PAKISTAN: ‘The tribal agreement helps in the hunt for Bin Laden’
The recent visit to the United States of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf brought into focus the security issues that link his country with neighbor Afghanistan and with the United States. All three countries are allies in the war on terror and all have suffered considerably from the direct impact of terror. The international interest in how Pakistan manages the tribal areas that border Afghanistan has been intense, since it is widely believed that it is here that Al Qaeda leader and the world’s most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden, is hiding from his many pursuers.
Pakistan’s ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani recently sat down with DiplomaticTraffic.com to talk about border issues, the recent agreement Islamabad signed with tribes in the area, and the overall achievements of Pakistan in combating Islamic extremism and the terror related to it.
Impact of the tribal agreement on border security
Right now there is no major impact. This agreement was signed by [tribal leaders] in only one area of Waziristan. There are seven of these areas. So at least this will insure, almost 100 percent, that there are no [illegal border] crossings in Northern Waziristan. The agreement categorically prohibits any crossing of the border with Afghanistan for any violent activity. However, you can cross over for meeting relatives, for business, according to the old traditions. But for terrorist activities, certainly not.
A broader impact is that another tribal area is also now approaching the government of Pakistan to make the same kind of agreement. Waziristan is saturated with military. Since the army went in, we have ferreted out all the bad guys. In many areas the army had never been before. All the areas that were being used as hideouts have been eliminated as hideouts because they now have the presence of the Pakistani army and intelligence units.
We have put a lot of pressure [on the border areas] and this agreement was signed by the government from a position of strength. It is the tribes that said ‘we want to end this; we want to have peace; we want to continue with our old tribal systems; let us live the way we were living.’ To let them live the way they had been living [before the army entered their areas], the government set the following conditions:
1. No terrorism or insurgency within Pakistan;
2. No terrorism or insurgency within Afghanistan, from this area;
3. We will not expand ‘Talibisation’ into neighboring areas of South or North Waziristan;
4. The Federal Government of Pakistan will be the sole authority in these areas.
[For details of the September 5 agreement, see document attached below.]
One of the fundamental agreements arranged at the recent dinner President Bush held with Presidents Musharraf and Karzai was that they are going to support the tribal leadership, on both sides of the border. I consider that an acknowledgement of what we have done as good, otherwise these three leaders would not have agreed to it. They will support tribal leaders and the tribal system to get rid of extremism and terrorism.
The hunt for Bin Laden
The tribal agreement helps in the way that one particular area will not be able to house Osama Bin Laden. Within the agreement there is another clause that all foreigners will have to leave the area. Only those that have been there a long time, and have married locals, and are ready to give up their arms and follow the dictates of the government will be allowed to stay. They will not be more than a handful.
The capacity of tribes to secure their areas
The tribes are armed. Some are constantly battling others. This agreement allows them to keep their weapons, except heavy weapons. The Pakistan army continues to stay in the tribal areas. The agreement gives greater autonomy to the tribes. There is the Frontier Constabulary that in the past manned border crossings. Now the army mans the border [with Afghanistan] but under the agreement will hand control of internal checkpoints [between Pakistani towns, for example] to the paramilitary forces of the Frontier Constabulary.
The tribes have agreed that they will not allow, or participate in, any extremist or terrorist activities. If they violate the agreement, we are back to square one. We have the military there, so there is no problem.
Securing the Pakistan-Afghan border
Infiltration and exfiltration is seen on both sides of the border [with Afghanistan]. In North and South Waziristan we have about 600 border posts. On the other [Afghan] side there are about 100. We would like them to increase their border posts. It is a joint responsibility.
We have offered two things. We have offered to the United Nations and Afghanistan: ‘Please take the refugees back.’ There are still about three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. There is traffic to and fro, among relatives, etc. They keep on telling us they can’t absorb them now.
Another thing we have suggested is to fence the border. But they don’t want to do that. We said, ‘Ok, mine the crossing places.’ But they don’t want to do that. They don’t want to do a lot of things that they should do. And we get the blame.
The status of madrasas
There are madrasas in both countries. There are radical madrasas existing in Afghanistan today. They are also in the thousands. A couple of years back I visited a madrasa in Heart, a Western Afghan city, that was 700 years old.
We are asking two fundamental things of our madrasas. First, we are asking them to get registered. We have about 14,000 madrasas, of which 10,000 have registered so far. Our goal is to get all of them registered. Once they are registered we know about them, where they get their money from, etc., and we monitor them. The second thing is that we are working with them to change their syllabus, so that although they are religious schools we are asking them to bring in liberal subjects such as sciences, mathematics, languages, history, economics, so that their minds improve and they are able to get jobs.
The handful of radical madrasas that disobeyed the government we have shut down. We have also created laws that ban publication and distribution of hate material.
Radicalization of madrasas
[Madrasas are a long-established and respected part of Islamic education, and their radicalization is a relatively recent phenomenon.] The main cause of radicalization was the fight against the Soviet Union. America, Pakistan and many countries got together and gleefully encouraged the madrasas to produce more gun fodder to fight the infidels. The seven major Afghan parties that were operating out of Pakistan with the total support of the US government were all religious. It was done for short-term gain. Whenever you use religion for politics, this is what happens. It is a deadly mix. Every faith has used religion for political ends, for example the Christians in the crusades.
Proliferation of arms
Not only were the madrasas radicalized, but Pakistan got a hell of a lot of arms and ammunition. Pakistan had to carry the dirty water. After the Soviets left Afghanistan, we had radicalized people in Pakistan, and loads of weapons and ammunition. At one point at the frontier you could buy ammunition for the Kalashnikov by weight. People in the tribal areas would use anti-aircraft shells to make other types of ammunition. We had tons and tons of arms and ammunition, which still exists. We are trying very hard to get rid of illegal weapons.
Progress in controlling Islamic extremism
The program is effective but slow. We are following a multi-pronged strategy. The radicals are a tiny minority. I think really radicalized people are probably not much more than one percent, but in a country of 166 million that is over 1.5 million. Another group is just becoming more religious. What the government is trying to do is to encourage people to pursue religion in its true state. This is a long-term process that affects madrasas but also government schools.
We have also banned militant organizations expected of indulging in extremism (even if they try to reappear under a different name). We are cracking down on unregistered arms. (You can own a gun in Pakistan, but you have to register it each year and pay a fee.) Writers, publishers and distributors of all material that promotes extremism are punished under the law. We are taking strict action against collecting donations for banned organizations (this is a major blow to them). Sermons in mosques that propagate hatred have been banned, and the preachers can go to jail if found guilty of this.
Poverty, education and extremism
Poverty and a lack of education lead to extremism. So we have increased our budget for education five-fold. We have removed any elements in the syllabus of state schools that might encourage religious extremism.
The children in madrasas are not also in state schools. Poor parents usually send their children to madrasas because they can’t afford the nominal costs of public schools. There is a shortage of places in public schools. Also, the madrasas offer food and lodging as well as education to some 1.5 million poor children.
The vision of the president is for enlightened moderation, not only for Pakistan but for the Islamic world. This approach has also been adopted by the OIC [Islamic Conference Organization]. The law enforcement and intelligence agencies have also been mobilized to carry out the government directives against extremism and terrorism.
Winning hearts and minds in tribal areas
Waziristan and other tribal areas are among the poorest. The government is spending a lot of money in the tribal areas, building roads and schools in areas that had none before. We are also working with the US government on a program that will grant duty exemption on all products produced in the tribal areas. The purpose is to create opportunities for the people so that they are not drawn to radicalism.
Pakistan’s role in the Muslim world
Pakistan can play a very prominent role as a moderate Islamic country which is mostly democratic and technically doing extremely well, and the economy is doing well. We can not only provide leadership but also an example of how an Islamic country should be, in spite of the handful of extremists we have. The overall population is very progressive and liberal.
No group of moderate Muslim states yet
The OIC is the organization that includes all Muslim governments. I think the OIC needs to become more active. I think the Muslim countries need to get their act together and we need to present the correct spirit of Islam. The leaders of the Muslim world need to get together and say, ‘This is what Islam [really] says.’ A unified approach will be better. But I don’t see any signs of it right now.
How can the West help?
The West has to play a role too. Number one, the US government needs to resolve the Palestinian issue. This is major issue for the whole Muslim world. Regarding Iraq, if you pull out today it will be a disaster, a mini nuclear bomb. I think you need to help the Iraqis stand on their feet and make sure the country is not divided. It is not going to happen today or tomorrow. The US and West have to stay there, to help rebuild not only the physical infrastructure but also the political infrastructure, more than anything else. Something was started, and now has to be completed. You have to bridge the differences between the Shias and Sunnis. They have coexisted in the past; they can coexist in the future.
Dealing with Iran
After Iraq one thing is clear: using a sledgehammer is not the best approach. We have good relations with the US and Iran.
It is very difficult to make a strategic argument that what is good for me is not good for you. Particularly for Pakistan, a nuclear weapons state (or India for that matter), to tell the world that our geopolitical environment requires that we have nuclear weapons; morally it becomes very difficult to tell others that it is good for me but not for you. That’s a dilemma.
Absolutely, Pakistan would be delighted to join the world to remove nuclear weapons from this world. Pakistan has been asking India ‘Let us sit down and declare south Asia as a nuclear-free zone.’ We are also talking to them about reducing nuclear weapons, conventional weapons and the military in general so that we can reduce tensions. Pakistan would be in the forefront if there is a movement to remove nuclear weapons from this world. The big powers who started all this should initiate disarmament. If they start we will follow.
Only Muslim country with the bomb
I am sure that many Muslim countries are proud that one Muslim country has the bomb. But this does not translate into an Islamic bomb, and they know it. It does not mean that if a Muslim country is in trouble that Pakistan would put a nuclear bomb into a C-130 and ship it to them. That is ridiculous. It is a Pakistani bomb. It is meant for our security. It is not meant for the security needs of any other country. I can guarantee that irrespective of any problems in other Muslim countries, it will not go out of Pakistan. Even in Pakistan I pray that we never, never, never use it, and it remains essentially what it was meant to be, a deterrent.
Biography of Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani
Born in 1941.
Graduated from Pakistan Military Academy in 1961.
Served in various Command/Staff and Instructional appointments during his army career.
Attended a mid-career Armour course in USA in 1973 and the Basic Airborne Course from Fort Benning, USA 1982.
Served as Pakistan Defence and Military Attaché in Washington from 1977 to 1982.
Military Secretary to the President of Pakistan from 1983 to 1986.
Chairman and Chief Executive of Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board (POF) from 1992-1998.
After retirement from Army, actively involved in working towards peace between India and Pakistan as a member of a dedicated group of Pakistanis and Indians.
As part of a process sponsored by the United Nations, also worked with senior ex-officials from the US, Russia and Iran to find a peaceful settlement of the Afghan crisis.
Served for three years in the Governing Council of the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), London (2001-2004)
He is author of the following Books/Studies:
India and Pakistan - The Cost of Conflict and the Benefits of Peace, published by John Hopkins University, USA in 2000.
Pakistan's Security Imperatives Year 2000 and Beyond (2000).
Enhancing Security Through a Cooperative Border Monitoring Experiment: A
Proposal for India and Pakistan (2001)
Pakistan's Strategic Thinking and the Role of Nuclear Weapons (2004)
He is married and has three children.
The Peace Agreement in North Waziristan
Party No.1 The Political Agent, North Waziristan, representing the Governor of the NWFP and the Federal Government (of Pakistan).
Party No.2 Tribal Elders of North Waziristan along with local mujahideen, students (Talaba) and ulema (religious clerics) of Utmanzai tribe.
Pledged complete authority to the Grand Jirga in accordance with the Tribal traditions and rites upon which the following agreement was reached upon. The above mentioned parties would comply with the following terms and conditions in accordance with this Peace Agreement.
Students (Talaba), clerics of the Utmanzai tribe: the Party No.2, i.e. the Tribal elders of North Waziristan along with the local mujahideen, Students (Talaba) religious clerics of the Utmanzai tribe would ensure that:
1. The law enforcement agencies and the government property would not be attacked and no kind of target killing will occur.
2. The parallel administration will not be set up. The authority would rest only with the Government of Pakistan. For the solution of problems the political administration would be approached and the administration will resolve all issues according to the FCR in collaboration with the Utmanzai tribe.
3. The border with Afghanistan will not be crossed for any kind of militancy. However for trade and business and for meeting with the relatives the (cross border) movement would continue in accordance with the traditions and the prevailing laws.
4. No intervention will be committed in the districts adjacent to (neighbouring) the North Waziristan nor any kind of parallel administration will be set up.
5. All foreigners present in North Waziristan will leave Pakistan. Those, who could not leave because of some compulsion, it would be mandatory upon them that they would respect the prevailing laws and the agreement and will remain peaceful. In addition, the above conditions would also apply upon them.
6. Whatever government property in the shape of vehicles, arms, wireless sets etc. that has landed in the hands of the Party No.2, would be returned to the government.
1. All those arrested during the operation would be released and they would not be arrested again for (their involvement) in any incident of the past.
2. The government will restore all the tribal facilities.
3. The Government will take away (finish) all the new check posts set up on the roads and on the old check posts the ‘Khasadar’ and ‘Levis’ would be deployed as was in the past.
4. The government will return all the vehicles and other material such as arms that were confiscated during the operation.
5. After the agreement the government will stop the ground and air operations and the issues will be resolved in accordance with the traditions.
6. The government will pay compensation for innocent loss of lives and casualties as well as for the rehabilitation of the property that were destroyed/damaged during the operation.
7. There will be no ban on arms according to the tribal customs, nor it would be implemented upon the government. However the restriction would continue for the heavy arms.
8. The beginning of the agreement will start with the return of the army from the check posts to the camps.
1. In accordance with this agreement a 10-member committee will be set up following mutual consultation. This committee will comprise of the religious clerics, the (tribal) elders, and the members of the Political Administration. This committee would be responsible for the following:
a) Regular contact between the government and the Utmanzai tribes.
b) To review and ensure the implementation of the agreement.
2. If any person or group (local or foreigner) will not abide by this peace agreement and may try to disturb the peace in Waziristan then action will be taken against him/them.
September 5, 2006