LANDI KOTAL: Protest demonstrations and boycott by activists of various political parties marred the dialogue process, which a five-member Fata Reforms Committee held with various stakeholders in Khyber Agency on Monday.
The Jirga Hall in Landi Kotal, where the committee members first met with local tribal elders, reverberated with slogans against Frontier Crimes Regulation and the existing system in tribal areas when some of the pro-administration elders spoke in favor of FCR.
Local journalists were not allowed to cover the proceedings of the first session but some insiders told Dawn that former MNA Hamidullah Jan Afridi and some elders were given a tough time by a good number of ‘progressive’ elders, who had managed to secure a seat inside the Jirga Hall by posing as pro-administration.
MNA Haji Shahji Gul too had managed to ‘plant’ some anti-FCR elements inside the hall who chanted full-throated slogans against the pro-FCR lobby, sources told Dawn.
Traders at Landi Kotal Bazaar observe shutter down strike
“The incident visibly disturbed the five members of the committee,” a participant of the session told this scribe. The resistance by the anti-FCR lobby also forced some of the pro-administration elders to walk out of the hall only to the lured back by the officials of local political administration.
In the meantime, activists of different political parties demonstrated outside the hall and chanted slogans against the local administration for denying them entry to the Jirga Hall.
The activists also tried to forcibly enter the hall but they were pushed back by the khasadars. They decided to boycott the meeting with the members of the committee when the administration told them that only a limited number of them would be allowed to speak to the committee.
Activists of various political parties and supporters of MNA Haji Shahji Gul also organised a big protest demonstration at Landi Kotal Bazaar while local traders observed a complete shutter down strike throughout the meeting at the hall.
MNA Shahji Gul, his younger brother Senator Taj Mohammad and Senator Haji Momin Afridi remained inside the hall but they were not given a chance to speak so they simply acted as observers.
During the second session, the administration allowed some members of the civil society, local traders and journalists. During the second session, majority of the speakers demanded complete repeal of FCR, extension of all the regular laws to Fata, ensuring all basic constitutional, legal and human rights of the people of Fata and merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
It was for the first time that a woman, chairperson of Fata Youth Assembly Mehrin Afridi, was given a chance to speak for the rights of tribal women.
At the end, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra assured the participants of the second session that they would value all the suggestions and recommendations they had so far compiled during the committee visits to various tribal agencies.
He said that government would not impose its own policy on the people of Fata and would instead suggest changes in the existing system. The future of Fata would be decided in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of local people, he added.
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2016