Unrest in Khaisor

29 Jan 2019

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The writer is a former bureaucrat and author of Cheegha: The Call.
The writer is a former bureaucrat and author of Cheegha: The Call.

THE Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) celebrated its first anniversary on Jan 20. The celebrations were planned for Karachi but due to a last-minute change of plans, Manzoor Pashteen, founder and chairperson of the PTM, opted instead to attend a public rally in Khaisor in North Waziristan along with PTM-affiliated MNA Mohsin Dawar.

The rally was in response to an appeal by Hayat Wazir of Khaisor, against the alleged harassment of his family members by security personnel. Noor Islam Dawar, chairman of the Youth of Waziristan, a civil society organisation, highlighted the issue and the PTM stepped in with its support. In spite of the inclement weather, it turned out to be a sizeable rally.

There had been complaints of misbehaviour by security personnel earlier as well, but this time, the venue of the alleged harassment and the subsequent rally is of great importance. Khaisor has historical significance as the land of the Faqir of Ippi, whose battle against the British Bannu Brigade in 1936 was the main reason for his rise to fame. The victory and subsequent withdrawal of the troops were seen as a manifestation of the faqir’s miraculous powers. The faqir started his movement against the British because of the Islam Bibi affair. Islam Bibi, a Hindu girl who converted and married a Muslim, was declared a minor and restored to her family by a court in Bannu.

The PTM’s general demands, presented to the then prime minister, in their dharna last year, are well known, as is the government’s Iukewarm response. Whereas the PTM is convinced that its demands are just and a matter of life and death for the people of KP in general and Waziristan in particular, the government has its own priorities.

Despite inclement weather, it was a sizeable rally.

During the last one year, the PTM has been organising itself and has managed a substantial increase in its following, especially among the youth. The government, on the other hand, seems indecisive. The promised reforms and support for livelihood are taking long. Colleges are closed; there has been no compensation for properties destroyed in Miramshah, nor have land owners been allowed to rebuild.

After the initial successes against militancy, law and order is deteriorating again. The governor holds on to the Fata Secretariat as it is still functional in spite of the prime minister’s clear instructions for it to be closed down. The KP chief minister is not keen to take the initiative to mainstream the tribal districts. Not a single project has been initiated in the current financial year. Courts have yet to be established and no one is sure which law governs the tribal districts.

Commenting on services like Wapda or telecommunications would be premature as they are nonexistent. The government is double-minded on the issue of allocating the promised annual Rs100 billion for speedy development to pull Fata out of the black hole. Though many sane voices have been pleading for the early implementation of reforms there isn’t much happening. The relief people expected from the merger of KP and Fata, especially additional jobs, isn’t there.

Speakers at the Khaisor rally equated their cause with that of the Faqir of Ippi’s and gave the government a week to either release or present the father and brother of Hayat Wazir before a court — although there are reports that at least one of them has been released — and punish the perpetrators. Seeing the public response, the Wazir grand jirga met in D.I. Khan and visited Khaisor. In a video message, Dr Gul Alam, chairperson of the jirga, announced a similar decision.

Mohsin Dawar has accused the government of pressurising Hayat and his family to withdraw the allegation. A second Wazir jirga denounced the PTM and Youth of Waziristan. They dec­lared the accusations baseless and pledged that the Wazir tribe would look into the matter and decide on a future course of action. Other tribes need not interfere in Wazir affairs.

It is now for the government to determine the facts and take swift action against whoever transgressed, before things get out of control. The chief minister should be visible and in control. He should form a high-level committee to immediately determine the facts. He should meet a delegation of the affected people and their representatives to assure them of justice and support. Violating the sanctity of one’s home brings a bad name to institutions and inconvenience to ordinary law-abiding individuals.

The prime minister should monitor progress on reforms and give a timeline for their implementation. The governor, instead of holding on to the works departments of ex-Fata, should be advocating with the government for the early release of the promised funds and with international development partners for more funds. Unnecessary delay in implementing the promised changes is creating anxiety and mistrust among the people of former Fata, who are having second thoughts on reforms.

The writer is a former bureaucrat and author of Cheegha: The Call.

gqkhan57@yahoo.com

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2019