4.30.2010

Names

I mentioned it in a roundup a few days back, but here's some interesting insight into the thinking that went into renaming the (former) Northwest Frontier Province:
The Taliban – which operate in the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), a largely ungoverned region bordering Afghanistan – have sought to supplant ethnic identity and power structures with pan-Islamist philosophy. In recent years they launched a campaign of beheading numerous tribal elders central to Pashtun culture. The radical religious views won some people over, bringing recruits into the militant group.

The renaming of NWFP, in a constitutional amendment passed by Parliament on April 19, is part of Islamabad’s efforts to devolve power to the provinces and increase people’s sense of ownership in governance – and turn them away from alternatives like the Taliban.
Federalism to the rescue? If we look at tsarist Russia, the first real example of major political terrorism we have, devolving power could have helped to quell the unrest -- and in fact, there was some effort to do exactly that in the late 1800s, until Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. So there is some real reason to be hopeful that this move in Pakistan could help turn a corner.