PESHAWAR: A grand jirga convened under the aegis of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) on Sunday called for resolving issues related to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) through dialogue, not force.
A declaration read out by the party chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said the area has turned into a battleground with tribesmen living under “unimaginable stress and pressure.”
The declaration demanded an end to drone strikes and military operations in the area, and urged authorities to resolve issues through parliamentary resolutions via negotiations.
“The use of force should be stopped so that tribesmen are able to decide their political future without pressure … Stop the drone attacks and bombardment and pull the army out of the area before thinking about Fata’s political future,” it read.
The jirga has constituted another 35-member ‘supreme’ jirga to represent tribesmen, who will in turn be asked to abide by its decisions.
Earlier in his address, Fazlur Rehman criticised the government for its policies and said the tribal belt was being used as “bait.”
He said it was still not clear to him if it was Washington that had apologised over the Salala attack or Islamabad.
Fazlur Rehman said the tribesmen had the right to decide whether they wanted the area to be a part of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P)or a separate province, and said they would not let the federal, or the K-P government, coerce them into accepting a decision.
After Rehman’s speech, the jirga asked participants to form three-member committees from all tribal agencies and frontier regions, and to present their recommendations regarding the area’s merger with K-P in the second session.
When the second session started two hours later, most speakers were against the merger.
Malik Qadir Khan from North Waziristan, Malik Bahadar Shah from Bajaur, Abdul Karim Mehsud
from the FATA Lawyers Forum, Malik Wazir Kokikhel from Khyber agency and Maulana Miraz Jan from Wana were among the ones who rejected the merger outright.
Mian Toor Gul from Kurram Agency said either a Fata legislative council should be formed for the purpose or a referendum held to determine the region’s status.
Malik Saeed Ahmed Safi from Mohmand agency maintained that peace is the first priority and the issue of a merger with K-P can only be discussed once that is achieved.
In his closing remarks, Fazlur Rehman urged the participants to advance their struggle politically, adding that “taking up arms creates even bigger problems.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2012.
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