Peace March Opens New Political Phase in FATA
17 October, 2012
By Khan Zeb Burki
The land famous for drone attacks and military operations, Waziristan is once again been voiced in the political debates in the national and international media. After a long time, the world witnessed media persons, national leaders and international peace activists marching towards the so-called land of the worst, where all the peace lovers were no less enthusiastic than the tribal people themselves.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan was selective in his approach by leading his Peace March towards South Waziristan where the United States targeted a Taliban commander Naik Muhammad Wazir in June 2004 in its first ever drone predator attack in the land of pure (Pakistan). Since then, the drones have been targeting the innocent tribal people in the region.
Kotkai, the hometown of Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain Mehsud (reportedly killed in drone strike) was selected to stage his peace gathering against the preemptive drone strikes. Mr. Khan failed to reach Kotkai mentioning security concerns, and delivered address to a large gathering of tribal people (mostly IDPs) in the southern district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Tank. However, some of the media persons and PTI workers reached Kotkai, which negated the widely perceived image of the area. Had the army, the de-facto sovereign supported the peace march; Mr. Khan would have reached Kotkai.
The Peace March was criticized by almost all the political parties and some analysts were also found critical to Waziristan Peace March. The PML-N Secretary General Zafar Iqbal Jhagra said: "Imran Khan's march was not an expression of solidarity with the people of Waziristan but was political point-scoring." The JUI-F chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman feared losing its support previously he enjoyed in Waziristan, and termed Imran Khan an "Agent of the West", claiming that the PTI wanted to destroy Pakistan by injecting "Western thoughts" into it.
The ANP led government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa tried to stop him and block the road with containers but later took the opposite stance. Provincial Information Minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain said, "The Peace March was a good initiative for a good cause for which Imran Khan has taken the credit. But the success of the march became possible because of the democratic government."
Imran Khan termed his peace march a success and criticized the government policy by saying, "We did not succeed to march into Waziristan, but it's not a failure as the event has kicked off a global debate on devastating adverse impact of drone strikes, while it had also exposed the 'dual policy' of Pakistani government against drones."
No doubt, the peace march opened a new debate in media but soon the debate was calmed down by the incident of assassination attempt on fourteen years old Malala Yousafzai, a national peace award winner. Peace march has been mostly criticized on political grounds by the prominent political figures fearing the popularity of PTI. It is not the matter of trepidation for political parties whereas the tribal land is very fertile for political leaders as its door has just opened (after extension of political parties act 2002) for political parties to serve the people. The numerous problems in tribal belt have not been taken in hand by leaders, but opportunity of materializing FATA issues in their future politics has not lost.
FATA has been turned upside down by military operations against Taliban, resulting in death of hundreds of innocent civilians who were neither part of army, nor sided with Taliban. Their death was not mourned by any government official nor has any political leader advocated the case of bullet ridden innocent civilians. The military operations have affected the socio-economic life of the tribal people by destroying infrastructures and forcing them to be IDPs. The political parties entering the region can exploit the problems of rehabilitation being faced by IDPs and the civilian casualties in so-called war on terror for their political party agenda.
The people of FATA have no access to basic facilities and fundamental rights. The centuries old Frontier Crime Regulation rules out all basic rights enumerated in the Constitution of Pakistan. The people are on the mercy of civil bureaucracy i.e. political administration in each of the agency. Provision of basic facilities and the extension of the constitution of the country to the tribal belt can be another agenda for the political parties.
The issues that of education, health, communication, IDPs quandary, military operation, militancy, drone attacks and mainstreaming FATA need attention of the democratic government and political leaders. FATA has neither been included in the agenda of the political parties nor have its problems dealt as that of the country.
Criticizing and discouraging Imran Khan on his stance on drone attacks is not a good massage to the people of Pakistan as well as international community at large. The critics of peace march are advised to contribute in the betterment of FATA and earn the political support of its people. As their tribal generosity demands, the people of FATA, without any discrimination, will warmly welcome a political leader who honestly voices their issues.
The writer is an M.Phil scholar and Tribal Affairs Analyst can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org