Counter-Terrorism: Frontier Crimes Regulations Feed The Taliban


September 22, 2010: Pakistan, in many ways, continues to shoot itself in the foot in its battle against rebels and terrorists in the tribal territories (Northwest Frontier Province or NWFP). Aside from having spent the last nine years alternately launching offensives against and then negotiating with Taliban militant in the lawless regions that border Afghanistan, the Pakistani government continues to fail dismally in its efforts to reach out and win the support of the border regions' civilian population.  

This has a lot less to do with the way the army behaves when it attacks the Taliban in force (which is often welcomed by the population) than with the day-to-day administration of the tribal border areas. The governing and administering of the NWFP is a major part of the problem of why the civilian population does not enthusiastically support the central government or the military with intelligence or cooperation. It is also a major reason why the Taliban and Islamic militants have a significant following in those areas. The government's problem largely boils down to a series of laws known as the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR).

The Frontier Crimes Regulations are leftovers from the colonial government of British India. Although Pakistan is no longer a British colony or part of the Commonwealth, the FRCs have been maintained, upheld, enforced, and kept on the books. This isn't unheard of in former British colonies and when it does happen, it is often used to terrifying effect by post-colonial governments. During the 1970s, the Republic of Rhodesia passed the Maintenance of Law and Order Act in order to suppress rebels that were overrunning the country. After the dissolution of Rhodesia in 1980, the new Zimbabwe government retained the Act in order to arbitrarily arrest and imprison anyone who disagreed with the new government's leaders or policies. 

Such it has been with the Frontier Crime Regulations. The FRCs were a series of strict, often harsh, laws passed by the British colonial government in order to gain and retain control of what has always been viewed as a lawless area with no respect for central government. The provisions of the FRCs are grim, and remain virtually unchanged by the Pakistanis to this day. The laws advocate collective punishment as a standard operating procedure, Also, police and government officials have the right under the FCRs to arrest and imprison anyone for any reason for up to three years without charging them or bringing them to trial. The initial three years can be extended if the government so desires. There is no right of appeal whatsoever for individuals or families of individuals imprisoned under the Frontier Crimes Regulations. 

The law continues to be applied in the NWFP despite the fact that it is in violation of the Pakistani Constitution. No wonder, then, that the army, police, and central government have a hard time getting any support from the populace there. 






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