Chained by ‘Rahdaree’: Mehsud tribe ‘imprisoned’ in South Waziristan

Tribesmen require additional documentation before being allowed freedom of movement.

Zulfiqar Ali August 20, 2012


In addition to the National Identity Card (NIC), the government has made additional identity documentation – either the ‘Registration Card’ or the ‘Rahdaree’ – mandatory for South Waziristan’s Mehsud tribe due to militancy in the region.

A few thousand tribesmen, mostly former Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have returned to their homes, have provided the Registration Card for travelling between the Wana, Ladha and Sarwakai sub-divisions of South Waziristan and the settled areas of Pakistan. The remaining hundreds of thousands Mehsud tribesmen must first obtain the Rahdaree from the local political administration before they are allowed free movement from the region.

The Rahdaree is mandatory for the Mehsuds only; other South Waziristani tribes like the Wazirs, Dottanis and Suliman Khels are exempted. Those issued the Registration cards are similarly exempted from obtaining Rahdaree. Women and boys younger than 12 years of age are exempt as well.

The term ‘Rahdaree’ is the Urdu equivalent of travel permit. It is meant to clarify that the Mehsud tribesman who has been granted permission to travel is not militant. The document contains the reasons for requesting the Rahdaree, signatures from two tribal elders (Maliks) and the Assistant Political Agent (APA) of the concerned sub-division in South Waziristan along with a stamp from the latter’s office. The document allows travelling permission for a limited duration, usually three to 12 days, following which it expires.

In addition to being a requirement for Mehsud tribesmen travelling from Wana to Ladha, Sarwakai and settled areas in the country, it is also mandatory for tribesmen entering South Waziristan from the settled areas. They need to obtain Rahdaree from the Tank Political Compound (PC) before they are allowed entry to South Waziristan.

Khan Zeb, 47, is an IDP from South Waziristan living in Tank. While waiting for the Rahdaree at the Tank PC, told The Express Tribune that in order to request the document one had to pay Rs100 to an application writer and then another Rs100-300 to a person at the door of the APA’s office. He added that without paying the latter, a tribesman would be unable to get the Rahdaree.

Khan Zeb claimed hundreds of Mehsud tribesmen could be seen waiting for the document at the political courts of various sub-divisions in South Waziristan.

“We need the Rahdaree to travel to our own lands, places where we have lived since time immemorial,” he lamented, adding that the government needed to stop this discrimination against the Mehsuds.

According to local journalist Farooq Mehsud, he received an enraged response when he asked the Ladha sub-division APA for the moral and legal justification of the Rahdaree. “The APA threatened to imprison me under the Frontier Crimes Regulation if I questioned the Rahdaree system,” he claimed.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) senator and chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on the State and Frontier Regions Muhammad Saleh Shah Mehsud maintained he tried raising the issue before high military and civilian officials but was told the system was necessary due to security concerns.

“Subjecting the whole Mehsud tribe for the misdeeds of a few militants is unjust, discriminatory and unacceptable,” he added.

High Court advocate and senior member of the Fata Lawyers Forum Abdul Karim Mehsud shared Saleh Shah’s sentiments. He said the system was in clear violation for Article 15 of the Constitution of Pakistan which guarantees every citizen the ‘freedom of movement’.  He urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudary and other human rights organizations to take notice of the issue.

The political agent of South Waziristan was unavailable for comments on the Rahdaree system. Another senior official of the South Waziristan political administration, however, told The Express Tribune that “the system is for their (Mehsud tribe) own good.” Talking on condition of anonymity, he stressed that the government and military were taking utmost care of Mehsud IDPs, adding that much development work was being done in their areas.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.