Dawn – Tribals see KP Assembly elections as ‘beginning of a new life’

Zulfiqar Ali

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 21 July 2019.

Yaka Ghund – Mohmand District: For 60-year-old Abdul Jalil, July 20 is a day of joy and celebration like over five million other residents of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

“I feel that we (tribal people) spent 72 years in the hell and today is the beginning of a new life,” said Jalil, a resident of Yakaghund area in Mohmand tribal district.

He was sitting under a large canopy pitched outside a polling station, waiting for his turn to cast vote in the first-ever provincial assembly elections in his area.

“Today is the most important day for the people of tribal districts. There are many reasons for them to celebrate the occasion because they will have representation in the provincial assembly and will get rid of the corrupt administration, and there will be more development,” he told Dawn.

For 60-year-old Abdul Jalil, July 20 is a day of joy and celebration like over five million other residents of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The scene outside the polling station was full of excitement.

The candidates placed large-size canopies to protect voters from the scorching sun.

Workers decorated the venue with flags of their parties and posters of candidates, while vendors sold ice cream, mobile phone SIM cards, and food items.

The polling began at 8am on Saturday. Elaborate security arrangements were seen inside and outside polling stations. Candidates arranged transport vehicles to provide pick and drop to voters.

After decades of neglect, the people of tribal districts got the historic opportunity to elect 16 members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on general seats. Tribal people already have representation in upper and lower houses of Parliament.

Abdul Jalil gave the youths of former Fata credit for raising voice for their constitutional rights at every forum.

“We got representation in the provincial assembly because of the youths’ struggle,” he said.

The decision to bring millions of people of former Fata to the mainstream took over seven decades, while tribal people paid a heavy price for it. The reforms process began in tribal districts during Field Martial Ayub Khan’s Basic Democracy in 1959.

The populist prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, initiated the development of infrastructure to fulfil basic needs of the people. He paid extensive visits to the area and launched projects through the defunct Fata Development Corporation.

President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari and caretaker prime minister Malik Meraj Khalid took one step forward by introducing adult franchise system in Fata in 1996. Before that, only selected Maliks were allowed to elect members of Parliament.

President Asif Ali Zardari has the credit to extend the Political Parties Act to the region in 2010 allowing political parties to carry out activities, while the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif got 25th amendment to the Constitution passed in parliament.

The 80-page report of the six-member Committee on Fata Reforms, 2016, headed by Sartaj Aziz paved the way for the merger of tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in July 2018 and the subsequent representation of the region in the provincial assembly despite the opposition of vested interests in political circles and establishment.

The PTI can be credited for fulfilling the dream by holding elections in merged tribal districts for the KP Assembly.

The eras of military regimes led by Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf proved dark periods for the tribal people. The region experienced militancy, brutalities, drug trafficking, proxy wars, displacement and poverty.

The provincial assembly elections have made the residents of merged districts very optimistic about the future.

They hope that the polls will pave the way for good governance, provision of quality education to their children, improvement of health delivery system, and employment of youths. The post-merger era is a big challenge for the PTI government and state institutions.

“Former Fata was a grazing filed for the government officials because there was no audit of funds and accountability. Officers serving in the erstwhile tribal agencies were not answerable to anybody,” said Hassan Wali, former conservator (forest), who had served in tribal area for many years.

“This is a big achievement of the merger is that the Annual Development Programme for tribal districts has been increased from Rs 21 billion to Rs 83 billion and it will get Rs 100 billion per annum from the National Finance Commission Award at the rate of three per cent,” he said, adding that the people’s destiny would change if development funds were utilised judiciously.


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.