The FATA reforms package could not be implemented eight months after its approval by the federal cabinet. Member National Assembly from Khyber Agency Al-Haaj Shah Jee Gul Afridi had presented some demands to the government for implementation of FATA reforms and had warned of staging a sit-in in Islamabad if demands were not met. The sit-in was held on 9 October after Shah Jee held consultations with leader of different political parties. Thousands of people from different tribal agencies reached D-Chowk in Islamabad to participate in the sit-in. General public, political workers and social activists took part in the sit-in for implementation of reforms. The sit-in came to an end after political leaders led by Shah Jee held a three-hour long meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Shah Jee announced after the meeting that the prime minister has accepted his demands. He termed the sit-in a big success and hoped that the promises will be fulfilled soon.
“The purpose of the sit-in was to convey that we can go to any extent for our rights. The major success of the sit-in was that the government agreed to extend the jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to FATA instead of the earlier proposal of bringing the tribal areas under the Islamabad High Court (IHC). No one will be able to impede the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa now and all recommendations of the reforms process will be implemented. Only those people who have no conscience will try to impede this process. Such people cannot face the public and people don’t trust them,” Shah Jee said.
Senator Sajjad Turi from Kurram Agency says although it was a historic sit-in, but he is not sure about sincerity in the promises of Prime Minister Abbasi.
“It was unprecedented that people from FATA came to Islamabad and staged a sit-in for their rights. However, we can’t see any sincerity in the pledges of the prime minister and can’t guarantee that the reforms process will reach its logical conclusion anytime soon,” he said.
Leader of the FATA Grand Alliance, which opposes merger of FATA with KP, from Bajaur Agency Malik Bahadur Shah says the sit-in was a failure as actual tribal people did not participate in it. He said the government has promised taking the people of FATA into confidence before bringing any change in the administrative system of the tribal areas.
“There are two types of tribal people i.e. those who merely hold the domicile of FATA and live in settled areas and those who actually live in the mountainous FATA region. The sit-in failed because only the people living in KP participated in it and actual people of FATA stayed away. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had signed an agreement with us on 28 February, 2013 according to which changes will be brought in FATA according to the wishes of people. Our main argument is that the tribal people know very well what is good for them,” he said.
FATA parliamentary leader Nasir Khan Afridi, who is a staunch supporter of reforms in the tribal areas, did not attend the sit-in, as he thought it was a useless exercise.
“Prime Minister Shahid Khan Abbasi had promised us to bring reforms in FATA and I am satisfied with his pledges. It is impossible to complete the whole process in a single day. FATA members stayed away from the sit-in as it was a useless exercise. I will be on the forefront if protests were needed for the reforms process,” he said.
Minister of State for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Ghalib Khan says the government has decided in principle to merge FATA with KP. He said change in the hundred years old system will take time and sit-ins and protests are aimed at gaining political mileage.
“We have defined a specific timeframe for the reforms process during which development projects will be carried out in FATA. Some people want to merge FATA with KP overnight, but that is not possible. Such people are misguiding the tribal youth for their political advantage,” he said.
Noor Khan from North Waziristan says: “We cannot trust the rulers as they reneged on their promises in the past. The sit-in should have continued till acceptance of all demands.”
Nosheen Orakzai says: “I think the dharna was successful and our demands will be accepted.”
Sher Alam from South Waziristan Agency says representatives of different political parties attended the sit-in, but Shah Jee held talks with the government without consultation with the participants. “It was decided to continue the sit-in till abolition of the FCR, but it ended without obtaining desired objectives. So the whole exercise ended in disadvantage instead of gaining any breakthrough,” he told TNN.
Mohsin Hussain from Parachinar says: “The sit-in showed that the people of FATA are united to fight for their rights. I am 50 percent sure that our demands will be accepted.”
Asmatullah Orakzai says: “The sit-in was successful, but an effort was also made to deceive the people of FATA. We will stage more sit-ins till acceptance of our demands.”
Engineer Gul Madar from Khyber Agency says: “I will consider the whole process a failure until a final decision on the reforms.”
Aziz Mehsud from South Waziristan says: “Dharna was a success because the tribal people stood for their rights and came to Islamabad and their voice was heard.”
In order to gauge the success of the Imamabad sit-in and the prime minister’s promises thereon, TNN also conducted discussion with FATA Political Alliance leader and eminent lawyer Ijaz Mohmand, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) FATA ameer Mufti Abdul Shakoor and FATA Students Organisation leader Shaukat Aziz.
TNN (from Ijaz Mohmand): Was there any need of the 9 October sit-in in Islamabad?
Ijaz Mohmand: It was definitely needed. It was successful because special arrangements were made for it. An important meeting was held on the issue of FATA reforms in Islamabad to days ahead of the sit-in which was attended by all parties except the JUI-F and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP). We succeeded in bringing out the people of FATA for implementation of reforms.
TNN (from Shaukat Aziz): Why you ended the sit-in when you had said earlier that it will continue till acceptance of demands?
Shaukat Aziz: The prime minister invited the committee and made some assurances. The parliamentarians may also have made some mistakes, but the youth representatives were ignored there and they had no idea that all the demands were accepted or not. However, the sit-in was useful overall as it ignited a new spirit in the reforms process. We will again march on Islamabad if reforms were not implemented. In that case, the sit-in will continue till acceptance of demands.
TNN (from Mufti Abdul Shakoor): Do you expect the NFC Award and extension of Peshawar High Court jurisdiction to FATA after the sit-in?
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: The youth in the sit-in quarrelled among themselves. Rallies were taken out from Charsadda, Mardan and Swabi and the number of the FATA people in it was very low and we have proofs in this regard. Involvement of non-locals in FATA is a dangerous omen. On the other hand, a large number of people from all parts of FATA attended our programme on 14 October without any campaign. Participants of our meeting were unanimous that the future of FATA should be decided only after taking the tribal people into confidence.
It was a flop sit-in because it lacked complete representation from FATA. We would have recognised it as a power show in case it had representation from all parts of FATA.
TNN (from Ijaz Mohmand): You claim that the sit-in was held after consultation with all parties, but FATA parliamentary leader Nasir Khan says there was no need for the sit-in when the process was already continuing?
Ijaz Mohmand: The meeting two days ahead of the sit-in was also attended by Hidayatullah (MNA from Mohmand Agency) and Bismillah Khan (Bajaur MNA). Nasir Khan also had representation in the meeting. It is a common practice in politics that people tend to go with the flow. The main issue in this matter is the support of MNAs. FATA reforms process is an evolutionary phenomenon and it will happen sooner or later. I will differ with Mufti Sahib on this matter. They are not outsiders. These are the same people from Charsadda and Swabi who vote for our parliamentarians. They are like our brothers and they deserve full respect.
TNN (from Mufti Abdul Shakoor): Some people from Charsadda and Swabi may have participated in the sit-in, but after all they were Pakhtuns?
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: Pakhtuns also live in Balochistan and Karachi where we also get many votes. Even we had also won election from Gujranwala. This did not mean that the whole country should be converted into a single province. We consider it a conspiracy against the FATA people to hinder their development. As far as the sit-in is concerned, they should have joined Nasir Khan with them if he really supports them. Bismillah Jan, Ghazi Gulab Jamal and other leaders were with us when we arranged a massive public gathering. Coming back to the point of Ijaz Mohmand, the flow is with us as the people of FATA are supporting us.
TNN (from Shaukat Aziz): What was the main objective of your meeting with the JUI-F ameer Maulana Fazlur Rehman after the sit-in?
Shaukat Aziz: Mufti Sahib was also present during that meeting. Maulana (Fazlur Rehman) Sahib was disappointed with the FATA parliamentarians over not giving weightage to his opinion. The decisions made at the Convention Centre were also not implemented. However, we cannot keep on looking back and it is time to move forward. Maulana Sahib should also change with the change in scenario. It is an undeniable fact that the JUI-F has raised voice for the people of FATA during difficult times, which is highly commendable. However, the FATA people are not very happy with the rigid stance of the JUI-F chief over the issue. Even some people within his own party are not happy over the situation. I can also reveal the names of such people if needed. They are of the opinion that either Maulana Sahib is unaware about the issue or there is some other issue. It is also hard for them to comprehend why Maulana Sahib is adopting such a rigid stance.
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: Shaukat Aziz is distorting facts. They gather 20 or 30 young men and then say they have gathered all the tribal youth. We had gathered thousands of tribal youth on 14 October. Shaukat Aziz had also congratulated me on the successful rally on that day. He was either lying at that time or he is doing so now. We are saying that all the parties had made agreement with the FATA people but they have backtracked now. The PTI people till recently demanded separate province status for FATA and the Jamaat-e-Islami also had similar demand. Footages are available in which Shah Jee Sahib is demanding separate province. The Pakistan People’s Party also wanted to maintain the old system in FATA when it was bringing amendment in 2011. I am surprised to see the political parties changing their stance now.
Shaukat Aziz: I also attended that meeting. They had organised the programme for their own party leaders. Those elders who take money from the political administration also came to the meeting. Such elders oppose the new system to retain their status of ‘Malik’. My main objection is that why they invited such elders to their meeting. About 3,000 people attended that meeting, while about 20,000 people attended the Islamabad sit-in.
Mufti Abdul Shakoor: Let’s see the video of both programmes. I will call our programme a failure if it was proved that more people attended the Islamabad sit-in. Let’s conduct a referendum to make things clear once and for all.
TNN (from Ijaz Mohmand): What are the chances of fulfilment of promises made this time?
Ijaz Mohmand: I am very satisfied after seeing our strength at the sit-in. It is to be seen in the coming days whether they fulfil the promises or not. We should dream of a larger Pakistan in the future instead of indulging in petty issues.
This article has been taken from TNN programme Badloon which highlights political activities and reforms process in FATA. TNN producers Shan Muhammad and Salman Ahmed prepared this programme which was broadcast from five radio stations of FATA and KP.
TNN correspondents Shah Khalid, Anwar Shah, Nabi Jan Orakzai, Rizwan Mehsud, Gohar Wazir, Malik Azmat, Ali Afzal Afzaal, Shah Nawaz Khan and Hikmat Shah contributed to this article.