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FATA’s merger an act of discrimination

Pakistan holds no authority to merger as FATA was never regular part of Pakistan

By Sadiq Yousufi-KABUL: It seems that high-ranking officials in Pakistan are looking toward anarchy, where despite to take bold steps to resolve the already worsened situation, created by the continued ignorance and providing sanctuaries to various national and international terrorists groups, but they are adding to that. At somehow it indicates that time is not running with Pakistan. The government of Pakistan has come up to the fore with an idea totally against Pashtuns rights living in Tribal Areas. It is an act of nothing then discrimination, violating its historical status­—indicating nervous position of Islamabad.

The cabinet of central government of Pakistan has recently approved merger of Tribal Areas- commonly known as Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, recommended by the six-member committee, headed by Sartaj Aziz, Prime Minister Adviser on Foreign Affairs.

The proposed merger would be carried out over a period of five years. It was said by the Pakistani authorities that merger of Tribal Areas would end its deprivation and promotion of Pakistaniat among people in FATA would help to combat terrorism successfully.

It did not take a minute for the Awami National Party (ANP) and other federal parties mostly belong from the Punjab and Sindh provinces to welcome the merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Indirectly, they were happy toward integration of Pashtuns into Pakistan, and once again they showed their real face and mindset towards the suppressed and voiceless people in FATA.

Similarly, some pad and opportunist class from FATA has also forced by the state’s institutions to back merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The interesting point is that the same class of people, who lends weight behind merger, was always stood against this whenever the central government and state of Pakistan were not willing to merger of the Tribal belt.

On the other hand, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Jamiat-ulima-e-Islam (F) and majority of FATA people have strongly opposed merger of FATA into any part of Pakistan. On February 11, FATA grand alliance held a huge gathering in Bagh-e-Naran in Hayatabad in Peshawar where they defied merger into strongest possible terms.

The gathering was attended by elders and youths from all the Tribal Agencies and Frontier regions. The participants were said that merger of FATA with KP or any other part of Pakistan would be a serious threat to their independent identity and international status. In addition to that plenty of protests against the merger were being recorded by the people of FATA.

Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) has summoned the Grand Jirga of tribal elders in Islamabad, where they rejected the reforms committee proposal to integrate the Tribal Areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The PKMAP leadership termed the Tribal Areas as a free and autonomous region as per its independent origin.

They were deeply emphasized on independent status of FATA to be administered by the local Riwaj (tradition). Some elders and young activists from Tribal Areas have been saying that the disputed Pakistani administration had been badly failed to run the business of FATA.

Elders and youths said that looking deeply from origin and historic perspective into the issue we would come to know that FATA was never a regular part of Pakistan.

Giving legitimacy to this once should go back to the story where according to the Independence Act of 1947, there is no legislation on any forum regarding the Tribal Areas to be considered as part of Pakistan. Rather they were being used as tools and fuels for the Afghan War and as well as significant elements to the ongoing war against terrorism.

Sajid Khan, a young activist from Waziristan says “we are peace loving people and wants to be a peaceful and civilized part of the international community.”

“We are not terrorists and religious extremists by origin and culture. Terrorism and religious fundamentalism are being imposed on us by Pakistan just to utilize them as its weapons, aimed at de-Pashtunization and achieving its strategic goals of devastation in Afghanistan,” the young boy said.

He furthered, “it was the fundamental reason that the Faqir of Ipi and his followers raised the flag of Pashtunistan after the sudden creation of Pakistan.” Khan added, we deserve peace, development and to have access to the fundamental human rights in an atmosphere where none feels insecure. “Pakistani administration from the very beginning was not only remained against us, but at the same time very controversial.”

“That’s why any merger or Pak-made reforms are not acceptable and valid for the people of FATA.” Moreover, he demanded the replacement of the failed Pakistan administration via installation of UN-led administration in a bid to play a fundamental right to decide over fate of Tribal Areas in a free and independent environment.

Another elder, Malik Jabar from Khyber Agency said that terrorism cannot counter by promoting Pakistaniat, waving flags with no strong intention, and the irrational spirit in the FATA.

“Terrorism and promoting religious extremism is a state policy of Pakistan, where it supporting and harboring militants in settled districts of the country, including the southern Punjab province.”

He added, the voiceless and helpless people of Tribal Areas have always been the victims of terrorism that imposed by Islamabad. “We want to welcome a positive change in almost aspect—a demand that never would be fulfill by the Punjab dominant government.”

Jamil Tori, another political activist and poet from Kurram Agency, while opposing and criticizing the merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that the central government is taking decision of the merger at a time when the people of FATA are being totally under control of Pak Army. “It is worth mentioning that FATA as a whole has been resembled as a military cantonment that has been irked people living there­ and having no rights of freedom of expression and movement.”

Malik Mahmood Khan, a resident of Momand Agency came hard on Pakistan at the same line. “Merger of FATA at real sense is a move which would be taken as “robbery policy” of Pakistan in order to have control over the natural resources, laying in abundance across the Tribal Areas.”

Malik Haji Shawali Khan, a Bajaur Agency intellectual also opposed the merger and raised his voice for justice. While losing hope, he gave vent to his anger, meanwhile seemed disappointed against the deep silence of the Afghan government over the issue.

Over the former President Hamid Karzai strongly stand with the people of FATA and called on Pakistan to restrain from such discrimination.

“The government of Pakistan has no legal authority to dictate terms on the Durand Line. While wish freedom for the people of FATA from Frontier Crimes Regulation,” the ex-president twitted.  He furthered, “and other repressive measures, we remind the government of Pakistan that Afghanistan hasn’t and will not recognize the Durand Line.” However, Shawali Khan called on Kabul administration to break the fast of silence and raise sound voice against the one-sided integration of FATA. However, there is some disagreement as some people have already suggested deciding the fate of FATA through referendum, while others have conditionally accepted the idea of referendum to be held under the shelter of United Nations.

As a matter of fact and from historical sites, the land and people of FATA were a part of Afghanistan—bordering Pakistan’s provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan to the east and south, and Afghanistan’s provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktia, Khost and Paktika to the north and west.

How it was divided we all know, and who played key role in this historic crimes is also known to us all. It was an agreement of Durand Line in 1893 which cuts through the Pashtun Tribal Areas and further south through the Baluchistan region, dividing the ethnic Pashtuns, as well as the Baluch and some other ethnic groups who live on both sides of the Durand Line.

This line was signed with the then government of British India, and Pakistan did not exist in that time. So the age of Pakistan is lesser than a grandfather living in Afghanistan. The Pakistan should bear in mind that it had been given unduly birth by the British Empire, occupying historic lands and people of Kabul and old Delhi, aimed at creating a launching pad against communism. However, the implementation of FATA merger would be another catastrophe if not prevented. This must be halted through any ways and means. The Tribal belt consists of seven Tribal Agencies (districts) and six Frontier Regions. The geographical arrangement of the seven Tribal Agencies in order from south to north are South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber, Momand and Bajaur.

The geographical arrangement of the six Frontier Regions in order from south to north is: Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, Kohat and Peshawar. Later, the Tribal belt was created as a buffer zone between Afghanistan and the British India.

More than 20 million people are living in the Tribal Areas and Frontier Regions. The region was being governed by the federal government of Pakistan on behalf of the President, and then the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa exercises the power of federal government in the context of the Tribal Areas. The existing constitution of Pakistan governed the Tribal Areas through the same rules and regulations which were framed by the British in 1901, known as draconian law of Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). Same was the case with FATA in government Act of India in 1935, Pakistan’s constitutions of 1956 and 1962.

Through this, it unmasks reality that the government of Pakistan holds no authority to any level to decide over fate of the FATA people. To be clearer, any parliament including Supreme Court and High Court of Pakistan had zero jurisdictions in Tribal Areas according to Article 247 of the existing 1973 constitution of Pakistan. Now it has been proved that FATA is part of Afghanistan historically and lawfully. Taking this into count, the Afghan government is the reliable source to be included to any sort of decision over FATA. It is also fact that the people of FATA were kept in darkness and treated them as slaves by certain power players. Democratic and fundamental human rights were not given to them.

Keeping in view the concerns against merger of FATA among the citizens, illegal and unauthorized decision of merger of Tribal Areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has highly condemned and opposed by the majority of Pashtuns in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many from the Tribal Areas say, “We did not fought against the British Imperialism to be slaves of the slaves (Punjabis).” According to them, they have succeeded to force the Gora Sahib (Britain) to say goodbye to their land, but unfortunately the Black Sahib (Punjabis) is still alive and in command when the Gora Sahib left their powers and affairs to the Kala sahibs of Pakistan.

The people of Tribal Areas have never taken the breath of serenity, and nothing was in their side during the course of life under the inhuman administration of Pakistan, but war and turmoil imposed on them.

The suppressed people of FATA have repeatedly staged demonstrations in districts Bannu, Peshawar, D.I. Khan and capital city, Islamabad-  not only to give vent, but also demanded interference of the United Nations to take serious notice against the ongoing violation of human rights by the state institutions of Pakistan in Tribal Areas. Many analysts and political people from FATA believe that war on terror had been imposed on them to change their loyalties against Pakistanism and Mullaism. Since 9/11, the innocent majority of FATA people are suffering worst from these two sides. At the moment, they are searching and demanding for a peaceful and developmental change to be brought by the international community. Installation of UN-led administration in FATA would provide fundamental right to the local people to decide their fate and as well it would be the most effective and result-oriented initiative to overcome the burning flames of terrorism and safe sanctuaries and launching pads of international terrorist groups.

Now the ball has been landed in the court of the world champions of human rights and democracy to provide justice and independence to the 20 millions human beings of FATA and Frontier Regions. It has been clear since longtime that human rights organizations and activists had also raised voice to prevent human violation across the globe—now the freedom of FATA people will test their bitter. If there is strong will, these problems would be resolved in a day. However, the duplicity of Pakistan would definitely creates problems, and through covert and double standard policy it could even restrain the United Nations and human rights commission from taking action against Pakistan. However, the international agencies should remain pure in every single issue, and deal with FATA issue honestly and transparently.

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