Justice for Waziristan

According to the provisions of the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) they are liable to be charged under the principle of collective responsibility where the entire tribe can be punished for the offense committed by an individual.

Afrasiab Khattak

Afrasiab Khattak

FATA Pashtuns in general and those from Waziristan in particular are a horrible example of the fact that people of peripheries are expendable and that the voiceless peoples have to pay the price of adventurist and misguided state policies with total absence of accountability and transparency.

Waziristan acquired international fame for the wrong reasons. It became well known the world over after 9/11 when Al Qaida, Taliban and terrorists belonging to various nationalities shifted to Waziristan from Afghanistan in the aftermath of the advent of ISAF forces in that country. The various agreements signed between General Pervez Musharraf’s government and Taliban not only gave a free hand to the terror syndicate to rule FATA with North Waziristan as its capital, but also enabled it to fight in Afghanistan for long years, vociferous denials from Islamabad not withstanding. In all this, the people of Waziristan remained at the receiving end as on the one hand they were mercilessly killed and persecuted by terrorists and on the other hand they would be frequently caught in the crossfire of terrorists and the security forces. They had to live in this bloodshed and agony for more than a decade, from 2003 when the Taliban established their Emirate in Waziristan to the beginning of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb brought relief to the locals to the extent that it destroyed the strong bases of terrorists in Miran Shah, Mir Ali and other places and pushed the terrorists into Afghanistan. But Pashtun tribes of Waziristan, namely Dawars and Utmanzai Wazirs, faced other forms of trails and tribulations. They had to leave their houses and properties at an extremely short notice practically leaving everything behind. Later they discovered to their horror that nothing was left of their properties in their markets, in bazaars, and in their homes. According to the elders of the area there were about 11,000 shops in the markets of Miran Shah and 7000 plus in Mir Ali Bazar. Not even a matchbox was left in these markets that once used to be bustling shopping centers. Most of the houses were destroyed and totally empty. Even the valuable parts of the debris of the destroyed houses were also gone, let alone the properties left behind by the IDPs.

The concerned authorities have failed to conduct inquiry, apportion responsibility and compensate the local population for their huge losses. The smartest thing that the authorities could think of was to change the nomenclature. The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were renamed as Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDPs) to avoid the legal consequences of the arbitrary government policies. Unlike the anti-terror military operation in Swat in 2009 where the military was working closely with political governments of the province and the federation, Operation Zarb-e-Azb did not have any political oversight.

In the total absence of accountability and transparency of the civil and military administration in FATA, the process of repatriation and rehabilitation has its own problems in Waziristan (not very dissimilar to other parts of FATA). The concerned authorities in their wisdom made it mandatory for the IDPs returning to their homes to sign an eight page long “social contract” which imposes unfair and arbitrary conditions on the people. The question is under what authority did the political agent bring Pashtuns of Waziristan, who are under the jurisdiction of the Constitution of Pakistan, under a concocted social contract based on bureaucratic whims? Why was no action taken against the officialdom for creating a parallel social contract? Interestingly the people going back to their homes from IDP camps have to go through searches after searches while passing through many checkpoints on their way back to make sure that they don’t carry any weapons. But the same armless people are also supposed to be not only responsible for their own security, but also for the security of the government installations in their area. According to the provisions of the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) they are liable to be charged under the principle of collective responsibility where the entire tribe can be punished for the offense committed by an individual. Security remains a serious problem for the IDPs who are returning to their homes. On the one hand they are threatened by well-armed and well-trained terrorists and on the other hand they have to face the wrath of authorities. They are literally living between the devil and the deep blue sea. Imposing a curfew on Sunday had become routine in North Waziristan during the last few years for preempting terrorist attacks on troops during their movement from one point to the other. That was something understandable and justified but it should have come to an end after the military operation in the area. At times the curfew is used as punitive action against the local population. For example on September 14 when local people protested against the custodial death of Jamshed, a local young man in Boya sub-division of North Waziristan, the authorities clamped a 1000 hours long curfew as a punishment for the fierce agitation of the locals who had clashed with law enforcers. This is not the way to win hearts and minds.

Continuing education by the young ones is yet another challenge for the IDPs who are going back to their homes. According to a survey conducted by local educated people there are about 110 thousand students of different categories in North Waziristan. Many of the buildings of educational institutions have either been destroyed by terrorists or have taken hits in the fighting. In some cases army personnel are living in the buildings of educational institutions. The government machinery has to move on war footings to make arrangements for the students so that they can continue their studies. Apart from the issue of extremely insufficient compensation for the destroyed properties the other problem is the ownership of land. The authorities in Miran Shah have started construction on private land without the consent of the owners, creating unrest on a large scale. One hopes that those busy in wrestling for power in Islamabad will find some time to work for providing justice to the people of Waziristan. Otherwise FATA in general, and Waziristan in particular, will remain a bleeding wound that will determine the political behavior of Pashtuns. They see themselves as victims of a war fought for hegemony on both sides of the Durand Line.

Writer: Afrasiab Khattak

The writer is a regular contributor to THE PASHTUN TIMES. He is a retired senator and a leader of Awami National Party (ANP). He tweets    @a_siab 

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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