, these should be allowed to be commercially exploited sooner than later.
10. Power: Electricity constitutes the basis of new civilization. There are places in tribal belt where natural springs, waterfalls, preserving rain and snow water in dams are found. These can fulfill the electric needs of the people. But before such dams and electric generating unit are installed, people should be provided with generators or electricity can be bought from Pakistan. There can be no reconstruction and development without electricity. Apart from it, Kunar River has the capacity of irrigating hundred thousands hectares of land and producing enough electricity for the whole country. That is a long-term project and the initial feasibility survey is already in the archives of the government. Work can be started on it.
11. Urbanization: Building small towns in the areas which could accommodate the returning refugees and the spread out local population of tribes is another way of bringing tribes away from rigid tribalism and taking civilization to them.
12. Roads: The shape of physical infrastructure is very bad. There is dire need of construction of modern roads from villages to towns or from farmlands to markets in order to carry the products of the people, take patients easily to hospitals and clinics and link the inaccessible areas to cities, and to be more correct to civilization.
13. Microfinance Schemes: In order to help tribesmen in the field of livestock razing, agricultural farming, poultry farming, honeybees farming, fruit farming and handicrafts manufacturing, there is need of providing the people, especially women, with easy loans. This sort of experience has been proved successful in many other Third World countries.
14. Modern Toilets: Brining civilization to the people should be one of the ingredients of the new tribal policy. There should be a scheme to show to and help people build modern toilets. This would on the one hand lessen the water borne diseases among the people and would also help them in introducing them to modern way of life, on the other. Wherever the water is scarce, other means can be found to help these people in disposing off their excreta.
This is very sad that right from Nooristan to Nimroz, there is only one strategic project, i.e. the construction of modern university with the help of UAE Government in Khost. The said University needs close attention from academic and curriculum point of view. It can be slowly transformed into a modern English language University for the whole of surrounding tribal areas, including for Pakistani tribal land like Kurram and Waziristan, and the country at large.
Security vis-à-vis arbakai
Recently the Tribal Liaison Office of Swisspeace has undertaken the initiative of introducing arbakis in the Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces for peacekeeping at times of emergency. In the recent parliamentary elections, three thousand of arbakis were assigned the duty only in Khost province to help maintain security and stem any eventuality of terrorism on the part of Taliban or al-Qaida. This was a successful exercise.
Traditional tribal society of Pukhtoons is governed by customs and traditions. Jirga is common traditions with all the tribes of Pukhtoons. Those Pukhtoons who have come out of their tribal existence in the course of time like those residing in Peshawar valley, where jirga is there in a changed form but most of the customs and traditions have been replaced by the state institutions and regulations, the concept of youngsters called in different names in different tribes at different times executing the unanimous decisions of the elders in jirgas has been common among Pukhtoons. Arbakis are only found among the Karlani tribes living in greater Paktia. In Kurram they are called rapakae/ameer. In Waziristan they are called chalweshtai. In Afridi and Orakzai territories they are called lashkar. These organizations are tribal police force enjoying the authority to punish those who do not comply with tribal decisions, which ranges from small and nominal penalty called nagha of cash or kind to severe punishment of burning down the house of the guilty.
Chagha is another form of tribal lashkar spontaneously and instantaneously raised on voluntary basis on emergency occasion of dacoity, robbery or another form of offence. This is found among Yousafzais and other related tribes with them. Chagha was done through drum in the former times, but now it is announced through loudspeakers. In Durrani tribes, this custom assumes different shape as jirga assigns the number of heads at the time of emergency on different plarenas or congregation of families with the same lineage to be produced to implement the decision.
All these institutions can be used to combat terrorism. Since most of other tribes have nearly lost many of the former traits of tribalism, only the tribes in Paktia are still governed by age-old traditions, therefore, arbakai is the vehicle that can carry the modern burden of urgent security. These institutions are only situational, voluntary and not permanent. Only the British were wise enough to use this concept by recruiting Khasadaars from among the tribes of FATA. Following the British experience of Khasadaars, the arbakis can be turned into permanent security force with the consent of the jirgas and elders. Normally arbakis are not provided with any weapon or salary from the government; only they are commended and praised.
As for as Afghan National Army and Police are concerned, they keep security in coordination with each other. The frontiers are guarded by Americans or the jointly with the local Afghan forces called campaign. These latter are mostly comprised of the former army personnel.
The only alternative of ameliorating the lot of these people is active cooperation of Afghanistan and Pakistan. A holistic and integrated plan for tribal development is needed. International community must shoulder the responsibility of bringing these two countries nearer to each other despite of lingering suspicions between the two neighbours.
There are many irritants between the two countries and these are rooted in past and recent history. However, it is heartening to note that both Afghanistan and Pakistan established a tripartite commission with the US government on 17 June 2003 as one of the partners to discuss security matters and other related subjects. The meetings of the Commission are regularly taking place alternately in Kabul and Islamabad. The establishment of the tripartite commission is in line with the 11th Article of the 1921 Anglo-Afghan Treaty, which stipulates that "two high contracting parties having mutually satisfied themselves each regarding the goodwill of the other, and especially regarding their benevolent intentions towards the tribes residing, close to their respective boundaries, hereby undertake each to inform the other in future of any military operations of major importance which may appear necessary for the maintenance of order among the frontier tribes residing within their respective spheres, before the commencement of such operations." The establishment of tripartite commission augurs well for the future relations of the two countries. This paves way for cooperation in other areas, including the development and progress of the tribes residing close to the border. It is widely alleged, not without any reason, that Pakistan has actually violated the sanctity of the border by establishing security posts inside the Afghan territory. This is the duty of international community, specifically Americans, to rectify the situation before the misgivings and suspicions lead to acrimony.
Prepared by :
Feroz Bashir Ansari
dated: 11th dec,2008