Press Briefing and Media Coverage

Understanding FATA
Volume IV


The Community Appraisal & Motivation Programme (CAMP) has been conducting opinion polls of the people of FATA since 2007. That work produces the ‘Understanding FATA’ series. The goal of this series is to reveal the thinking and the opinions of the people so that policy makers and influential actors in government, civil society, the international community, academics, journalists and the broader Pakistani citizenry will have useful, actionable information. This 2010 edition of ‘Understanding FATA’ is a comprehensive assessment of perceptions that the people of FATA have in several key policy areas including governance, society, religion and politics.

The descriptive material has been expanded to provide the reader with a more detailed understanding of contemporary FATA and the people living there. The statistical work is more than a dry compilation of opinions; the data is woven into the culture, the historic background, the national changes in policy and the ever changing historical currents coursing through and around FATA. The goal is to convey the opinions so that their aspirations and frustrations can be known from the people’s perspective.
The first part of the book places the opinions in the context of the transition of the administrative structure from the British Colonial system to the Pakistan Constitutional system. Prior to this, little effort has been made to understand how the archaic, Colonial administrative system has helped the emergence of militancy in the tribal areas. A complete chapter is devoted to the administrative structure and the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) that came from the Colonial era and came to be imbedded in the Pakistani Constitution.

The second part of the book continues the theme of the Pakhtun in the cross currents of history being made with the focus on the international conflict. The opinions of the people concerning conflict and terrorism, internal security, personal security, the source of suicide bombers, the lack of development as a cause of conflict, the importance of military operations, drones and their impressions on international training for the Frontier Corps are covered. Militancy and religion is an important chapter as is the chapter on Afghan refugees.

FATA has a unique strategic importance in terms of its impact on the security and stability of its neighbouring Afghanistan and on the ‘War on Terror’. Pakistan and the international community are extremely concerned about how to deal with the situation inside FATA. The ongoing militancy in FATA seems to be contributing significantly to sustaining the Taliban resistance against the US-led forces in Afghanistan. Poverty, difficult terrain, an archaic system of administration, cross-border tribal and ethnic ties with Afghanistan, Pakhtun traditions and the presence of Jihadi militants create a set of overlapping challenges for the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as for the US and the international community. This volume of ‘Understanding FATA’ sheds additional light on all of these issues.
To deal with the Pakistan Taliban and foreign fighters, including Al Qaeda, the Pakistani military conducted 15 operations against Taliban and Al Qaeda militant groups since 2002. However, it failed to remove the militants from FATA. Most of the military operations against local militants ended up with compromises and, sometimes, agreements. In the recent times, much has been debated and written about insurgency in FATA, but most of the focus has been on the number of military operations and how these military operations have been conducted. The agreements between the Pakistan government and the militant groups have been analysed and severely criticised in the national and international media. The survey provides a different ‘picture’ based on the sample statistics, instead of anecdotal evidence, of the landscape of militant groups, their strengths, agenda and image in the eyes of the people of FATA.
The inability to end violence created frustration within the Pakistan society and the then US administration of G.W. Bush, as well as the international community, that raised serious concerns on the will and capacity of the Pakistan military to counter this unique insurgency. More recently successful operations in the Swat valley and South Waziristan have enabled the Pakistan Army to earn reasonable credit and praises from the US and Western countries. The findings in this survey show that within FATA the people have supported these operations in spite of the displacements that they have experienced.

FATA has been described as a mysterious borderland for historians, writers, travellers and journalists. Much written about it is based on misconceptions. When bad things happen, the Frontier fascinates the world. When wars are won, for example the Soviets vanquished, then attention falls elsewhere. The goal here is to remove the mystery and avoid misunderstandings. Part of our theme is that the Pakhtun are not a quaint and isolated people; they have been and are related to the historical currents of the region and the world and, importantly, they are both a rural and an urban people with Peshawar, Quetta, Kabul and Qandahar being their major cities. We will make the argument that it is the Pakhtun who have been the buffer between empires and not Afghanistan.

‘Understanding FATA’ 2010 is based on both qualitative and quantitative data. Each chapter presents qualitative background material from multiple sources and the experience of CAMP. The statistical findings are presented with reference to the qualitative substance.
To strengthen the qualitative information, ten focus-group discussions and two-day consultative dialogues were used to gather the opinions. Minutes were recorded, analyzed and utilized to write this report. Background and historical material used in the report came from a review of historical books, newspapers, reports, articles, journals and the experience of CAMP programmes in FATA.
The quantitative data was collected through structured questionnaires. The objective was to sample adult males and females to ascertain their opinion on key issues related to the people of FATA. Because gender plays such an important role in public opinion, the sample was designed to interview equal numbers of males and females in each village. Although there may be slightly unequal populations of males and females due to seasonal migration and also emigration, exact, current statistics were not available to guide a deviation from this 50/50 approach. Expanding from its limited scope in 2007 and building upon previous surveys conducted in 2008 and 2009, the 2010 survey continues to track core appraisal areas while revising its nuances and methodology to meet contemporary constraints and demands. The 2010 FATA poll was conducted from 25th February - 3rd April 2010, with face-to-face interviews of 4,000 residents of FATA.

A hierarchical sampling strategy was used to poll adult opinion over the geographical area of all six Frontier Regions and the seven Agencies. The first level of sampling was to select 400 villages from the 960 villages in FATA. The second level was to select a representative sample of adult males and females from each village such that they would add up to a robust sample that would minimise the margin of error as described in Appendix III.

Because the latest Census (1998) is out of date, it was assumed that the total population of FATA is less than 4 million people. In order to achieve the desired margin of error of less than 2% within a 95% confidence interval for ‘yes/no’ type questions, four thousand adults were interviewed. This is an extremely robust sample because the opinions polled are for adults and not the population of children who would be approximately half of the total population. Thus we are very confident when comparing, for example, overall male and female differences of opinion as well as differences in multiple choices.

There are two areas of sampling bias that have to be pointed out. The first has to do with the inaccessibility of the villages. Because 42% of the 960 villages were not secure enough for the interviewers, the sample of 400 villages was drawn from the remaining 557 villages. This introduces a bias of undetermined implications because there isn’t a way to know the opinion of the people inhabiting insecure villages. Nevertheless, one can hypothesize that they may have different opinions with regard to militancy, the military tactics, law and order, etc. If one wished to be cautious in conclusions, one would have to add, ‘In secure areas at this time, the people of FATA believe…’

The second area of bias has to do with the starting point method used to sample in each village. The technique of selecting a starting point to count off houses and then to knock on a sample of doors is a standard used in many household surveys. The starting point bias comes from an important cultural fact, that the more influential families are closer to the Hujra or Mosque (or in the case of the Shia areas, the Imam Bargah) that were the starting point. When large samples of population in selected towns are conducted (not in this case) the sampling criss-crosses the village taking in people of all ranks and stations. In this survey, however, the interviewers counted off in four directions (two for males and two for females) to sample a total of five males and five females in each village by taking two and then three houses according to the direction. Hence the bias is toward more urban and better off families in each village. This bias also leads to hypotheses as to differences between rural and urban adults in the sampled areas. In the analysis of occupations of the respondents we do note a greater proportion of professionals and merchants than would be expected for the rural areas. These findings may also bias areas of interest such as educational and occupational aspirations for their children, but, again, we do not know the facts from the rural inhabitants.

In summary, the social image of the respondents that should be kept in mind is that they are in relatively secure villages and that they are village dwellers and not representative of isolated farm families. We say with caution, ‘relatively secure’ because we do not want to underestimate the risk and effort by the interviewers in undertaking the work. It took courage and care for them to enter many of the areas.

Because the only viable future for FATA will be the one that takes into account the people’s views on religion, politics, society and governance, we hope that this report will generate a fruitful debate about the future of the FATA; a debate that includes the people from the FATA itself, regardless of the their status; a debate that includes policy makers in Peshawar, Islamabad, Kabul, Washington and London.

The ‘Understanding FATA’ series is a sincere attempt to inform those debates. Some of the answers to some of the key issues are in this series; it may not provide all the answers but it does underline an important principle: that the people of the FATA are encouraged to speak for themselves and to be heard.

Key findings of the polls are:

    • 2010 survey shows that the people of FATA are more optimistic about the direction of the country. In 2009 only 16.7% people of FATA were of the opinion that things in Pakistan were going in the right direction. Now, in the 2010 survey 38% believe that it is going in the right direction. This swing suggests that the ongoing efforts by the government are seen as steps towards improvement.
    • Concerns for deteriorating ‘law and order’ in Pakistan continues. In both 2010 and 2009 approximately one third of the FATA respondents identified the lack of law and order as the biggest problem facing Pakistan.
    • In 2009, 26.6% of the respondents identified ‘unemployment’ as a major problem; that dropped to only 6.6% in 2010.
    • Although it varies by Agency/FR, it is surprising that despite the ongoing militancy and military operation in most parts of FATA, the people of FATA continue to prefer living in FATA. For both years, 2009 and 2010, over half of the FATA respondents confirm that they would not leave FATA if given the opportunity.
    • On the justification of US drone attacks, the 2010 data shows that 58.8% of the respondents believe that such attacks are ‘never justified’. 24.4% of the respondents opined in a qualified manner that sometimes these attacks are justified if they are properly targeted and excessive civilian casualties are avoided. Only 4.4% believe that such drone attacks are 'always justified'. However, when examined by Agency the variation of the 'never' category ranges from 99.3% in North Waziristan to 12.9% in Kurram.
    • As opposed as the respondents are to outside military intervention increasing support is found for international trainers, over local trainers, for strengthening the Frontier Corps against militants.
    • 'Education and schools' (56.0%) followed by 'security' (51.7%) and 'health services/hospitals' (50.7%) were the most important services that the Government of Pakistan should be providing. In the 2009 poll, 'security' was felt as the top most needed service by 62.9% respondents, suggesting that this year the FATA respondents seem to feel less threatened and have focused on development services for their well-being.
    • Regarding the future status of FATA as a political unit of Pakistan, we see variations over the last four years. Nearly one third, 30.7%, want FATA to be fully integrated into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former NWFP), and 24.9% want to have a separate province. Those who wanted to keep the current governing arrangement was a steady 23% (2008) to 21% (2009) during the previous two surveys, but last year only 7.9% of the respondents stayed with the 'status quo.'
    • During the last four years, CAMP has been interacting extensively with the elite, well-informed local leadership of FATA who advocated for a separate FATA Council. Therefore, this option was introduced in 2010. Only 2.9% of the people, who may have been by chance members of the elite class of FATA, supported a FATA Council with an elected assembly. The idea was that such a council can decide the future of FATA gradually and, in the meanwhile, the President of Pakistan would retain his Article 247 powers under the constitution.
    • Support for allowing the Political Parties Act of 2002 has not varied from the 2008 and 2009 polls. Nearly 60% of the respondents welcomed President Asif Ali Zardari's announcement of a political reforms package for FATA in 2009.
    • Support for military operations against militants increased dramatically over the last year. In 2009 only 16.8% respondents supported the Army/security force operations in Swat, but this year 66.8% of the respondents supported the operation. Apparently, the success of the Swat military offensive and the repatriation of over 2 million IDPs to Swat moulded their opinion in favour of the military offensive.
    • Approximately 25% of the respondents had been displaced people. This condition significantly influenced their opinions on military strategies and the use of drones; they generally support these operations more than do the non-displaced in their respective Agencies.
    • Suicide bombing was seen as 'never justified' by 42% in 2009 poll, but this year 57.1% condemned suicide bombing.
    • On human rights, there have been substantial changes in priorities from one year to another. In 2010 the 'state's inability to provide basic amenities of life' (38.4%), and 'democracy' (30.8%), were the most important human rights issues in Pakistan. In contrast, in 2009 'democracy' (22.8%), 'independence of judiciary' (18.58%) and 'women rights' (18%) were the main issues. We cannot explain the swing.
    • 41% of the respondents identified 'terrorist attacks' as the main threat to life; their description and opinion on the Taliban are important findings. It is notable that the people distinguish between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistan Taliban. The reasons for the causes and sources of the Taliban are very illuminating and they are too complex to summarize here except to say that two-thirds of the respondents, 64.2%, have unfavourable opinions about Pakistan Taliban while only 36.2% believe that Afghan Taliban are terrorists. The idea that the Afghan Taliban are Islamic heroes fighting Western occupation in Afghanistan has dropped from 40.35% in 2009 to 20.2% in 2010 poll.
    • In the 2010 poll, half of the respondents did not know about Al Qaeda and out of those who knew, overwhelming majority, 72.58%, have an unfavourable opinion about Al Qaeda. A contrast that gives pause to ponder is that more than 85% of the respondents have an opinion about the US and the UK, but respectively, 68.5% and 56.6% of the respondents have an unfavourable opinion about US and UK policies.
    • Responding to a question about what should happen to foreign Muslim fighters living in FATA, 42.7% believe that they should be forced to leave by the Pakistan Army; 25.3% think that they should be asked to leave by host communities; and only 2.7% said that they should be allowed to stay.
    • A question on whether Afghan refugees' should return to Afghanistan, an overwhelming 89.1% said they should. This is an upward change in sentiments since 2008. The factors of increased tensions and economics because of refugees are described.
    • Gender differences were revealed in the answers to the questions about what parents (Males and Females) wanted most for their male and female children. One finding was that the opinion for boys did not change much from 2008. More education, more employment opportunities and more security were constants. For girls however, although more security and more education were at the top, the need for pardah went up by 20% since the 2008 opinion poll. Women, by two-fold, wish for more education for girls than do men. That being said, women support for education for girls as a priority is still less than 25%.
    • The radio is the most valued among the sources of information, followed by television and newspapers. It is notable that foreign prepared listening content is as popular as Pakistani Programming with BBC running at the same level as Pakistani national radio and the Voice of America via 'Dewa' coming in at third place with a fourth of the listeners. The international interest by the people of FATA is not surprising considering that they are and have been in the cross currents of history for centuries. It reflects the tradition during the Silk Road days of listening to news-bearing story tellers in Peshawar.
    • An important chapter delves into the opinion about other countries and the importance of concepts that they stand for. The countries are divided into neighbours, other Islamic, Western and then the US and the UK are dealt with in a comparative manner. The findings are diverse and contrast with the overall unfavourable opinion stated above about the UK and the US. When it comes to the development and military assistance and training, the people are in favour of support from the UK and US in spite of their unfavourable ratings.

These findings are but glimpses of the results of the survey. It is important to study these statistics in the context provided by the qualitative section of each chapter. The chapters could be used alone, but the findings from one area of inquiry to another provide a more comprehensive understanding of the people of FATA.

There are important changes of opinion by the people of FATA between 2008 and 2010. However it is clear that security, governance, socio-economic development are the main issues that need to be prioritized if stability and peace are to be brought in to FATA.


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Community Appraisal & Motivation Programme.
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