Fata: the tribesmen are not militants - Ayaz Wazir The writer is a former ambassador who hails from Fata. - Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=35133&Cat=9

In a discussion about the negative coverage of events in Fata, a friend used the media’s favourite term “militants” for all the unfortunate people killed in drone attacks and bomb blasts in that area. Responding to our reservations about the use of this term “militants” for the victims, another friend stated that the FCR (Frontier Crimes Regulations) had been imposed by the colonial masters to regulate “criminals.” Besides, have the tribesmen protested the FCR and made their voice heard against it – even once?

To take this argument to its conclusion, the Brits imposed the FCR upon the people of Fata and treated them like outcasts without rights because they deserved the FCR. But what went wrong with their successors, the various Pakistani governments, who did not honour the Quaid’s pledge and instead decided on the continuity of the inequitable laws? Why were the Pakistani masters of that area, like the British colonial rulers before them, so unconcerned about their brothers in Fata?

The Pakistani rulers’ argument is not convincing that the tribesmen did not agree to the repeal of the FCR for the protection of their tribal allowances, and for the freedom to keep their guns (as a license to kill each other). Even if this is presumed true, why did the new rulers agree to something which was not only unconstitutional and un-Islamic but against the interest of the country? Couldn’t they assess and visualise its impact on society in the long run? If the keeping of guns could be made a criterion for imposition of the FCR, how about its extension to Karachi which is more of a badland than Fata, considering the number of murder and bloodletting that takes place in the city on a daily basis. Or was it that the brown sahibs who replaced the British wanted to retain the area’s status quo?

Whose interest do we serve by clinging to the FCR in Fata? Does it help us in any way? Has it helped in the spread of education, in the growth of industrial development or contributed to the strengthening of relations with Afghanistan? The fact of the matter is that it helped no one. It only kept the area poor and its people uneducated, and thereby turned the area’s backwardness into a fertile ground for militancy, which in turn is adversely affecting our relation with Afghanistan.

Why was the FCR not abolished right at the beginning when we knew that it was not in the interest of the country? Why is the present democratically elected government, which promised to scrap it, hesitant to do so? Why has the prime minister not amended it despite his earnest promise? It has also been added to the huge dung heap of broken promises made by him. Why has the president not implemented his package for Fata which he announced on Aug 14, 2009? I concede that this announcement did not constitute a part of the Holy Scriptures, like he once stated about the Charter of Democracy that his promise regarding that document was not a part of the Quran or Hadith. But a public announcement by a head of state is a solemn commitment and must be honoured.

The president’s inability to implement his package for Fata has generated strong apprehension that a particular security agency prevailed upon him. What national interest would that agency serve by deferring development in Fata is beyond anyone’s comprehension. The tribesmen have neither been disloyal nor conspired against the country even after suffering maximum losses from their own government in the last nine years of the war on terror.

The main stumbling block in the development of the area and permitting its people to interact with their brothers in the rest of the country is the Frontier Crimes Regulations which keeps the area totally isolated and out of reach for any development or influence by people from outside Fata. Let us hope and pray that the president fulfils his promise on the next Pakistan day this March.

The new governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will be governing Fata not under laws that apply to all other citizens of Pakistan, but under the draconian laws of the FCR. As a governor he will uphold these dreaded, unfair laws whereas, as a lawyer, and a renowned one, he is supposed to work for the rule of law as applicable elsewhere in the country. I wonder how his conscience will reconcile to this dichotomy.

No one seems to be worried or concerned about the people of Fata or for the rule of law in that area. Everyone, whether civil or military, coming into contact with Fata through a posting to that area is only interested in enjoying the perks and privileges attached to his office. They are not bothered about the difficulties faced by the people. Every government, including the present one, has done nothing for the area, nor will it do so it in the days ahead. And why should it, when no one in Fata demands it and the so-called representatives from there keep mum on this issue in deference to government wishes.

The people of Fata are being treated as second-class citizens in their own country. They are accused of providing shelter to those responsible for the evil taking place in that area. And when they are killed they are bracketed with militants. They have suffered the most but got nothing in return.

Should they keep on waiting for others to do “favours” to them simply because they are not covered by the Constitution, without being allowed to do something for themselves? Shouldn’t they fight for their rights? Shouldn’t they protest against the atrocities committed by Islamabad/Rawalpindi against them?

Shouldn’t the educated tribesmen in the main cities of the country raise their voice about the step-motherly treatment meted to IDPs from Fata, who are living in miserable conditions in Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan? Shouldn’t they stage protests against drone attacks and military operations killing innocent people, including women and children?

If responses to all these questions are in the affirmative, then let us begin by taking our MNAs and Senators to task and seek an account of all the personal favours bestowed upon them by the government until now. At the same time, we should raise our voices in protest both within and outside parliament.

Until the tribesmen decide to fight for their own rights, no one will do it for them. Nobody is going to deliver to them what is their due. Those living inside Fata cannot raise their voices because of the stranglehold imposed on them. However, nothing stops those of us living in the major cities of the country and abroad from raising the issue. What about those living in the Middle East, Europe and America? Why are they quiet? Why are they not highlighting the atrocities committed and the inhuman treatment meted out to their brothers under the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations? Until they explain the factual position to the world, no one will believe that the residents of Fata are peace-loving. Until that position is explained, the outside world will continue to regard them as “militants.”

Email: waziruk@hotmail.com

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