Rebellion, Development and Security in Pakistan’s Tribal AreasHassan Abbas and Shehzad H. Qazi
CTC Sentinel, June 25, 2013
Conventional wisdom suggests that international development helps defeat militancy, create stability, and promote U.S. security. Stability through development has emerged as a principle of U.S. policy in the fight against militancy in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The United States pledged $750 million of development aid to Pakistan between 2007 and 2011, and various U.S. and UK agencies continue to support the implementation of development projects in the region with the objective of helping the Pakistani state establish its presence and improve economic activity in the area, both of which would enhance its capability to defeat al-Qa`ida and the Pakistani Taliban.
The idea of development as a cure to militancy contends that providing economic opportunities and delivering services to civilians dis-incentivizes rebellion by increasing its opportunity cost, while simultaneously allowing the Pakistani government to co-opt tribes and segments of certain warring factions. This article argues that such a straightforward relationship between development and stability does not exist in Pakistan. A look at the Pakistani Taliban’s recruitment drivers reveals that not all militants are motivated solely by financial incentives. Moreover, development and security have a paradoxical relationship, as development efforts are often thwarted by the very insecurity they are meant to remedy. Between 2006 and 2012, for example, attacks on schools caused the partial or complete destruction of 460 educational facilities in FATA. Thus, while development will be crucial in bringing stability to the tribal areas in the long-term, it remains fundamentally dependent first on the provision of security.
How the Pakistani Taliban Recruit
The major assumption undergirding the case for development is that those who rebel or support militancy are overwhelmingly poor or that the financial benefits provided by insurgents outweigh what the Pakistani government offers, which in most cases is very little. Both assumptions, however, are misleading and have not only been challenged by economic modeling, but also rejected by evidence from Pakistan and cross-national analysis. While no large-scale studies exist on the Pakistani Taliban’s recruitment, available information from the tribal agencies and adjoining areas reveals that their tactics are variegated—sometimes even within the same locale—and financial incentives are one of several inducements used to conscript fighters.
First, Pakistan’s Taliban insurgency is a complex conflict featuring not just anti-state conflict, but inter-tribal warfare as well. For example, Waziri and Mehsud tribal groups have a long history of mutual distrust, battles and assassinations. Taliban factions that recruit heavily from these tribes inherit this rivalry and animosity. As a result, the Taliban recruit often based on tribal identity. Mehsud representation in Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for example, is quite significant, and as a counter the Pakistani government has been trying to build bridges with Waziri tribesmen to squeeze the Mehsuds. In some cases, this was attempted through economic blockades and road construction in Waziri areas so that the Waziri tribe could bypass Mehsud areas, lessening their dependence on the latter. The Pakistan Army has also armed militants of the small Bhittani tribe, who are despised by the Mehsuds, in areas leading to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP) to discourage Mehsud incursions. Thus, this aspect of Pakistan’s counterterrorism model inadvertently empowers tribal identity and helps the targeted group in its recruitment drive.
Second, rebels attract potential recruits through access to social networks and provision of social prestige. Recruiters have been reported to invite young men for informal conversations and offer them company. The interaction is used to glorify war and martyrdom, while gradually giving the individual a sense of belonging to a peer group and ultimately convincing them to volunteer for jihad. In Swat, militants recruited young men by offering them the opportunity to ride in pickup trucks and hold weapons. These acts conferred social prestige and authority upon them, while political backing from the TTP offered clout. Finally, in recent months the TTP has attempted to use Facebook as “a recruitment center” for media work as well, organizing a virtual community of radicals.
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