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The roots of Fata's current heart of darkness status are manifold and long precede the very existence of Pakistan. Some lie among the weeds in the "Foreigners' Graveyard" in Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) that adjoins Fata, where faded headstones offer tantalising glimpses of the British army's past involvement in the same valleys where Pakistani forces fight now. The inscriptions suggest the soldiers' women and children perished of cholera and dysentery. The men died "on active service", "in an engagement with hill tribes", were "struck down by the hand of an assassin", or were "shot dead by a fanatic".

Many are aware of the British empire's fractious involvement with India's north-west frontier, immortalised by Kipling among others, which then as now served as a strategic buffer space between powers. Few realise that the fighting between British troops and the Pashtun tribes continued until partition, independence and the creation of Pakistan in 1947 and that Britain's most intensive counter-insurgency campaign of the 20th century was fought against the Faqir of Ipi in North Waziristan between 1936-1947, just one among many frontier wars. (The British never caught him. Evading both foreign troops and later Pakistani soldiers, the Faqir died at liberty in 1960. Osama bin Laden take note.)

Yet the British left more of a legacy on the frontier than the untended graves of long-dead soldiers. In an effort to establish a mechanism of control between their authority and the wayward tribes, they introduced the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) in 1901. It was both a punitive and administrative measure. In each agency local "maliks", hereditary British appointees, acted as middlemen between their tribes and a political agent, who in turn reported to Peshawar. While allowing the Pashtun tribes a wide degree of autonomy, exempting them from tax and the power of the central judiciary, the FCR also allowed for the collective punishment of unruly tribes by fines, blockade and the seizure of their land and possessions. Individuals could be transported or imprisoned without trial, and houses suspected of sheltering criminals destroyed. By any modern standard the law was a gross violation of human rights.

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Gary O
February 12th, 2009
5:02 PM
Taliban and islamist extremists are the golden geese for Pakistan that regularly lays golden eggs in the form of billions of dollars in "aid", free military hardware, intelligence training and much more from Western countries, not to mention the almost universal praise heaped upon its politicians by our governments thereby giving boost to their self importance and ego. And what happens if you kill the goose that lays the golden egg?

February 7th, 2009
9:02 PM
"What can the West do about it?" errm mind its business- maybe just for once.

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