Plan ready to curb militancy in Fata, settled areas
By Ismail Khan
PESHAWAR, June 25: The government is considering deploying unmanned reconnaissance planes and strengthening law-enforcement agencies with advanced equipment and sending in more troops to stem the tide of Talibanisation in the NWFP and tribal regions, credible sources told Dawn.
The sources said the NSC in its crucial meeting on June 4 had taken a number of political and administrative decisions to control the creeping Talibanisation in the NWFP and Fata.
The meeting, chaired by President Gen Pervez Musharraf and attended by chief ministers and governors of the four provinces, discussed the deteriorating law and order situation and the threat posed to state authority.
On the administrative front, the NSC decided to launch an operation against militants on a fast-track basis, and undertake ‘focused operations against militant commanders’.
The sources said the ministry of interior had prepared a list of militant commanders operating in the tribal region and the settled districts of the NWFP.
The military was also decided to take action against madressahs preaching militancy. The ministry of interior has prepared a list of such seminaries for monitoring.
The most significant and crucial decision, however, was the appointment of regional coordinators (RCOs) for southern, central and northern districts of the NWFP, something akin to the defunct offices of commissioners, to liaise and coordinate between the settled districts and the adjoining tribal regions.
The sources said it had taken a lot of effort to convince Gen Musharraf that Gen Naqvi’s controversial devolution plan had done away with the vital and most critical link between the settled districts and the tribal regions.
“Gen Naqvi’s plan had completely ignored taking the peculiar geography of the NWFP into account. Nobody had realised what it would do. The plan was enforced throughout the country taking it as a homogeneous entity. This was one of the disastrous decisions,” said a senior government official.
President Musharraf had in the past resisted attempts by the NWFP as well as other provinces to reverse some of the changes brought about by the so-called devolution plan and, according to officials, it was not easy to convince him to revive the old commissionerates.
In order to address presidential sensitivities with regard to the devolution plan, the new term of regional coordinators was coined.
Officials said a regional coordinator would be posted in Dera Ismail Khan to coordinate with political agents in North and South Waziristan and district coordinating officers in Tank, Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu.
A regional coordinator would also be posted in Kohat to liaise between the DCOs in Kohat and Hangu and political agents in Kurram and Orakzai.
Similarly, a regional coordinator would be posted for Mohmand and Bajaur tribal regions. Officials said that this would facilitate coordination and information sharing between the settled districts and the tribal region and create the vital link between the regions.While the provincial government is framing rules for the new offices, it is still not clear who the RCOs would be answerable to in the present arrangement.
Law and order in Fata and the NWFP is at present being looked after separately by the Fata Secretariat and the NWFP Home Department for the tribal regions and the settled districts respectively. Before the devolution plan, law and order was the sole domain of the NWFP Home and Tribal Affairs Department.
Perhaps realising the mistake in the devolution plan, the NSC also decided to bring the Home Department into the loop in terms of law and order situation prevailing in the tribal region.
On law-enforcement, the NSC decided to let the NWFP government make fresh recruitments in police force to make up for the shortfall.
It is ironic that the NWFP has to put up with the same size of police force of roughly 35,000 personnel as was in 1947 – the force strength has not changed whereas the population of the province has ballooned manifold.
It was decided that the finance-sharing formula for the fresh recruitment would be decided by the prime minister and NWFP chief minister.
It was also decided that the NWFP police would be provided with weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night-vision devices.
The paramilitary Frontier Corps would be provided with artillery and APCs and a state agency has been tasked to study ways of blocking illegal FM radio channels and examine the feasibility of deploying unmanned drone aircraft to monitor militant activities and movements.
The NSC also decided to redeploy 46 platoons of the Frontier Constabulary from other provinces to the NWFP to help police and control the borders between settled districts and tribal regions.
Officials said the ministry of interior had already issued necessary instructions in this regard.
Another source said the federal government had decided to move fresh and additional force to the troubled North Waziristan and Malakand division.
However, a spokesman for the military said troop movement was a routine matter, and he denied that reinforcements were being made in the area.
North Waziristan, where the government had entered into a peace agreement with militants in September last year, has come under attack from coalition forces resulting in several casualties.
In Malakand, the government is increasingly worried about the rejuvenation of the defunct Tehrik-i-Nifaz Shariat-i-Mohammadi and the activities of other jihadi outfits.
On the political front, the NSC decided to take all political parties in the NWFP on board to combat militancy, ensure public participation and hold jirgas under political leadership in the affected districts.
The NSC decided to let the local bodies’ representatives to play a proactive role. A review committee meeting would be held on a monthly basis to review the law and order situation in the province.
It directed all intelligence agencies to ensure sharing of intelligence and better coordination at the tactical level.
But most importantly, the NSC decided that the blame-game between the MMA-led NWFP government and the federal government would be stopped.
This decision was taken in view of the allegations levelled by the provincial government that state intelligence agencies were responsible for fomenting Talibanisation, while some federal ministers blamed the MMA government for encouraging militancy in the province and the tribal areas.