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A positive change in NWFP (Pakistan)

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         Views: 1945
2006-07-04 00:40:01     
Article by Tanvir Orakzai

Recently President Pervez Musharraf appointed Lt General (Retired) Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai as the new Governor of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The move was not a surprise; as the previous governor Khalilur Rehman was unable to cop with the growing insurgency in the tribal belt. President Mushraff being a close ally of US war on terror for sometimes has been anxious to appoint someone in NWFP, who could pacify the rising uprising in the tribal area. The problem scalated due to rampant raids breaking the tranquility and peace of the region that has been traditionally loyal to the government.

General Orakzai being a tribal chief has been the most suitable candidate for the post. He was Chief of General Staff before being posted as Corp Commander Peshawar, as his last posting in the Pakistan Army prior to his retirement; while at present he has been serving as Secretary Defense Production. He played a pivotal role in containing the Al-Qaeda elements during the early phase of war on terror, which resulted not only in the capture of the chief suspects, but tribal people also remained calm due to his tactful dealing. During his tenure as Corp Commander he initiated many developmental projects that accelerated his support not only as a General, but also increased his stature as a tribal leader.

This shift of power in NWFP is crucial for US for many reasons. One main reasons is the deployment of 80,000 thousand Pakistan army personals on Afghanistan and Pakistan border to stop the infiltration of unwanted elements; which is not possible without active support from the local people. Recently in an address to South Waziristan Agency tribal elders, General Orakzai dismissed the rumors about the tribal people. He mentioned, “Tribesmen are not terrorists and have not been involved in subversive activities”; but he added that there were some foreign elements who disturbing peace of the regions and “the government will launch an operation against foreign terrorists soon.” About the negative perception of FATA, he said “The world has a negative perception of FATA – that it is a haven for terrorists” but such assumptions can be proved wrong by the tribesmen cooperation.

In the past few weeks, there has been consistent escalation in resistance from the Talibans. Looking at the situation the role of General Orakzai becomes more crucial not only in containing the cross border infiltration, but he needs to pay more attention to the developmental projects in areas, such as construction of schools, healthcare and providing jobs. Observing the scenario in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is becoming quite un-pleasant with every passing day for US; such situation makes it inevitable for the Bush Administration to win hearts and minds of the local people through investing in mega developmental projects. The US government should directly involve itself with the Government of NWFP and specifically design massive projects in the region to win sympathy and support for its cause. Luckily this opportunity has arrived in the shape of new Governor who is not only a trusted man of the Government of Pakistan, but also accepted as a charismatic leader among the tribal people.

One solution to the problem is to form a grand jirga of the elders and maliks of the region according to the tribal traditions by involving maximum number of local people. This involvement of people will cut the cost of the current costly expenditure on army ultimately leading to the withdrawal of the army, a policy which US is also adopting in Iraq. One major initiative has recently taken by General Orakzai by announcing ceasefire in tribal belt has elevated his status among the tribal people and there are widespread expectation that peace tranquility will return to the region, if bold steps are taken. Unfortunately the tribal areas are also infiltrated with resistant forces from neighboring countries that are hell-bent on bringing havoc by the use of money and weapons through their agent. One of the major tasks for him will be will be to break these subversive activities to gain back control.
The challenge before General Orakzai is enormous, which would require not only his determination and test of nerves, but also unflinching support from Pak and US army to combat terrorism in the tribal belt between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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