The Ungoverned Land

Pakistan soon began imitating Afghanistan by losing its own writ

The new chief minister of Punjab is a Sardar — read feudal lord — from South Punjab’s most abandoned part of Dera Ghazi Khan. Sardar Usman Buzdar is from Taunsa Sharif, which has no electricity. Taunsa has been the incubator of the proxy warriors Pakistan used in Afghanistan and India and produced leadership for the anti-Shia sectarian banned outfit called Sipah-e-Sahaba, honoured in the country for supplying proxy fodder.

In 1947, the British Raj bequeathed to the Muslims of India a tightly administered state. But next door Afghanistan couldn’t be called a normal state. It couldn’t prevent penetration of its territory and it couldn’t collect taxes. But the great proxy war in Afghanistan was approved by the West, fighting its decisive battle with the Soviet Union after the latter invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Pakistan soon began imitating Afghanistan by losing its own writ. Karachi was literally taken over by terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Iran. It is still crippled by street crime. Today, Pakistan has a National Action Plan (NAP) “to crack down on terrorism”, and a National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) to restore its state authority. But both remain notable for lack of success.

Although no city has been spared by terrorists, some areas of the country are seriously lacking in the state’s outreach. Terrorism that challenged the sovereign state came from many quarters, all of them related to the ideology Pakistan was wedded to. Its Taliban were fighting in Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban were ensconced in Pakistan together with over 3 million Afghan refugees.

The tribal areas, which Pakistan wrongly left out of normal administration as some kind of tribal museum, were more infested with warriors than the rest of the country. Each tribal agency was allowed “self-rule” through warlords. Some of these satrapies were adjacent to big cities and were allowed to extract booty as the police watched.

The 2008 Khyber Agency war by terrorist Lashkar-e-Islam unfolded right under the nose of the administration in Peshawar. The Kurram Agency war proved too much for Islamabad as it spread to adjacent Aurakzai and Mohmand agencies, coming down to the settled districts of the old Frontier Province, Hangu and Kohat. Even in 2018, the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan can get anyone killed in Peshawar on demand.

These “ungoverned” areas of Pakistan provided 40 per cent of the warriors fighting to establish a Taliban state in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban populated cities like Quetta and Karachi. Pakistan denied hosting Arab warriors like Osama bin Laden and Aiman Al-Zawahiri, who were discovered living comfortably in Abbottabad and Karachi respectively.

In the hinterland of Sindh, the wadera (feudal lord) never allowed the police to function normally and has not accepted the writ of the state to this day. Add to this hiatus of state authority the territory of South Punjab, where the madrassa still rules and the state obeys orders. When a brave Punjab home secretary killed Malik Ishaq, the leader of Daesh-connected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, in a police encounter in Lahore in 2017, he was chased to his house in the north and killed to scare the Punjab police out of their wits.

In May 2012, the chief justice of the Peshawar High Court stated that the writ of the Peshawar government did not run beyond 10 km. Pakistan looked like waking up when Swat valley was occupied by Pakistani Taliban in 2009. It took action, but Fazlullah, the leader of the Taliban, fled into Afghanistan. He got little Malala Yusufzai nearly killed. Pakistan couldn’t do much. All its enemies were killed by its archenemy, the US, with drones. Today, Pakistan refuses to believe that it is falling apart. And that its writ has disappeared from 60 per cent of its territory; and foreign killers are still hiding in its territory.