Dawn – PM calls for institutional structure for Fata transition

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 28 June 2018. Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk on Wednesday called for establishing an institutional structure in the areas previously under the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

“The federal government was working in close coordination with the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to facilitate residents of the area and ensure a smooth transition,” he said.

Chairing a meeting on law and order in KP, the prime minister appreciated the considerable improvement in the law and order situation in the province since 2009. He lauded the sacrifices rendered by the people of KP, the security personnel and officials of law enforcing agencies for restoring peace in the province.

The prime minister expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements made for the general elections in KP. He said that facilitating free, fair and peaceful elections was the joint responsibility of the federal and provincial governments.

The meeting held at Governor House in Peshawar was attended by KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, KP Chief Minister retired Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, the chief secretary, IGP Muhammad Tahir, the provincial election commissioner and senior officers of the federal and provincial governments.

IGP Tahir gave a detailed briefing about the prevailing law and order situation, including an update on crimes against persons and property, arrest of proclaimed offenders, recovery of weapons and targets achieved under the National Action Plan.

The meeting was informed that 1,306 officials of the KP Police sacrificed their lives in the line of duty since 2004. They were also briefed about the security arrangements made by the provincial government for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.

The IGP also informed them about the requirements for policing, in view of the changed dynamics of the province, after the Fata merger.

He said that apart from the KP police, Frontier Constabulary, Levies, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir police would also be deployed for ensuring security during the upcoming general elections in the province. The prime minister also held separate meetings with the governor and chief minister at the Governor House.


Dawn – National Security Committee expresses satisfaction over constitutional reforms in Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan

A meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on Tuesday expressed satisfaction over the transformational reforms introduced by the government with regard to Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Sanaullah Khan

Islamabad – Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 29 May 2018. The committee observed that the mainstreaming of Fata and its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the transfer of all the powers to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan who will enjoy similar rights which the people of other provinces have without any discrimination “have gone a long way in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of these regions with far-reaching outcomes for national life”.

The 24th NSC meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, was attended by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, National Security Adviser retired Lt General Nasser Khan Janjua, the army chief and other senior civil and military officials.

The NSC condemned the “reign of terror unleashed by Indian occupation forces on innocent Kashmiris and resolved that Pakistan would continue to play its role in realising the right of the people of Kashmir to self-determination”.

During the meeting, the interior ministry official briefed the committee on the basic features of the new visa policy aimed at making Pakistan a tourist and business-friendly country. In view of this policy, it was agreed that the ‘visa on arrival’ facility should be initiated as a pilot project in the first instance.

Earlier this week, ousted prime minister and PML-N “supreme leader” Nawaz Sharif had appeared to draw a parallel between his own recent statement on the Mumbai attack case and the contents of a new book jointly penned by former ISI chief Lt General Asad Durrani and former RAW chief A S Dulat, and called for the National Security Council (NSC) to re-convene on the matter as it had in his (Sharif’s) case.

The NSC had unanimously termed Nawaz Sharif’s statements regarding the 2008 Mumbai attacks as incorrect and misleading.


Dawn – All of Fata’s people deserve to be heard without losing any more time

Stability, development is unsustainable with a security-oriented institution behind the mainstreaming drive in Fata

Peshawar – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 09 April 2018. The murder a few months ago of a young man from South Waziristan, days after parliament had extended the jurisdiction of superior courts to the tribal areas, once again underscored the need for expediting the move to bring Fata’s people into the mainstream.

While the staged encounter took place in Karachi, Fata’s tribespeople view Naqeebullah Mehsud’s killing as emblematic of their collective experiences under draconian colonial-era laws, exacerbated by problematic aspects of our counter-insurgency efforts.

It has galvanised a peaceful, rights-based Pakhtun movement that, two months in, continues unwaveringly, as seen in the large rally in Peshawar yesterday. The state ought to read the tea leaves and ameliorate their disaffection. For its part, the military has pledged to demine the area and replace Watan cards with CNICs.

Last week, during a visit to South Waziristan, army chief General Qamar Bajwa met Naqeebullah’s father to assure him of justice for his son. He also claimed that the area had entered a phase of stability and development.

Such an outcome, however, is unsustainable with a security-oriented institution behind the wheel of the mainstreaming drive in Fata.

As the clock winds down on the PML-N’s current tenure, among its most consequential failures has been the party’s inability to implement the National Action Plan’s recommendation to introduce reforms in Fata.

Undoubtedly a behemoth challenge, and albeit worsened by poor civil-military cooperation, it is primarily to blame for consistently caving into the political pressure of its coalition partners, the JUI-F and PkMAP, even as a sizeable section of the tribes are expressing their discomfort with the status quo that these parties’ leaders seek to preserve.

As this paper has stated before, the aforementioned bill has significant issues, not least of which is that it does not repeal provisions of the Frontier Crimes Regulation. The previously introduced rewaj bill was also controversial for giving legal sanction to anti-women practices.

But with every reform attempt, the PML-N has dithered as its allies have cried ‘too much’ while the opposition complains ‘not enough’.

All sides must put an end to political point-scoring at the expense of a marginalised people, and get back to basics.
Empowering Fata’s stakeholders (especially women), by seeking their consensus, granting equal rights and restructuring the civil administration to resemble what exists elsewhere in Pakistan, must be the keystone of a policy that all parties commit to maintaining, even after the transition of power to a newly elected government.

All of Fata’s people deserve to be heard, not just those who have hitherto claimed a monopoly over articulating their aspirations.


Dawn – How the British kept the Pakhtuns divided

Ghulam Qadir Khan

Op/Ed 15 March 2018. There were two things the British feared the most as a threat to their rule in India. The first was Russian invasion into Afghanistan waiting for an opportune moment to enter Northern India. The second was a united Pakhtun rebellion within British India with support from Afghanistan.

In spite of all efforts made by the Afghan kings to have cordial relations with British India, they were never trusted as friends. The policies made by the British for the North West were more in relation to the security of India than any other consideration.

Russia by itself might not be such a big threat but coupled with support from Afghanistan and Pakhtuns from the west of the Durand Line, it could create a serious crisis for the British in India.

To ensure that Pakhtuns could never be brought together under one banner, the British divided them first through the Durand Line and then within India into three distinct independent provinces/areas, Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

All three had separate administrative structures and it was ensured there was no connectivity between them. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was further divided into settled areas and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata).

The British stereotyped Pakhtuns as the ‘noble savage’. They needed an illiterate fighter that could be brought under the banner of religion and made to fight for them as their first line of defence. They kept Pakhtuns away from modernity. They made Pakhtuns look stupid and untrustworthy.

They paid the mullahs, pirs and of course the maliks to endorse their policies and show the British as fellow people of the book with whom Muslims could marry, where as the Russians were infidels and the real enemies of Islam and Muslims.

When, ultimately, the Russian army marched on Afghanistan, the free world was ready to take it on. A massive operation, Afghan Jihad, took place without any opposition and the rest is history.

Pakistan followed the policies handed down by the British in letter and spirit. It maintained the image of the ‘noble savage’ but in its enthusiasm overdid the job in Afghan Jihad. After 9/11, the ‘war on terror’ started spreading down country and that is when it started pinching. The ‘noble savage’ was not good enough any more.

Pakhtuns anywhere are seen as a threat and need to be monitored as terror suspects. Both, Punjab and Sindh started profiling Pakhtuns. Students were refused hostels in universities. Pakhtuns staying in hotels or private accommodations had to report to the nearest police station.

Police circulated instructions for keeping an eye on them and any new Pakhtun face was to be reported. Thousands of Pakhtuns were, and are still, under surveillance and, whenever required, eliminated in extrajudicial encounters, branding them as terrorists.

The districts of Punjab adjacent to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have issued orders to locals to not rent or sell properties to Pakhtuns. Nationalist parties in Sindh have been advocating restricting temporarily displaced persons from Pakhtun areas to camps.

Initially, Afghan refugees bore the brunt of the policy on racial discrimination but now the displaced persons from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata also face similar treatment. Even their National Identity Cards (CNICs) wouldn’t help them as police block those once their Pakhtun holders are arrested.

Pakhtun civil society and parliamentarians have raised the issues of Fata reforms, Pakhtun profiling and humiliation on every level to no avail.

The extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Pakhtuns came out to protest in huge numbers, giving shivers to their tormentors. They have suffered much and they have been ridiculed and discriminated for far too long.

Islamabad never witnessed such a peaceful protest which suggested albeit briefly that the hundred years of hard work by the British to keep Pakhtuns divided has been undone.

For the first time, Pakhtuns were brought under one banner, one handed to them by someone other than a mullah. It might be a one-time event, no one knows, but most Pakhtuns believe it may start a Pakhtun renaissance.