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The tasks ahead for Fata’s salvation

A demand that the people of Fata have been making for so many years has finally been accepted and a son of the soil – Shaukatullah Khan, MNA-elect from Bajaur Agency and a federal minister of state – has been appointed governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In this capacity he will work as the president’s agent in Fata.

Humble, soft-spoken and a tribesman himself, he certainly knows the problems that people face in the tribal areas. It is expected that in that capacity he will do everything within his power to change the lives of the people of Fata and rescue them from poverty and illiteracy, and at the same time rid them of the curse of militancy.

He is expected to atone for the sins of others by remedying the effects of years of complete absence of his party’s government from Fata. Above all, he is to compensate them for all kinds of losses suffered by them in the ten long years of war. This is a tall order, but he can earn a place for himself in the history of that area if he can make genuine progress in this respect.

There are some steps that the people would want him to take immediately, irrespective of whether he has the power to do so or not. First and foremost, the military operations that have been continuing nonstop in the area for around ten years have to come to an end. The presence of some militants does not require that the entire population be displaced and dislocated for facilitation of military operations.

Karachi surpasses Fata in terms of militancy and the quantum of daily deaths, but it has not been handed over to the army for restoration of peace and tranquillity. Why Fata has been singled out for this favour is totally beyond comprehension.

He is also expected to arrange for the return of Fata’s internally displaced people, currently living in camps, to their homes in Waziristans, Orakzai, Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur, and to facilitate their rehabilitation.

The most difficult task expected of the new governor is to restrain army personnel in forts and camps from public dealing, for which they are neither suited nor trained. That responsibility should be given to the Scouts, Levies and other civil armed forces. Once the Scouts and other forces are fully entrenched and can deal with the situation there, the army should be gradually withdrawn.

Another important task is the repeal or withdrawal of the ‘Action in Aid of Civil Power Ordinance, 2011’ imposed by his party’s government in 2012 for the purpose of giving a free hand to troops to conduct search-and-arrest operations without prior notice.

The law even empowers them to execute any person without due legal process on the basis of mere suspicion that he or she may have, or might establish, links with militants.

In his very first interview to the press after assuming charge, the governor said that conducting free and fair elections was on top of his list of priorities for Fata. In order to achieve this objective, the first thing he needs to do is to prove his neutrality and impartiality in the coming general elections by not permitting his close relatives to take part in the polls.

Next, he needs to fully implement, without further loss of time, the Political Party’s Act which has already been approved for Fata to provide a level playing field for all political parties in the days ahead.

Another important factor is an effort to compensate the people of Fata for their suffering over the last 65 years. This is quite a difficult and complicated task. Nevertheless, a modest beginning should be made now.

It is another matter whether the political agents and Fata secretariat officials, who enjoy a singularly different reputation and upon whom his success depends, will let him do so and use the generously donated foreign funds with which their pockets are full. Tales of lavish expenditure by them on worthless projects and purchase of wheelbarrows at exorbitant prices have already become lead news in the press.

According to some well-connected sources, the appointment of the new governor came as sudden news for the powers that be, whose assent is bought in advance; also for the PPP president in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who made himself conspicuous by his absence from the oath-taking ceremony.

In addition, the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some Fata parliamentarians were also not taken into confidence. Some believed that his appointment is in violation of Articles 101-102 of the constitution and are weighing the options of challenging it in the Supreme Court. All this does not auger well for him.

To lay the foundation of a good and efficient platform for working in Fata, the new governor should constitute a council comprising an equal number of tribesmen from each of the seven tribal agencies, and one each from the six frontier regions, to work as his cabinet and render advice on all important matters concerning Fata. This would ensure quick and corruption-free implementation of the decisions arrived at in meetings with the governor.

The governor’s record as state minister is not outstanding. He is not reported to have visited all the seven tribal agencies, let alone having raised his voice in parliament against military operations or drone attacks in Fata.

Needless to say, the draconian ‘Action in Aid of Civil Power Ordinance, 2011’ was imposed during that period. Despite all this, one hopes that now he will make genuine efforts for the uplift of Fata.

Should he decide to do so, the people of Fata will lend him full support and stand beside him. He must take bold steps to resolve the problems they face, and for their economic and social development.

This is a golden opportunity for him to improve the conditions of the people of the area to which he belongs. If he does not do so he will not only get the reputation of a sycophantic time-server, like so many others before him, but it will also become difficult for him to live with honour and dignity in his own area.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email: waziruk@hotmail.com

Ayaz Wazir, "The tasks ahead for Fata’s salvation," The News. 2013-02-16.