DERA ISMAIL KHAN:
In a jirga held in Scouts Camp, a turban was wrapped around Governor Shaukatullah’s head after which, as per tradition, Malik Ajmal Khan presented him with a Sapas Nama (list of demands). Following this, the governor addressed the tribesmen and ate local dishes with them.
These traditions seem to hamper the process of addressing core issues faced by the tribesmen of Wana. For example, the Sapas Nama is usually prepared by tribal elders in consultation with the local political administration. As such, the demands often do not address core issues which the political administration does not want to disclose or bring to the attention of higher-ups in the government.
Over a 100-years-old and with a legacy of British rule, the Wana Scouts Camp now hosts meetings between government representatives and a new breed of educated tribesmen. One such example was seen during Governor Khan’s jirga with the tribal elders, when Malik Anwar, who was not satisfied with the traditional Sapas Nama, stood up to voice his discontent. Although he was not permitted to speak, Anwar’s objection revealed something new in the age-old tradition.
As done by the British before him, Governor Shaukatullah praised the tribesmen for their patriotism, bravery, and sacrifices for Pakistan. He added the prevailing peace in Wana was due to joint efforts between the government and local peace committee. The governor also asked the tribal elders to continue cooperating with the government in order to maintain peace in the agency.
However, when another young tribal malik stood up to tell the governor the actual law and order condition in Wana, he was forcefully stopped from expressing his views. The malik may have wanted to point out four people were killed while fifteen others were injured in mortar shell attacks on July 2, or the fact that three labourers were kidnapped near Gomal Zam Road in June this year. Unfortunately, the governor did not allow the young tribesman to inform him about realities on the ground.
As per tradition, the governor announced cash be given to the jirga’s participants and Rs500,000 were duly distributed among them. Apart from this cash reward, locally called longi, no development scheme was announced by Governor Shaukatullah.
Though not part of the Sapas Nama, somehow it was conveyed to the governor that journalists in the area desired the reconstruction of Wana Press Club. While walking away, the governor shortly stated this request would be considered.
Wana Press Club was blown up by unidentified men some time ago. The more pertinent issue, however, is the apparent divide between the government and the tribal belt. On the one hand, governors adhere to old traditions and hear of nothing other than patchy demands made through the Sapas Nama. On the other, journalists are facing problems shedding light on the actual problems faced by tribesmen.
The traditions given life during the British Raj form the backdrop for this disconnect and, so far, it seems they are being maintained with full fervour.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2013.
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