The issue of administrative reforms in FATA is being discussed on the national level for the last two years. However, the process has faced delays due to political and other differences. The FATA Political Alliance and Pakhtunkhwa Olasi Tehreek have started protests and sit-ins to pressurise the government to accelerate the reforms process and abolish the controversial Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) law.
The first such protest was staged by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) after which the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) also staged protest in Peshawar on 22 August. During Peshawar’s protest for implementation of FATA reforms, FATA Political Alliance president Sardar Khan, who hails from Bajaur Agency, said the Alliance and Olasi Tehreek have prepared a schedule for protests to speed up the reforms process. He said both the groups will also march to Islamabad if their demands were not fulfilled.
“All the parties in the Alliance have agreed to stage sit-ins one by one. The Awami National Party (ANP) will stage the next sit-in after which other parties will also stage protests. The purpose behind one by one protests is to keep the workers fresh and also keep pressure on the government through continuous sit-ins. After sit-ins, we will march towards Islamabad to force the government to merge FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Sardar Khan said.
The ANP president for Khyber Agency Shah Hussain Shinwari said that staging separate sit-ins instead of a massive joint protest is part of the combined strategy of the Alliance. He made it clear that there were no differences among the alliance members over the issue of reforms.
However, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) FATA leader Hazrat Wali Afridi expressed reservations over the protests schedule and said his party was not consulted over the matter.
During Peshawar’s rally, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) ameer Sirajul Haq said reforms in administrative system of FATA were direly needed and it would be done at all costs. “The FATA people have no other choice than merger with KP and abolition of FCR. Participation of so many people in the rally amid extreme hot weather shows that these people want change. The government has also promised the FATA people to bring reforms and the federal cabinet has also made decision on it, so the government has no other option,” Siraj said.
During the rallies in Peshawar, people from different walks of FATA shared their views with TNN.
Sanaullah from Bajaur Agency recalled “It is the impact of the rallies and sit-ins that people are now aware of their rights. We have come to Peshawar today after organising 45 such meetings in Bajaur against FCR. That meetings yielded good results and we can see now that over 3,500 people have travelled all the way from Bajaur to participate in the rally in Peshawar. We have hired 80 flying coaches, eight buses and so many cars to reach here. All this has been done to raise voice against FCR,” Sanaullah told TNN.
Spokesman for South Waziristan students, Asadullah said: “A large number of youth from South Waziristan are attending the anti-FCR rally. We want abolition of FCR and merger with KP. We are raising our voice for our rights through the media and presenting our case to the government and rest of the world.”
Malik Amshadullah said: “We have come here to get rid of this black law. We want to come under the Constitution of Pakistan.”
Ghalib Afridi from Bara, Khyber Agency, said: “We don’t want a separate system, but equal powers for FATA MNAs and MPAs like the lawmakers of the rest of the country. We cannot achieve our objectives without the support of political parties. We need a large province where all the Pakhtun lawmakers could sit in the same Assembly.”
Malik Lal Bacha Safi from Mohmand Agency said the FATA Reforms Committee has recommended merger with KP, three percent share in the NFC Award, abolition of Article 244 of the Constitution, representation in the provincial assembly and creating 20,000 jobs. He added: “Now some elements are using delaying tactics in implementation of these reforms for personal interest. The people who have signed the reforms document are now running away from its implementation. But they will have to come back and succumb to public pressure. Will they not come back to the FATA people during the next elections?”
TNN has also conducted an interview of FATA Political Alliance General Secretary Iqbal Afridi and Pakhtunkhwa Olasi Tehreek leader Said Alam Mehsud over rallies and protests for speeding up the reforms implementation.
TNN (from Iqbal Afridi): Which parties are participating in the rallies and sit-ins under the banner of the political alliance? What is your modus operandi?
Iqbal Afridi: We are staging protests against the FCR for the last three and half years and the JUI-F and PML-N were also standing with us initially, but they parted ways with us later on. Now we have decided that every party will stage protest in front of the Governor House for scraping of FCR and in favour of FATA reforms. We have not specified dates for protests of different parties. When it was decided that the PTI will hold the first rally, we held a meeting to finalise its date. The JI then decided to hold rally on its date of choice. Similarly, other parties in the alliance will inform us about their dates of sit-ins, so the protest will continue in the coming days. We have the PTI, Olasi Tehreek, JI, ANP, National Party, QWP and PPP on-board. Our women’s organisation has also announced to organise a sit-in of women for FATA reforms.
TNN (from Said Alam Mehsud): All people in FATA want reforms. What are your specific demands in this regard?
Said Alam Mehsud: FATA people don’t comprise of a single tribe or clan. It is a movement for their rights. The reforms process should not have been delayed so much. Sartaj Aziz had said that 80 percent people in FATA want merger with KP. Now they are talking about phase-wise merger. The FATA people are not aliens and they are well aware of the system of judiciary and police as they are living and doing their businesses in the same country. They should abolish sections 1, 246 and 247 to settle this issue once and for all.
Iqbal Afridi: I will present another proposal. They should create districts like Peshawar in FATA. A system like Peshawar should be implemented in Khyber, Bajaur and other agencies.
TNN (from Iqbal Afridi): You talked about Constitution and formation of districts in FATA. The same thing can happen if a separate FATA province is created. It will also pave way for ending differences with other parties?
Iqbal Afridi: I don’t see creation of a FATA province in these circumstances. Federal ministers should give us a guarantee in a Jirga that reforms are being delayed because of differences on the question of merger and separate province. If they are ready to announce implementation of reforms forthwith on condition of creation of separate province, then we are even prepared for that. But this drama should come to an end now. Initially, they were talking about a referendum and then they proposed a Riwaj Act and now they have deferred the matter altogether.
Said Alam Mehsud: First of all, the FATA people don’t support the idea of a separate province, because it is based on a selfish agenda. FATA has a unique geography and there is no road link among three tribal agencies. Has Waziristan region any ties with Bajaur? Has Bajaur Agency any ties with Mohammad Agency. There was a time when I was also a supporter of FATA Council, but I saw after creation of Gilgit-Baltistan Council that even our old system of Maliks is better than that because they have no powers. We also experimented with local bodies polls in FATA which did not give any powers to representatives. There is only one practical option and that is uniting the Pakhtuns.
TNN: Some people say they don’t have objections over the merger, but the proposed five-year or 10-year development package must be spent on FATA before the merger. In case of instant merger, the development funds for FATA may be lost?
Said Alam Mehsud: Amendment for FATA reforms must clearly mention that these funds will be provided to FATA for the next 10 years. Otherwise, they cannot be trusted with these funds. Tribal Maliks are campaigning for the ‘stages’ in reforms to protect their salaries.
TNN (from Iqbal Afridi): Would you support representation of FATA members in the KP Assembly in the 2018 elections or wait for completion of the five-year and 10-year development programmes in the tribal areas?
Iqbal Afridi: We will totally reject any option which includes a political agent or the FCR. Merger with KP will provide a big boost to FATA. If development funds and foreign funds for FATA came under the control of KP government and chief minister and his cabinet members are sincere then we can request them to spend all development fund of one year on the war-affected FATA to change condition of its people. There is no harm in it.
TNN (from Said Alam Mehsud): It is a fact that differences exist on the question of mode of reforms. Why the political parties are not utilising their energies on bringing all the stakeholders on one platform and remove reservations of people instead of wasting time on protests and sit-ins.
Said Alam Mehsud: We have spent a lot of energy while trying to bring dissenting elements on negotiations table, but they are doing it by design. Hundred percent consensus cannot be reached on any issue. There are many people who don’t recognise Islam and there are many who even don’t believe in God, so why are you bounding us to create 100 percent consensus.
TNN: If complete consensus is not possible then at least the 11 MNAs of FATA should unite on one agenda?
Said Alam Mehsud: Our present parliamentarians are much better than their predecessors who did nothing instead of selling their votes. The sitting MNAs have at least started a movement for reforms in FATA.
TNN: But they are not united on the method of reforms?
Said Alam Mehsud: Difference of opinion doesn’t mean that all the FATA lawmakers have changed their stance. Some of them who have backed off are the part of the system of status quo. They are following in the footsteps of their forefathers and preferring personal interest over collective interest of the FATA people. All the parties are unanimous over the issue of reforms with the exception of 16 people. So the amendment supported by about 400 members is being delayed because of just 16 members. It depicts dishonesty on part of the government.
TNN (from Iqbal Afridi): Said Alam Sahib argues that consensus of MNAs is not mandatory as the bill is being openly discussed at the National Assembly. Consensus of masses is not deemed compulsory as well to waste so much time on it. To what extent you are hopeful about the success of the reforms process?
Iqbal Afridi: A person like me coming from middle class spent nearly a million rupees on the sit-in, so you can imagine for how long I can sustain these expenses. The government should ban the funds of political administration till decision on the future status of FATA. The funds meant for health, education and rehabilitation of FATA people are being given to some elders and Maliks who are holding rallies against us. We have solid proofs in this regard. The rulers don’t waste time in decisions of its choice, but it creates opponent groups where it is not serious in implementation of the task.
TNN (from Said Alam Mehsud): Are you still hopeful that your rallies and sit-ins will ultimately force the government to implement FATA reforms?
Said Alam Mehsud: We are hopeful because of public support. Nothing can be done without the support of people. The initial three sit-ins have been staged in preparation of the main Islamabad sit-in. The long sit-in by the FATA people in Islamabad for their rights will force the government to yield to people’s wishes. The remaining parties are also making predations for their sit-ins for FATA reforms.
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 on five radio stations of FATA and KP.
TNN correspondents Shah Nawaz Khan Afridi, Shah Khalid, Nabi Jan Orakzai and Hikmat Shah contributed to this article.