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Governing Fata: The big debate

Updated Apr 10, 2015 10:44am

By Zia Ur Rehman

Once the guns fall silent, there is a debate that needs to take place and a historical question that needs to be addressed: What will be the fate of Fata?
Once the guns fall silent, there is a debate that needs to take place and a historical question that needs to be addressed: What will be the fate of Fata?

The notion of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) as the epicentre of international terrorism has rapidly gained traction — not only are Pakistan and Afghanistan being affected by the militancy infested in the area, the threat has become credible enough for the international community to sit up and take note. A new debate is raging: what should Fata’s fate be?

Fata is currently governed as a special tribal region under separate constitutional arrangements. The region, comprising a total area of 27,220 square kilometres, is inhabited by almost a dozen Pakhtun tribes. It is constituted by seven tribal agencies — Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Kurram, Orakzai, North Waziristan and South Waziristan — and six frontier regions (FRs): FR Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR Bannu, FR Lakki Marwat, FR Tank and FR Dera Ismail Khan.

Almost all of the seven tribal agencies that constitute Fata as well as the adjacent frontier regions have been overrun by militancy and the military operations carried out in response.

Four schools of thought exist about the future of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. What are their merits and demerits?

The discussion on the fate of Fata restarted after Federal Minister for States and Frontier Region (SAFRON) Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch claimed that the government is planning to give Fata the status of a province. “The government is working to hand a Gilgit-Baltistan-like administrative status for tribal areas,” said the minister on April 22 while speaking at a conference. Baloch had earlier aired the same suggestion in February, during a meeting of the National Assembly’s standing committee on Safron.

The minister’s stance gives weight to the idea that the Pakistan government remains under immense pressure to act decisively to bring the region into the mainstream, and to make special provisions to end underdevelopment, backwardness and violent realities of the tribes’ people. Western diplomatic circles also confirm that they too have been pushing the Pakistani government to alter Fata’s current administrative set-up — a move that they see as key to curbing militancy in the wider region.

“Tribal people need a new social contract and a new economic and power structure because Taliban militancy and the continuous military operation in the tribal region have caused irremediable damage to the old administrative and legal governing system,” says a Western diplomat, requesting anonymity.

The idea that Fata and KP should be amalgamated finds representation in Pakhtun nationalism. Tribal elders who support this merger, explains Dawar, are “Pakhtun nationalists” who believe in the unification of the Pakhtun regions in Pakistan... On the other hand, tribal politicians remain adamant that the best way forward is to carve a separate province altogether.

However, also in play are a great number of indigenous voices and a range of ideas on how Fata should be governed. Ihsan Dawar, a political analyst from North Waziristan, explains that local stakeholders are broadly divided into four schools of thought: one believes that Fata territory should be merged with KP proper, the second argues for Fata becoming a separate province, a third group says it should turn into a Fata council and the last argues that status quo should be maintained.

The four schools and their proponents

Political parties, Fata-based civil society organisations, and tribal elders are all demanding a change in the current administrative set-up of Fata, but they remain poles apart on the specifics because each is firmly camped in a different school of thought.

The idea that Fata and KP should be amalgamated finds representation in Pakhtun nationalism. Tribal elders who support this merger, explains Dawar, are “Pakhtun nationalists” who believe in the unification of the Pakhtun regions in Pakistan.

Underpinning the amalgamation argument is the idea that Fata and KP are a natural geographical unit, explains Akbar Watanyaar, a Pashto poet from Khyber Agency. “As one big province, our people will have great influence in national and international affairs. People across the world are struggling for unification of their divided land but some ‘forces’ deliberately impose the colonial principle of ‘divide and rule’ on Pakhtuns,” he says.

In practical terms, tribal people are already dependent for health, education, commerce and other concerns on the nearest metropolitan centres of KP. A large number of people from every agency and tribe have settled in adjacent cities. Dera Ismail Khan and Tank are home to people of many tribes from South Waziristan, while Bannu is the second abode of many from North Waziristan. Similarly, a large number of Mohmands made their way to Charsadda and Peshawar to earn their livelihoods and are permanently settled there.

In the same way, the administration of the tribal region is still dealt with by the Fata Secretariat in Peshawar. Historically, the affairs of Khyber, Orakzai and South Waziristan agencies have been and continue to be controlled and run from their headquarters, located in Peshawar, Hangu and Tank respectively.

The first proposal has both the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) putting their weight behind it. Bushra Gohar, a central leader of the ANP, said that the party’s constitution recognises Fata as an integral part of KP, and during the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the ANP proposed the repeal of Articles 246 & 247 to fully integrate the tribal areas. Gohar, however, maintained that the ANP believes any change to the status of tribal areas should be in accordance with the will and aspirations of the people living there.

On the other hand, tribal politicians remain adamant that the best way forward is to carve a separate province altogether. “Fata should be given the status of a separate province; this means we can have administrative and financial autonomy over our affairs, and our people will progress independently and separately,” argues Habib Malik Orakzai, chief of the Muttahida Qabail Party. “With KP itself unable to resolve its issues in the past 67 years, any amalgamation will increase the problems of the tribal people.”

Those who believe in this second school of thought also include influential politicians, who win elections from Fata as independent candidates or in non-political capacities, sometimes on the basis of tribal strength and at other times, by spending millions of rupees in electioneering.

The third school of thought revolves around constituting a Fata council that is modelled after the Gilgit-Baltistan-council. The argument is that an elected body of people from Fata should be able to decide its future rather than have it decided for them. “Council members should be elected through transparent elections, and they could make laws to bring Fata into mainstream Pakistan,” says Akhundzada Chattan, a former parliamentarian from the PPP who was elected from Bajaur Agency.

Chattan claims that all political leaders and tribal elders of Fata, who were part of various committees — especially headed by Justice (retired) Mian Mohammad Ajmal and Farooq H. Naek, All Fata Siasi Ittehad, Political Parties Joint Committee on Fata Reforms, and a committee formed by Shaheed Bhutto Foundation — unanimously agreed that a Gilgit-Baltistan-like Fata council should be elected in the first phase to decide the tribal areas’ fate.

And lastly, there is the school of thought that is resistant to any kind of overhaul. This position is argued by beneficiaries of the old order: the maliks (tribal chieftains), the political agents, officials of the Fata Secretariat, as well as independent, wealthy political figures. A segment of tribal elders and civil society activists also side by this position, explains a Mohmand Agency-based journalist.

The argument given by this school of thought revolves around reform. Farooq Mehsud, coordinator of the Save Waziristan Rights Society — a civil society group formed by Mehsud, Wazir, Dotani and Suleman Khel tribal elders — alleges that some international organisations are “funding the campaign” for a new Fata province, damaging the culture and traditions of tribal people in the process. Mehsud clarifies that his group wants to amend controversial articles of the existing law while keeping the existing state of affairs intact.

Welcome politics

For the first time in the country’s history, political parties managed to field candidates from Fata in the general elections held in May 2013. This was made possible by an amendment to the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) in August 2011; the new rules extended the Political Parties Act (PPA) 2002 to Fata and allowed political parties to operate there as they do elsewhere in Pakistan.

Prior to this regulation, all 12 members of the National Assembly from Fata and the eight members in Senate were elected independently and could not join any political party. In fact, until the introduction of adult franchise in 1996, elections in tribal areas were based on selective voting — some 35,000 maliks were entitled to cast votes, while the majority would sell votes to the highest bidder.

Not this time: political parties carried out campaigns and canvassed for votes, tribal candidates were allotted symbols of their respective political parties for the first time and a large number cast their votes in Fata’s first party-based elections.

“Although political parties were able to win only four seats, their participation in last May’s general elections has left a positive impact,” argues Chattan. Mehsud believes that the participation of political parties not only gave space to new and young leaders in Fata’s politics but has also politicised the tribal society.

Can a non-Pakhtun govern Fata?

The recent appointment of Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Abbasi, a central leader of the PML-N hailing from the Hazara division, to the position of provincial governor has unleashed a new can of worms.

The law, as it stands, makes the KP governor responsible for looking after the affairs of the Fata region. Traditionally, a KP governor would hold great sway in the tribal areas through connections with tribal elders.

In February, 2012, former president Asif Ali Zardari appointed Shaukatullah Khan, a tribal leader from Bajaur Agency, as the provincial governor. Tribal elders and politicians welcomed the appointment and hoped that the first civilian tribal governor of KP would help ameliorate their problems. Those who criticise Abbasi’s appointment point to the fact that the incumbent governor is unable to speak Pashto.

“Appointing a non-Pashto-speaking governor indicates the approach of the federal government,” remarks Mehsud, claiming that only a governor who belongs to the tribal region can effectively run Fata’s affairs.

Orakzai and Chattan think differently: they believe that Abbasi, who served as provincial chief minister in the 1990s, enjoys full support of the ruling PML-N and can therefore take some strong decisions. “Fata’s affairs are, in fact, run by the army, we saw that previous governors had no power,” claims Chattan. He hopes that being a political figure and with support at the centre, Abbasi can implement new policies to bring Fata into the mainstream.

The writer is a journalist and researcher. He tweets @zalmayzia

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 6th, 2014

Structural subjugation

By Zulfiqar Ali

Several commissions and committees have been constituted in the recent past to expunge all repressive sections from the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) — the set of rules currently used to govern the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). Multiple times, political activists and human rights activists have also called for the total repeal of the FCR. Certain amendments were recently made to the FCR, but they too have not been implemented. The question that arises is: why has the FCR turned into a sacred document that cannot be revoked either by civilian or military rulers?

Senior government functionaries maintain that it will be disastrous for the country if the FCR is immediately abolished. “It will create a big vacuum and the system will collapse if the FCR is replaced with another law,” says a senior official at the Fata Secretariat in Peshawar.

“You need time, resources, and infrastructure before switching from one system to another. As things stand, there is no police, no court and no other required facility in Fata. How will you run the system?” he argues.

What are the barriers to instituting a modern legal system in Fata?

Indeed, former president, Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, was initially one of FCR’s worst critics, but he could not annul it. Former president, Asif Ali Zardari, notified slight amendments to the regulation, but those remain unexecuted. There is a mindset within the establishment which does want to break the decades-old status quo.

“While there is realisation at the top to remove the FCR and extend the laws of the country to Fata, it will take at least another two and half decades to bring Fata into the mainstream,” argues the official.

Any change in Fata and the FCR is dependent on Article 247(3) of the 1973 Constitution, which stipulates that “no act of Parliament is applicable to the Fata or any part thereof unless the President of Pakistan so directs. The governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa acts as the ‘agent’ to the President of Pakistan.”

A mindset exists within the establishment that is against the extension of adult franchise and the Political Parties Order to the tribal areas. It discourages political leadership from allowing tribal people to participate in political activities

Political actors have long maintained that this article needs to go if any headway is to be made regarding governance in Fata. Political actors believe that repealing Article 247 will serve as the foundation through which parliament and the courts can extend their jurisdiction into Fata. It isn’t as if these voices are disparate either: under the umbrella organisation of the Fata Political Alliance (FPA), the PPP, Awami National Party (ANP), PML-N, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), have all called for the repeal of Article 247.

However, non-political actors believe that militancy is now the major obstacle to any kind of reforms being enforced in the tribal belt. As argued by Akhunzada Chattan, a former parliamentarian from Bajaur Agency and the current PPP representative in the FPA, initial hindrances to the way of reforms came from the bureaucracy, but now, the civil and military establishments both support the continuation of the FCR.

“Initially, the political agent and his staff would usually be involved in financial corruption; now, it is officers of the law enforcement agencies and other departments who are also making money. The tribal area is like a grazing field for army officers, political administration, media persons and tribal maliks,” he alleges.

Chattan argues that the establishment was not ready for minor changes in the FCR, and had also opposed political reforms in Fata. “A mindset exists within the establishment that is against the extension of adult franchise and the Political Parties Order to the tribal areas. It discourages political leadership from allowing tribal people to participate in political activities,” he says.

Back in 2011, President Zardari had approved certain clauses in the FCR, providing for an accountability mechanism for all sums received as fines and disbursed by the political agent or the district coordinating officer, as the case may be. This record was to be audited annually.

So far, the auditing authority, audit mechanism and such other modalities have not been implemented. Critics believe that without constitutional amendments, such changes to the FCR do not make any impact.

“Political agents have become non-entities ever since the army stepped into Fata,” remarks senior lawyer and former president of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association (PHCBA), Advocate Abdul Latif Afridi. “Ever since militancy began in the area, the FCR has become toothless. The FCR is not the issue in itself per se, but part of a larger problem.”

Advocate Afridi argues that the establishment, particularly the security establishment, did not want to change the current status of Fata because it wanted an area along the western border that is free of any influence. “North Waziristan and some other parts of Fata remained strongholds of militants, including the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda, for the past decade,” he says, “and the establishment wants to use Fata for its ugly designs in future.”

The former PHCBA president claims that the Pakistani political leadership, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was determined to bring Fata into the mainstream, but the establishment is not too keen on the suggestion. “We are trying to make the security establishment understand but they do not listen,” says Advocate Afridi, adding that any president who enjoys discretionary powers in the Constitution to make regulations for Fata is helpless before the powerful establishment.

“The whole world has changed. The needs and requirements of the people of Fata have also changed. The FCR can’t cater to the requirements of the tribal people any longer,” he says.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 6th, 2014

Status quo: a century of brutality

By Iftikhar Mohmand

A young man from an ‘amn lashkar’ in Bajaur Agency stands guard. Amn lashkars were meant to guard local villages and populations in settled and tribal areas
A young man from an ‘amn lashkar’ in Bajaur Agency stands guard. Amn lashkars were meant to guard local villages and populations in settled and tribal areas

At its core, the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) — the set of rules governing the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) — is a hybrid judicial system the origin of which lies in the colonial master’s desire to maintain control over the “wild tribal landscape” and adjacent areas. The reduction of Fata and its inhabitants to “wild tribals” at the hand of the colonisers and even the rulers preceding them has still not changed. Fata is still seen as a “security space” which needs something more than a legal system to be governed.

Pakhtun tribal areas have been always categorised and treated as buffer zone by the Pakistani state, which continued with colonial policies to govern Fata. This approach worked successfully till 1979, but then the whole scenario in Fata changed. The old colonial administrative system of control and the state’s buffer-centric policy created a vacuum for disorder. This self-serving governance approach deprived large segments of the population from social uplift and economic empowerment, and thus created a vacuum for non-state actors and militarisation.

Times have changed but the colonial violence of the Frontier Crimes Regulation hasn’t

But in its everyday use today, this pluralistic judicial system remains an oppressive tool, offering little or no space for human rights to flourish. In pursuit of justice against one, retribution can and is often sought against many, none of whom have anything to do with the original sin. While protecting the rights of its residents is widely accepted as the state’s responsibility, interestingly in Fata, through the mechanism of the FCR, it is the tribal people who look after the border and protect the state.

There has been more discussion on how to eliminate the ‘evil’ within Fata rather than the cause of evil that surrounds it: the FCR.

The Raj’s desire for order

The FCR became part of the British apparatus in the Pakhtun border areas of the British Raj as early as 1901, imposed under the pretext of maintenance of law and order. Its basic aim was controlling and registering crimes on government roads, offices or other government installations and connecting passes.

Through the FCR, the British political agents administered 27pc of Pakhtun border areas, called the Illaqa-i-Sarkar. The remaining 73pc area, Illaqa-i-Ghair, was administered through customary tribal law, riwaj, with the help of tribal elders (jirga).

Through the FCR, the British political agents administered 27pc of Pakhtun border areas, called the Illaqa-i-Sarkar. The remaining 73pc area, Illaqa-i-Ghair, was administered through customary tribal law, riwaj, with the help of tribal elders (jirga).

Over the ages, the FCR morphed into an amalgam of riwaj and the British legal system. Its evolution has seen political brinksmanship, sometimes as agreements, and at others, through the state’s desire to tackle terrorism or growing radicalisation. Till date, the FCR remains a judicial system in permanent evolution.

The evolution of Fata as a space and the FCR reveals markers of willing negligence and conscious marginalisation through the ages. For the British, the notion of Fata as a territory was incongruous; the lines of division between the more modernised settled areas and the ‘barbaric’ tribal areas was the product of a flawed thought to control a pluralistic justice system. However, it failed to prevent violations of law and order back then and has failed even now.

The distance between the people and their administrative heads is symbolic in its own way. As critics maintain, there is a difference between the state-controlled Fata and Tata, the Taliban Administered Troubled Areas.

After the annexation of the six frontier regions in 1848, regular procedural as well as legal laws were enacted in the new territories of the British Raj in view of the lesser conviction rates there. A special law was thus introduced in 1871 for the Pakhtun region. The same regulations were re-enacted with minor modification in 1873 and 1876. However, newer clauses were inserted from time to time for more control over the ‘wild space’ ultimately resulting in the FCR 1901. The pattern has not ended and continues till date.

Pakistan’s tribal soldiers

Soon after the division of the subcontinent, Pakistan’s hold over the Pakhtun border areas became a bone of contention between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Owing to its geographical location and specific circumstances, successive civilian and military governments only brought about certain cosmetic changes in the FCR, but never tried to extend other administrative systems — those being debated and implemented elsewhere in the country — to Fata.

Instead, agreements were reached with tribal elders (maliks), whereby the same colonial system albeit with a few changes would be enforced in Fata. This appeasement of specific stakeholders through the undemocratic sarkari jirga and governing tribal people through the draconian mechanism of the FCR which created an inadequate and ill-structured administrative and judicial system. The Pakistani state would meanwhile strive for the control of border region with the perpetuation of the old colonial policies of controlling and suppressing tribal areas.

Momad Ghat, Bajaur Agency: Junction on the road that leads to the Nawa Pass and Kunar province in Afghanistan
Momad Ghat, Bajaur Agency: Junction on the road that leads to the Nawa Pass and Kunar province in Afghanistan

The marginalisation of the tribal areas since 1947 can also be read through a history of the region’s names and their acronyms. In the constitution of 1956, tribal areas were referred to as “Special Areas”. In 1962, the legal administrative system became the Centrally Administered Tribal Areas (CATA) while in 1973, the term ‘Centrally’ was substituted for ‘Federally’ — as it stands today. The governance system remains the same.

Tyranny of the FCR

Justice in tribal areas is dispensed through the insufficient traditional mechanism of the jirga and the colonial tool of oppression, the FCR.

The jirga has traditionally been the preserve of the tribal elders. On the other hand, the FCR has historically reinvented itself, recreating its principles of tyranny to even supersede the Constitution of 1973 as the law of the tribal lands. In an irony of sorts, as per Article 247 (7) of the 1973 Constitution, the Pakistani judiciary cannot exercise any jurisdiction in relation to a tribal area, nor can members of the elected Pakistani parliament frame any laws that apply in Fata. Only the president can wield any power over Fata; because Fata enjoys special status, the president can pass an ordinance and have it implemented through his governor in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The saddening irony of our times lies in understanding that not a single clause of the much-hyped legislation to counter terrorism applies to Fata.

In fact, several provisions of the FCR conflict with the basic human rights provisions of the 1973 Constitution, but they remain part of the system of retribution. Consider FCR’s Chapter IV, which deals with penalties imposed on people charged with different crimes. Sections 21 to 27 of the FCR address the seizure and confiscation of property, as well as the arrest or detention of an individual without due process. The accused is barred from entering settled districts if charged with any crime against the state. Then there is the imposition of fines on an entire community for crimes committed by individuals.

Sections 40 and 41 of FCR’s Chapter V guarantee peace and provide clauses for maintaining good behaviour. According to the law, it is obligatory to execute a bond. If any person or tribe are alleged to be violating peace or have failed to execute a bond, the accused or their tribe can be imprisoned for up to three years under Sections 43, 44 without any right of appeal in any civil or criminal court (Section 48). Clause 40 of the FCR hands authority to the state to jail an entire tribe for an offence committed by an individual in their respective territory, regardless of who he or she might be.

Distance governance

Far away from Fata, the Fata Secretariat office is situated in Peshawar, the seat of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government, constructed in a fortified building — for safety and administrative reasons, we are told — where officials and bureaucrats are hard to reach.

Then there are the seven political agents, or the administrative heads, of the agency/quasi-district. Appointed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to exercise administrative power, the political agent is the authority where the executive and the judiciary merge. Additionally, he oversees decisions made by jirgas, is responsible for the development of the area and exercises control over economic routes.

But not all political agents are active or even live inside their agencies. The political agent of Khyber Agency resides in Peshawar, the one for Orakzai Agency lives in Hangu, while the political compound of South Waziristan is in Tank. The distance between the people and their administrative heads is symbolic in its own way. As critics maintain, there is a difference between the state-controlled Fata and ‘Tata’, the ‘Taliban Administered Troubled Areas’.

Recently, several initiatives were undertaken such as the FCR reforms committee which was formed in 2007-8 under the supervision of retired justice Ajmal Mian of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Several amendments suggested by the committee were introduced in the FCR on Aug 15, 2011. Under these reforms, the Fata tribunal’s powers were made parallel to that of a high court; the collective responsibility clause was amended, thus exempting children, elderly and tribes from inhumane punishment.

But then again, these amendments are of no use as the federal government introduced the Regulation of 2011 (The Actions in Aid of Civil Power) for PATA and Fata, giving sweeping powers to the military.

With the launch of the military operation in North Waziristan, the need to include Fata in ‘mainstream’ Pakistan is a requirement that needs to be fulfilled if the sense of deprivation within is to be reduced. The tribal areas have witnessed several military operations since 2004 — supported by masses from across the country. In much the same way the country has supported the military operation, it is about time they support reforms within Fata. The abolition of the FCR is the first step; and disproportionate punishment needs to end.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 6th, 2014

Reward and retribution

By Muhammad Uthmani

A child languishes in prison for a crime he didn’t commit as the deputy political agent enquires about his health
A child languishes in prison for a crime he didn’t commit as the deputy political agent enquires about his health

Akbar Khan is a tribesman from the Cheenagai village of Tehsil Mamund in Bajaur Agency, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He belongs to the Inam Khwar section of the Wara Mamund sub-tribe of the Mamund tribe. One morning, he commits a murder. Bajaur Agency’s political administration orders the arrest of Akbar Khan, but it is learnt that he has fled the area.

The administration orders that Akbar Khan’s father or his brothers be arrested, but it is learnt that they too have fled the area. The administration orders the arrest of his uncles and cousins, but it is learnt that all of them have left the area by now. Not one to give up, the administration orders the arrest of Akbar Khan’s distant relatives from the Inam Khwar section. However, it is learnt that nobody from the particular section could be rounded up for some reason. Next, the administration orders the arrest of anybody from the Wara Mamund sub-tribe. Once that fails too, the administration rounds up anybody and everybody from the Mamund tribe, all 200,000 of them. This was payback by extortion for a crime committed by one man, Akbar Khan.

Such are the ways of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), which spares neither humans nor humanity in its reign of terror. In its use, the FCR is often used as a tool of extortion against the families of those accused of committing a crime.

The FCR spares nobody, it only leaves harrowing tales of victims in its wake

Attaullah Khan, a resident of Kausar Village in Bajaur Agency, was en route to his gur (raw sugar) shop at the Inayat Kalay Bazaar, when he was stopped by FC men at the bazaar’s entrance. They took him to the base camp but nobody knew what Attaullah Khan’s fault was. He was the lone breadwinner for a family of seven, while his two elder sons were about to take their SSC examinations.

Attaullah was later handed over to the political administration of the agency. When contacted through local elders, the political agent accused the family of offering food to the Taliban during an operation. His sons couldn’t appear in their exams; they started selling gur at their father’s shop. But soon, the political agent had their shop shut down, saying that the law did not permit the family to run any business within the boundaries of Bajaur. Those kids are now working in Karachi, while Attaullah Khan is yet to be released.

Usman Ghani, a student of BBA (Hons) who hails from Khyber Agency, has a similar tale from 2008. Ghani claims that his father and uncle were detained by the political agent for six months for a crime committed by someone, not even related to their family, in the Zakhakheil section of Afridi tribe. The family business in Bara, headquarters of the Khyber Agency, was closed down and the whole family was kept on the Exit Control List, barred from entering Peshawar or other settled areas of KP.

Among those detained was 70-year-old Sher Alam Haji. He belonged to a low-income household, and failed to pay the fine levied... Sher Alam and his son were jailed for a year, till Sher Alam died of a heart attack in custody.

Mujahid Mehsud, a student from South Waziristan, says that he has been living in Tank since the last six years along with thousands of residents from the Badar area of the agency. The political agent has seized their property, while schools and markets are now shut because local residents failed to form an anti-Taliban militia. Mehsud was later denied admission to the government college in Tank, so he had to seek financial support from the director of the Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar to complete his studies.

Asif Afridi, a resident of Darra Adam Khel, recalls that Amir Zada from the Zarankheil tribe had become a member of a car-lifting gang in Punjab. They had stolen a car from Punjab and shifted it to Darra Adam Khel, but the owner of the car was an influential man and used his contacts to trace his car. Amir Zada was summoned by the political agent, but he somehow managed to flee to Peshawar before he could be apprehended. To bring him back to Darra Adam Khel, the political agent started arresting everyone from the Zarankheil tribe; they were all charged with heavy fines to compensate the owner of the car.

Among those detained was 70-year-old Sher Alam Haji. He belonged to a low-income household, and failed to pay the fine levied. His only son, Abid Alam, was a student at Islamia College Peshawar; he rushed to the village to rescue his father. But to his surprise, the political administration arrested him too. Sher Alam and his son were jailed for a year, till Sher Alam died of a heart attack in custody.

Muhammad Rasool and Haji Muhammad Yaar, residents of Nawagai sub-division of Bajaur Agency and members of Miangan tribe, had hired locals for mining chromite reserves in the mountains of Nawagai. They started off well and were earning in good numbers, also paying the local community their bit. The local Tehreek-i-Taliban commander, Pervaiz, was informed of their earnings; he demanded 20pc of the revenue as protection money from the contractors, and also asked the community to pay extortion money.

According to Rasool and Yaar, the political agent had them arrested on the complaint of former governor, Shaukatullah Khan, on the pretext that the business was illegal. A jirga was constituted to resolve the issue, heavy bribes were allegedly offered to jirga members by the governor’s family, and the former governor got a favourable decision. It was decided that from now on, the chromite reserves would be under the supervision of the governor’s father and that he would be requested to spend the profit on welfare of the local community.

But Akhtar Khan, another resident of Nawagai, claims that his tribe, Gudkheil, is the real owner of the marble mountains of Nawagai and that the governor and his father have illegally occupied them.

He says that they registered several complaints in the political agent’s office but to no avail. Meanwhile, Muhammad Rasool and other locals say that their resources are quickly depleting due to aggressive mining and the transportation of marble to Punjab.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 6th, 2014