PESHAWAR, July 15: Chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Maulana Fazlur Rehman has also jumped on the political bandwagon in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas by convening a jirga of elders in Peshawar on Sunday to capitalise on his vote bank and increase his influence in tribal areas in view of the extension of Political Parties Act to Fata.
The jirga, held at Nishtar Hall, was convened to seek opinion of the tribal people about integration of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or formation of a separate province comprising seven tribal agencies and six Frontier Regions (FRs).
JUI-F workers, parliamentarians and religious scholars from Fata attended the jirga. After daylong speeches and group discussions, a 35-member ‘supreme jirga’ was constituted that was given mandate to take a decision about the future status of Fata.
The supreme body would function as a think tank and would advise Maulana Fazlur Rehman about situation in Fata. It was decided that the body would hold its maiden session after Ramazan.
Several jirgas have been held in Peshawar and Islamabad to discuss future of Fata since the government introduced certain amendments to Frontier Crimes Regulations and extended Political Parties Order, 2002, to the tribal area last year.
A jirga was held at Governor’s House and another was convened by Awami National Party last month. A non-governmental organisation also called a tribal jirga in Islamabad in June. Earlier, Jamaat-i-Islami had organised a jirga on future of Fata.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly had passed a resolution on May 7, 2012, about Fata’s future that ignited anger among the political parties, particularly JUI-F and JI. The resolution called upon the federal government to treat people of Fata at par with other citizens of the country and give representation to them in the provincial assembly. However, some civil society groups and political parties including JUI-F misinterpreted the resolution and said that ANP wanted to merge Fata with the province against the aspiration of tribal people.
Addressing the jirga at Nishtar Hall, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that coalition partners in the centre and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were trying to blackmail people of Fata in the name of reforms. He said that his party would not let Peshawar and Islamabad to impose their will on inhabitants of Fata.
“On the one hand tribal people are subjected to military operation and drone strikes while on the other rosy pictures of reforms are presented before them,” he said, adding that the government should first restore peace and rehabilitate all victims of the military operations and then talk about reforms. He said that government should not pressurise tribal people.
“Our party is not against reforms and amendments in FCR. But our top priority is restoration of self-esteem of tribal people,” said Mr Rehman, who came down heavily on the government for reopening supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan.
“The government and generals should not take hasty decision to stop supplies to Nato forces, if they can’t sustain pressure,” he said and added that Pakistan would face more humiliations and isolation in international community if rulers did not overhaul the foreign policy.
He said that Nato supplies were allowed without getting ratification from the parliament.
He said that America did not tender apology for killing 24 soldiers in Salala, Mohmand Agency and government allowed containers carrying goods for Nato to cross into Afghanistan before the telephone call of the US secretary of state to Pakistani foreign minister. He said that JUI-F would not leave people of Fata alone and would continue efforts for their rights.
On the sideline of the jirga, a tribal chief asked Maulana Fazlur Rehman to play his role to stop the government from launching military operation in North Waziristan Agency.
“We have credible information that security forces will launch operation after Ramazan. If the operation is started the people of North Waziristan will migrate to Afghanistan instead of living miserable life in tents,” the elder warned, saying majority of the people of Waziristan had properties in Afghanistan.
Mr Rehman read out a joint declaration at the concluding session of the jirga that called for end to drone strikes and military operations in Fata. The two-page declaration said that government should find out durable solution to the problems instead of using military might.
The joint statement also regretted silence of the international organisations on human rights violations in Fata.