Power corrupts and tilts towards absolutism when it has no moral, political and legal checks. While absolutism is mostly a story of the past, in Pakistan’s tribal areas it still works with impunity – thanks to the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).
On November 1, Pakistan Army Major Imran was martyred during a search operation in Wana’s Rustum Bazaar, South Waziristan. The dharna-obsessed politicos and ratings-oriented media failed to notice it. Shehryar Mehsud group of the TTP accepted responsibility for it. Since these militants are operating from unknown locations within Pakistan and Afghanistan, no action was taken against the real perpetrators of the attack.
However, the political administration starved hundreds of families financially by dynamiting a two-storey market that housed 130 shops.
The market belonged to the late Haji Mirza Alam, a respected elder who, along with his son, nephew and two brothers, was gun downed by militants on July 22, 2005. It is a well-respected family and has contributed significantly to the peace and stability of Waziristan.
Mirza Alam’s son, Ali Wazir, was the runner up candidate from NA-41 in the last election. Standing at the debris of his market, he had one question; “Explosions occur in the length and breadth of the country, but no market has been dynamited as a punishment. Why has my family been punished financially for a crime committed by someone who does not belong to my family or even my tribe?
The punishment of the Wazir tribe for the crime of someone from the Mehsud tribe is indeed an inhuman and immoral act but it has a legal cover under the black law of the FCR.
The notorious FCR was introduced by the British government of India in 1901 to calm down the resistance of the tribes along the Durand Line. The collective responsibility clause of the FCR empowers the political administration to punish a whole tribe for the crime of a single person. It is being exercised with impunity since its introduction in the region. In the last days of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1976, a whole bazaar in Wana was levelled to the ground by the political administration.
Recently a shocking video went viral on social media, reportedly filmed in the Mohmand Agency, in which the political administration is bulldozing a house while children are crying and begging the authorities to stop it.
This is a daily exercise in Fata but nothing comes out from the mysterious empire of the political administration. Besides other factors, the unchecked absolutism of the administration is indeed responsible for the current mess in Fata which the army is desperately clearing at the cost of officers like Major Imran.
Due to the fear of the political administration, no one can dare protest or report this inhuman treatment. Article 247 of the constitution has also barred parliament and judiciary from addressing the unjust treatment of these people.
In the rest of Pakistan, such ill treatment is beyond imagination. The media, the opposition and the Supreme Court would never let anyone punish innocent people so unjustly. Even in the oldest tribal society and backward province of Balochistan, no one can be punished for someone else’s crime. For instance, Javed Mengal, a Baloch, is fighting against Pakistan but Akhthar Jan Mengal is part of the political mainstream of the country. Similarly, Hyrbyair Marri is committing treason against Pakistan but his brother Changez Marri is a PML-N leader. Brahamdagh Bugti is not only fighting against Pakistan but also seeking Indian help and asylum, but no one from the Bugti tribe can be punished for his crime.
Fata has great potential and talent, which needs to be harnessed and mainstreamed. Despite all adversity, many people from the Wana sub-division of the South Waziristan Agency have served the nation in various capacities. For instance, ex-ambassador Ayaz Wazir has become a dominant voice on the national media. Saeed Khan Wazir is a daring police officer who serves the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government as DIG Hazara. Similarly, Ajmal Wazir promotes the PML-Q’s cause, while Ahmad Noor Waziri recently joined the civil bureaucracy and serves the Gilgit-Baltistan government in the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs. These are just a few of the names; there are hundreds of such talented people who are part of the mainstream political system.
Unfortunately, some of the political elites are becoming a great hurdle in the political mainstreaming of Fata. For their vested interests, they want to keep the region caged in the name of preserving tribal identity and tradition. What is the point of traditions and identity that deny us equal rights and a prosperous life?
To mainstream the region, the prime minister constituted a Fata reform committee under the chairmanship of Sartaj Aziz. The committee submitted a comprehensive report suggesting Fata be merged with KP. It also pointed out that a separate provincial status for Fata was not a feasible option. Most of the political parties – PTI, ANP, PPP and JI – support the idea. Fata parliamentarians and a majority of the tribal peoples also want the same. The army also has no objection.
Only Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mahmood Khan Achakzai oppose it without any concrete reasons. The prime minister has also pushed the committee report to cold storage. Maybe he’s waiting for the day the people of Fata give a dharna in Islamabad for salvation from the medieval despotism of the FCR.
The dismissive attitude of the government shows that Fata is not on their priority list. It is clear from the fact that the finance minister is just not ready not to spend a few billions in Fata to help heal wounds.
Ignoring the genuine concerns and basic problems of the people of Fata is a strategic blunder. We have reached a ‘now or never’ stage and the ball is in the prime minister’s court. He should implement the committee report and let the people of Fata become part of KP and the mainstream political system.