A friend forwarded on the International Crisis Group’s latest report, “Pakistan: Countering Militancy in FATA.” I haven’t yet had a chance to read the report carefully–it is midterm season, after all–but a quick glance at the summary was enough to compel a response.

I know that the Crisis Group isn’t in the business of tough-minded policy work; I know that it specializes in conflict resolution and thus has an aversion to conflict. Its recommendations concerning Pakistan’s tribal areas are, however, especially misguided and unrealistic.

Pakistan’s government must repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulations, incorporate the region into the provincial and national justice system, and replace tribal militias with the national police.

In an ideal world, I’d like to seriously breakdown the tribal order in the Federally (un)Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where tribal law takes precedence over Pakistani law. The tribal laws make Pakistan’s penal code look like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In an ideal world, FATA would be developed, democratized and made a viable part of Pakistan.

But in case the Crisis Group doesn’t understand the conflict, the Taliban insurgency arises from Waziristan and Bajaur Agency, which are part of the FATA. Moreover, the Pakistani Frontier Corps and the Pakistani military need the cooperation of the elders of the Mehsud clan and the other large tribal families to effectively combat the militancy. If they figure out that the tribal system, and with it their power, will be diminished if the Pakistani military succeeds in defeating the insurgency and begins modernizing the area, then they won’t face the same incentives to fight the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

I do agree that in the long run, political reforms and economic development are the key to mitigating another insurgency but now is not the time to begin seriously undermining the few allies the Pakistani government has in its fight against the Taliban.

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