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Grievances of tribal areas should be solved politically: Khawaja Asif

Updated May 27, 2019

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PML-N parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Khawaja Asif speaks in the Assembly on May 27. — DawnNewsTV screengrab
PML-N parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Khawaja Asif speaks in the Assembly on May 27. — DawnNewsTV screengrab

PML-N MNA Khawaja Asif on Monday, in the backdrop of yesterday's clash at a North Waziristan checkpost, urged lawmakers to play a role in the political resolution to the complaints of tribal areas' residents.

Three people were killed and 15 ─ including five soldiers ─ were injured in an exchange of fire in North Waziristan's Boyya area, when the Kharqamar checkpost was attacked during a protest on Sunday, in which Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) members were also participating.

Addressing a National Assembly sitting today, Asif called for a parliamentary committee to probe the grievances of the people of erstwhile Fata.

"The grievances of [tribal areas' residents] should be solved politically, not with force," he said. "Obstacles will come in our way because we have been exploiting the area for the last 30 to 35 years. The back drop of the yesterday's incident was that we exploited the area."

"Two MNAs are being named in yesterday's incident. One has been arrested while one is said to be at large," Asif said.

"It is the KP chief minister's responsibility to talk about [these issues]. It is the defence minister's [Pervez Khattak] responsibility — who was the chief minister of KP for five years — to talk about it. The interior ministry should speak about it. These issues must be dealt with proactively."

"Security forces should not be attacked. They have rendered immense sacrifices but at the same time we should realise that the faultline be dealt politically and not by force."

"Bring them into your fold, bring them into the political mainstream," he said. The PML-N lawmaker also said that the prime minister "should have issued a statement on yesterday's incident".

"Until you bring that area into the political mainstream, the elements across the border will exploit the situation," he cautioned. "Wherever differences lie, wherever faultines exist, our enemy will exploit them."

"KP and particularly the former Fata region was the front line region in the war against terrorism during the last three to four decades.

"We destroyed the culture and identity of Fata for our proxy wars," he regretted.

"If we don't correct our faultlines, our sovereignty would be jeopardised. I can gave examples from the past" Asif said.

"Our history of the past 72 years is tragic. We have committed mistakes in the past. The mistakes in East Pakistan caused the annexation of Bengal. Unrest in Balochistan has continued on and off for many years."

He recalled that earlier this month the Lower House had unanimously passed a constitutional amendment presented by MNA Mohsin Dawar — who is being accused for yesterday's clash among others — without a dissenting note.

"It was the first instance where a private bill was converted into the amendment," Asif said. "The amendment is yet to be passed by the Senate because some forces are in action to prevent it from being passed. It will be our defeat if those forces, through manoeuvring, prevent it from being passed by the Senate."

The 26th Constitution Amendment Bill sought an increase in the number of seats for the erstwhile Fata in the National Assembly and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.

'Grievances of tribal people will be resolved'

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Murad Saeed, in his usual fiery manner, responded to Asif's comments regarding unrest in tribal regions and lashed out at past governments for failing to develop those areas.

The opposition staged a walk out after Saeed started speaking but he continued. Addressing yesterday's clash he said: "The sit-in [in North Waziristan's Doga Macha Madakhel area] had entered its third day when it was agreed that a person from Waziristan would be released. An MNA called the protesters and pushed them to attack the checkpost, and people were martyred."

"PML-N took credit of army operations [against terrorism]. [Former premier] Nawaz Sharif used to boast about Operation Zarb-i-Azb like he fought on the frontlines with a gun," Saeed thundered.

"When army operation in Waziristan in 2009 was wrapped up, who was in power? Army restored peace [in tribal areas], why didn't you restore life?"

Saeed recalled that Prime Minister Imran Khan had always vocally opposed drone strikes that were carried out by the United States in the tribal regions and claimed that Dawar had supported the attacks.

"After the APS [massacre], we came to the House and tabled a resolution to fence the Afghan border. Dawar and [Mahmood Khan] Achakzai opposed it," Saeed said.

He further said: "PTM was formed after Naqebullah Mehsood was killed. Whose good boy was Rao Anwar?"

Saeed said that when the Pashtun population was being attacked, he stood up to highlight their woes unlike MNAs Dawar and Ali Wazir.

"Rana Sanaullah had told The Guardian that [army] operations will be carried out in every area where Pakhtuns reside. It was I who protested against his comments," he said.

Adjourning the session until Tuesday, Speaker Asad Qaiser directed the government to pacify the opposition.

PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation framework.

'NAB controversy created by govt'

Earlier, speaking on the controversy that was caused by some leaked audio and video clips involving National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal, Asif had urged Speaker Asad Qaiser to constitute a parliamentary committee to probe the matter.

The PML-N leader questioned the government's role in "trapping" the NAB chairman to "save its own people".

Asif said that most of the people facing NAB cases are in the opposition and pointed out that references against members of treasury benches are also pending.

"Government has become alert so a trap was set against NAB chairman. Jahangir Tareen has shares in the channel that broke the news [of the leaked tapes]," he insisted and said that it was an attempt to "steal [NAB chairman's] credibility from him".

"Someone has said this rightly, time changes. Power has a shelf life. Trust me when I say this, I have been on both sides of the house."

"We have been in power as well and we [too] thought the time would never end. I want to say this as a reminder: power has a shelf life," he repeated.

Tareen responded to Asif's allegations in a tweet, saying: "Khawaja Asif has a history of being a liar. Today, on the floor of the House, he again lied claiming that I am a partner in the TV channel that did programme against chairman NAB. I do not own even a single share in any TV channel let alone owning one [station]. Take your words back Khawaja Asif."

Earlier this week, some footage and a few audio clips — first aired by News One — surfaced in which a male can be heard talking to a woman, and making inappropriate remarks at various points.

While the TV channel linked the male voice with the NAB chairman, the corruption watchdog has vehemently denied the allegation, labelling it "the propaganda of a blackmailers' group".