Reclaiming PATA in Pakistan

Within Pakistan, extremism threatens the stability of the country and the security of their nuclear weapons. The Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) remain particularly volatile. Crisis Group, a Ploughshares Fund grantee, recently released a report, Pakistan: Countering Militancy in PATA, outlining a series of reforms national and provincial leaders can take to curb extremism and reclaim political space ceded to the military.

The report explains that implementation of Sharia (Islamic law) in 2007 has emboldened extremists in PATA including the Pakistani Taliban. Attacks on security personnel, NGO workers, political activists and anyone who defy the Taliban have permeated even the most peaceful provinces. The attack on Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old education activist in October 2012 sparked international outrage but, while media attention may have moved on, the violence continues.

Militant groups are not the only concern in PATA; the Pakistani military is playing a significant role in the chaos as well. In 2011, President Zardari granted legal cover for activities carried out in the name of counter-terrorism virtually giving the military carte blanche for abusive actions. The report notes that the military’s unchecked power adds to villagers’ mistrust of political elites. Extremist groups are capitalizing on rising resentment, employing it as a recruitment tool to strengthen their power in PATA.

The Crisis Group report provides steps for political and legal reforms that will restore rights to the people, reign in the military, and make it easier to prosecute extremists. “The state must restore the trust of PATA residents by convincing them of its sincerity, effectiveness and accountability,” the report concludes. “Helping them to rebuild their lives…would go a long way toward inoculating them against extremism and should be at the heart of counter-terrorism strategy.”

Ploughshares is proud to support Crisis Group in its efforts. With our support, Crisis Group works to ensure that its excellent recommendations do not go unnoticed. Through ongoing interactions with national and international policymakers, as well as media outreach, Crisis Group understands how best to translate its findings into concrete reforms.

Photo: Unitarian Universalist Service Committee