Tough territory

Print edition : May 07, 2004

THE six tribal areas other than South Waziristan are North Waziristan, Mohmand, Orkazai, Khyber, Khurram and Bajor, where Pashtunwali or the Pashtun code prevails. In this code, friendship is sacred, an enemy is shown no mercy, and revenge is a birthright.

The colonial administration, realising the impossibility of controlling the tumultuous tribal areas, entered into a loose administration agreement with the tribes by posting a senior civil servant known as the Agent to liaise with local chieftains, known as Maliks, Khans and Sirdars.

As a precautionary security measure the British ensured that the seven tribal areas remained not interconnected, by the simple ploy of not building roads between them. This made it necessary for all inter-FATA movement to be via the mainland, a situation that prevails broadly in the region even today.

The tribal areas are governed by the Frontier Crimes Regulation, which came into being following a 1901 British Act of Parliament which established a separate code for criminal procedure. But tribal laws dominate, with feuds and litigation being settled through jirgas or the assemblage of elders and chosen representatives. The tribal chief ensures rigid compliance with the jirga's decision, which is often imposed barbarically.

To exercise a modicum of control over the tribesmen the British established a network of cantonments, forts and garrison posts and, in addition to regular troops, raised the paramilitary Frontier Corps with local levies known as Scouts.

Officered by British and Indian officers of the British-Indian Army, the Scouts were paid a modest salary and their love of adventure was indulged by the administration. But mindful of tribal loyalties, none of the units was posted within its own area. Afridi tribesmen, for instance, would serve in Waziristan while Waziris would serve in other areas. The tribal areas that were forever engaged in fighting also provided the British an excellent training ground for their officers and men.

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