Safe havens were provided to Taliban, Jihadis, and sectarian terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas

ANP Provincial Chief stresses need for curbing militancy

Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Says issue more important than restoration of judges

By Khalid Kheshgi

PESHAWAR: Provincial President of Awami National Party (ANP) and Peace Envoy to NWFP government Afrasiyab Khattak Tuesday said that checking militancy in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) was more important than the restoration of judges as the region had turned into a hotbed of hardcore militants and the situation was as alarming as it was in Afghanistan before 9/11.

“We are in favour of restoration of the deposed judges at the earliest but in the post-Musharraf scenario the topmost priority should be resolving the crises in the tribal areas,” he said at the concluding session of a workshop on Fata at the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development.

The two-day workshop was organised by the Benazir Democracy Institute, a wing of the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation (SBF). Tribal elders, political workers, councillors, civil society activists and members of the intelligentsia from Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber tribal agencies took part in the workshop.

Justifying operation in Bajaur Agency, the ANP leader said the offensive against the militants was inevitable as they had established a parallel administrative and judicial system in the agency while the common man was made hostage by the armed militants.

“The situation in tribal areas of Pakistan was no different from that of Afghanistan before

9/11 where the Taliban and al-Qaeda had established themselves,” he said, adding that Musharraf was responsible for all the mess.

He said the entire country would have to bear the consequences if the prevailing crises in Fata were not resolved amicably. He said the democracy in Pakistan would be incomplete unless it was extended to the tribal areas in its true spirit.

Khattak said that safe havens were provided to the militants in Fata from where they continued attacks both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The present government had no option but to launch military operations against the al-Qaeda operatives to end their dominance on Pakistani soil and to set free people from their clutches. “There are two ways to end the influence of militants; first the local residents stand up against the outlaws or second the government takes steps to defend its land and people against foreigner militants,” he added.

He said that the tribal areas were intentionally kept isolated and backward where the warriors and militants strengthened their bases in the face of extreme poverty and outdated administrative system. “The tribesmen in Fata are in triple jeopardy as they live under British-inherited system, are deprived of rights and facilities, and are exposed to aerial bombardment from the either sides of the border,” he argued.

The ANP leader said the constitutional powers regarding Fata vested with the president of Pakistan should be transferred to the Parliament. He advocated extension of all constitutional and legal rights to the tribal areas.

Earlier, three groups of participants put forward their recommendations on defining, democratising and developing Fata. The first group on democracy in Fata recommended that Political Parties Act should be extended to tribal areas, independent legislative councils should be formed and positive reforms made in the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). It also called for giving representation to people of Fata in the NWFP Assembly.

The second group on developing Fata stressed the need for ensuring peace and security for economic development while roads, communication and new industries should be set up in the tribal areas besides improving education, health and farming sectors.

The third group underlined the need for abolishing the special status of Fata, improving governance, changing administrative system, encouraging community involvement in developmental projects and strengthening traditional system in the tribal areas.

NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani, PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Secretary Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan Dr Faqir Hussain and SBF President Dr Kamal spoke on the first day of the workshop.

Majority of the tribespersons asked for immediate halt to Bajaur operation. PPP Bajaur Agency President Aurangzeb Inquilabi made an impassioned appeal to halt military operations in Bajaur.

“The warplanes are bombing our villages and killing our children. Our people have been displaced and we have nowhere to go. Overwhelming majority of people in Bajaur is against militants but the bombing and shelling must stop so that we could return to our homes,” he said.