The use of civil militia as a part of the state counterterrorism strategy adversely affects the society
Introduction
There are various definitions explaining Militia on the basis of its formation and role. The US passed twice ‘The Militia Acts of 1792’ enacted by the second United States Congress to counter imminent invasions and insurrections and later used to overpower the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. This legal document enunciates ‘qualifications like “able-bodied” or “male” or “age 18-44” only establish who would be first called to service, with the expectation that they would be adequate for almost any situation, but it allows for calling up other persons if needed’ (Constitution Society, 1994). The civil militia may be paid or unpaid, volunteer or obligatory, state sponsored or society backed but it got one common characteristic, i.e. civilian involvement to counter anti-state, terrorist and/or insurgent activities because the involvement reduces the cost of countering insurgency, rebelliousness and terrorism for the regular military (Lalwani, 2011). Oxford dictionary defines counter terrorism strategy as “political or military activities designed to prevent or thwart terrorism” (OUP , 2008) . Thus counter terrorism strategy is state back action either on military or political front or on both. So, the engagement of civil population to counter-insurgency may help security forces but it ignores the complexity of its negative impacts detrimental for civilians as Semeer Lalvani depicts (Lalwani, 2011).
In Pakistan civilian have been used by the state to counter terrorism by making them icon against evil forces to get popular support for state institutions fighting against terrorism and by allowing or supporting armed groups of civilians in form of Aman Lashkars, Peace Committees or Civil Malitia. In the earlier case, the state of remained successful for creating anti-Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) sentiments among the public at large when the TTP spokesman accepted the responsibility of attacking on MalalaYousafzai (The Express Tribune, 2012), a young school girl who had reportedly been writing against Taliban for the atrocities they had committed during their control in Swat and resultantly became target of militants (Chaudhry, 2012). In the latter case, the civilians have been used by the state for protection of their own life and property along with support supporting the regular troops. In post 2009 after conducting several military operations in Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) “the government constituted peace committees and lashkars to gain public support against the Taliban. Peace committees and national lashkars have been constituted in large numbers in areas like Peshawar, Swat, Dir, Bajaur….” (Madni, 2012). The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Keyani during his visit to FATA and Swat in 2012 directed the military officers to work closely with Local Jargas and Peace Committees (Shaheen, 2012). This official move to use civilians as
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a part of state’s counter terrorism strategy, through their involvement them as combatants, took a heavy toll on the little and sometimes even unarmed people facing heavily equipped and trained insurgents and militants. They had to bear the brunt of wrath of militants groups and resultantly many of the members of the so-called peace committees either killed or injured. More than 1500 tribal Maliks have been assassinated within FATA as well as in settled areas like Charsadda, Peshwar and D.I.Khan. “Family members of aman lashkar personnel have also been targeted in Peshawar and even in Karachi” (Ashfaq, 2012) because when the weakness in regime in the face of rising insurgent threat and declining civilian loyalty become evident, the levels of violence against civilians is likely to increase (Wood, 2010).
Formation of Civil Militia in FATA
The tribal societies where keeping and projecting arms is the part of culture and it also boost its martial character observing incapacity of the state to establish its writ, due lack in military strength, tactical ability, limitation of resources and/or lack of political will to resolve the issue of militancy, it becomes easier to form civil militias. The idea of formation of, ironically, ‘civilarmed groups’ for the protection of society gets strength, if it gets so-called support from the state regardless the losses society would have to suffer with the passage of time. Such conditions can be witnessed at the backdrop of formation of Lashkars or peace committees in FATA.
The war on terror was initiated after collapse of twin towers of World Trade Center hit by hijacked airplanes in September 9, 2001. The war was waged by U.S led NATO forces against the alleged militant organization named Al-Qaeda across the world while Pakistan joined this war immediately after its inception. The moment Pakistan became Non-NATO ally of the U.S, it started facing problems. This non-NATO ally status became the cause of numerous deaths of civilians and security officials in Pakistan.
Civilian casualties include those became innocent victim of terrorist activities or who sandwiched during the fights amid militants and military forces. There is another category of civilian casualties who worked to protect their society by taking up arms against militants under the auspice of the government; only during the year 2012 at least 70 casualties of civil militia from FATA was reported (FRC, 2012) .
Experts of strategic studies are divided between two contradicting view points; a school of thought believes in the active participation of civilians in the counterinsurgency process while the other rejects the notion of civilian participation. Both schools of thought have their own arguments to prove their stance. The former view point seems valid to the extent that no strategy can be successful without participation of civilians but it ignores the casualties they face as a result of direct combat with the militants. The civilian participation may only be useful if the strategic plan is followed by clear goals and objectives along with the identified enemies.
The plight of the people becomes worse comparatively where they are involved in counter insurgency moves; the case of people of Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan is very
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much evident of the fact. When we move from the south to the north of FATA the involvement of people in counter insurgency-move increases hence their plight too. After experiencing the horrific results of taking part in armed conflict to support the state, even being untrained and a little equipped at many places refused to form peace lashkars and combat militants (The Dawn, 2011).
Since the war against terrorism is being fought with the support and involvement of civilian in the name of civil militia/AmnLashkaretc, the cost of the war is growing higher and higher for the civilians in FATA. The civilian involvement in the war as combatants, make not only the war dangerous but also complex. The civilian involvement, as combatants, ends up often with their loss of lives along with material. The future of civil militia seems very fatalistic to them as well to civilians in FATA.
The analyses of the form of civilian involvement in war in Pakistan may be defined as state pampered Lashkar (civil militia) in FATA that can be categorized it into five groups; i) encouraged, ii) supported, iii) sponsored iv) employed and v) compelled by the security forces against the militants in the region (Wazir 2012). The initial four kinds of Lashkar are the stages of involvement of civilians in the war against terror that in one or the other way it includes the willingness of Lashkar-members to participate in this process. The fifth stage (i.e. compelled) of in involvement of civilians in counter insurgency is based on their sheer unwillingness.
The phenomenon of war in FATA is very confusing where the enemy could not be identified yet. Many of the scholars are of view that Taliban are the enemy while the others think otherwise. The division of pro and anti-state militants categorized by the state, in itself is very perplexing. This division is not exposed clearly therefore individuals are unable to differentiate between pro and anti-state Taliban.
The confusion increases when the heads of the Taliban commanders claim close terms with security forces. The Taliban commander Taasil Khan based in Shakai, South Waziristan was shifted to Pindi CMH through a military helicopter after becoming the target of bomb blast planted by unknown miscreant. This incident witnessed by many residents of South Waziristan left masses in lurch to identify their real enemy.
In the first kind of participation, people are just encouraged to be the part of the strategy. At the second stage, people are provided with moral support which includes awards and honors. At the third stage, civil militia is provided with somewhat material and logistic support. The difference between supported and sponsored is that the latter category is provided with material support while the former receives only moral support from the state. At the fourth stage this civil militia is employed on temporary basis. One can find this sort of stat-employed civil militia or commonly known peace committee in the northern part of FATA and in Swat, Malakand and Dirin KPK.Hundreds of employed militia men were killed by the militants after the completion
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of their short tenure in the militia (FRC 2012). Thus we find a great number of Lashkar men killed by militants in the northern parts of FATA.
The fifth kind of Lashkar is ‘compelled’ where the security forces compel the locals to fight against the militants in the area. This kind of Lashkar is mostly found in Bajaur Agency and Mohmand Agency. In the vicinity of Mandal in Bajaur, security forces compelled ten locals for the security of each specified area. They were compelled to patrol at nights. In one of their activity, Taliban abducted ten patrolling tribesmen including Abdullah, a school teacher, at mid night. Taliban chopped Abdullah’s ear while threatening the other tribesmen to refrain from patrolling in the area. But civilians could not give up patrolling under the pressure of security forces. Few days later Abdullah has been killed brutally by the militants. The security forces even did not compensate the family of the slain tribesman.
This strategy of temporary employment was severely criticized when 25 retired militia men were brutally killed by Taliban in district Dir Upper. The government did not provide security to these militia men and left them vulnerable. Once they were armed they were safe but they had to be disarmed after the expiry of their temporary employment as security personnel. They should be provided with proper security and financial support after their retirement. Disbanding any militia without necessary arrangements remained problematic for both the militia men and for the society as well.
Conclusion:
Geneva Convention along with various other international instruments places the responsibility to protect the civilians at parties to war. The International Humanitarian Law says that civilians must be protected against direct attack (ICRC, 2010). Article 9 of Constitution of Pakistan pronounces that “no person shall be deprived of life or liberties save in accordance with law” (Government of Pakistan, 2010). Having said so, allowing or sending untrained, unpaid and sometimes even unequipped people to fight with the anti-state terrorist elements equipped with modern weaponry and skills of guerrilla warfare, is equal to coercively depriving an individual of life and liberties on the part of state. The use of Lashkars or Civil Militia as a strategy to counter terrorism further heightens the plight of civilian that is evident from alarming of casualties among the members of Civil Militia in Pakistan. Instead of using civilians in war more military troops to a conflict may decrease the amount of violence committed against civilians. (Jacob Kathman, 2009).
Works Cited
Ashfaq, M. (2012, May 19). Peace Lashkars. Retrieved from The News: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News11-109137-Peace-lashkars
Chaudhry, S. A. (2012, October 11). News. Retrieved from www.frc.com.pk: http://frc.com.pk/news/malalabecame-victim-of-states-counter-terrorism-strategy/
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Constitution Society. (1994). What Is TheMalitia. Retrieved from Law and Liberty: http://www.lawandliberty.org/what_mil.htm
FRC . (2012). FRC Annual Security Report .Islamabad : FATA Research Centre .
Government of Pakistan. (2010). Constitution of Pakistan .Islamabad : National Assessbly of Pakistan .
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Lalwani, S. (2011). Pakistan’s COIN Flips : The Recent History of Pakistani Military Counterinsurgency. Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative Policy Paper.
Madni, A. (2012, March 02). Role of Peace Lashkars and its future. Retrieved from Weekly Islamabad Plus : http://www.weeklypulse.org/details.aspx?contentID=1985&storylist=2
OUP .(2008). Oxford Dictionary of Contempoary English. Oxford: Oxford Universy Press.
Shaheen, S. (2012, July 13). Army to Boost Peace Laskhar . The Dawn . Rawalpindi: The Dawn.
The Dawn. (2011, June 07). Tribesmen refuse to form peace lashkars. Retrieved from dawn.com: http://dawn.com/2011/06/07/tribesmen-refuse-to-form-peace-lashkars/
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Wazir, Mehran A. Khan (2012). Fate of Civil Militia, FRC. Islamabad
Wood, R. M. (2010). Competing for Control: Conflict Power Dynamics, Civilian Loyalties and Violence in Civil. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina.