The only solution to address the woes of people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) is to give them rights.
These were the views of speakers at a seminar titled “Conflict in Fata and Governance” at the Institute of Policy Studies on Wednesday.
Former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan Ayaz Wazir was among the vocal critics of military operations in Fata and shared the grievances of its residents. “Fata has never been governed. It has always been administered as evident from the title, which is the root cause [of trouble] since partition, when Frontier Crimes Regulations were adopted following the British exit,” he said.
Just have a look at the violence post and pre army intervention in Fata in 2003, he said, adding that the military assault is taking its toll on citizens and the country is witnessing growing numbers of internally displaced persons.
He lamented that the civil bureaucracy called the shots in seven agencies in the tribal belt, while maliks and political agents are puppets whose strings are being pulled by the K-P governor.
“Fata has been a laboratory for every government. The pressure faced by the people of Fata is similar to life during apartheid in South Africa, or racial segregation in the United States,” he said curtly.
He deplored that Fata had been placed out of judicial jurisdiction of the courts and Pakistani laws. “Even after the colonials left, the region has always been ‘administered’ by successive military and democratic regimes in Pakistan,” he said.
About the solutions, he said it is clear that the state should own them in a way similar to Gilgit-Baltistan or Azad Kashmir. “Since [Benazir] Bhutto, not a single prime minister of Pakistan visited the Fata. We have used artillery, bullets and bombs but not a single word of sympathy, which the current PM can do now,” he concluded.
Former federal secretary Shamshad Ahmed Khan said Pakistan must confront terrorism and convert the terrorists. “But we must also be aware of the status quo and feudal elites which will and always oppose this change,” Khan stated.
Concluding the session, the moderator Rustam Shah Mohmand argued that during entire Afghan Jihad in 1980s the tribal areas were a transit route for the mujahideen, but the area remained peaceful. “It was the induction of military and complete alignment with USA that caused insurgency in the area.”
He went on to say that drones have caused thousands of civilian casualties and not even the names of the innocent people including women and children were disclosed.
He claimed that the US had always sabotaged indigenous efforts for peace as they killed Naik Mohammad in 2004 when a truce was in the offing, then bombarded Dammadola village in 2006 when an agreement was to be signed the next morning. “Now they have killed Waliur Rahman after he had been nominated for talks with Pakistan by TTP.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2013.