Original Articles

Voices from FATA and the panic (5 parts) – by Farhat Taj

Related: Merge FATA into KP : ANP jirga

Editor’s note: We are cross-posting a five-series article titled “Voices from FATA and the panic” recently published in Daily Times. In this series Farhat Taj present a Pashtun nationalist perspective on issues of ethnic and provincial identity and the war on terror. In particular, she highlights the concerns of the Pashtun population of FATA and KP about Pakistani state’s policies of strategic depth and Jihad enterprise.

Farhat’s critical view of the strategic depth policy is also supported by the following video which shows how the former US National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1977-1981), travelled on the outset of the American, not Afghan, Jihad, all the way to Kurram to address the so-called Afghan mujahideen on the edge of the Durand Line, where the US advisor urged the so-called mujahideen to launch jihad against the former USSR. Shame on those who supported the American Jihad!

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Farhat Taj

In the first week of January 2012, there was a sudden demand in the national political scene for new provinces cut out of the Pakhtun territory in Pakistan, namely the Hazara and FATA provinces. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has been leading the demand. The MQM has no political presence in the Pakhtun land, including FATA and Hazara. The party has never been known for speaking up for people’s grievances in FATA and Hazara. Instead, it has been constantly accused for years by many families from these two areas for killing their near and dear ones in Karachi as part of ethnic cleansing in the mega city. It seemed difficult to understand the immediate cause behind the MQM leading the demand for the new provinces until I had a chance to listen to the video clips of a tribal jirga (assembly) conveyed under the auspices of the Awami National Party (ANP) on January 1, 2012.

Representatives of the FATA tribes in this jirga rejected any divisions of the Pakhtun nation and its territory. They made hard-hitting speeches against the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), FATA political administrations, FATA parliamentarians, who they said are nothing more than lackeys of the Pakistani establishment and above all the total lack of moral and political outrage in the wider Pakistani society against the innocent killings and human sufferings in FATA for about a decade since the war on terror began.

They forcefully demanded incorporation of the FATA territory within the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province; FATA representation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on the basis of adult franchise; full inclusion of FATA in the legal system of Pakistan, including full extension of the human rights framework, and thus rejected the partial amendments in the FCR recently introduced by the PPP-led coalition government, including the ANP. They also urged the ANP to represent their demands and grievances at all forums in Pakistan.

I would like to reproduce in this newspaper some of what the tribal representatives have been saying. It is voices like these in FATA that have been silenced in mysterious targeted killings in the area for about a decade since the post-9/11 US attack on the Taliban positions in Afghanistan and the following escape of the militants to the tribal area where they were provided safe havens not by the tribes but by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan through coordination with their lackeys in FATA, mostly from the religious class nurtured by the establishment, especially since the days of the so-called Afghan jihad. No investigations have been conducted to determine who killed so many people in FATA who were against the strategic depth policy of Pakistan.

It is very important that voices from the ANP-organised jirga are heard loud and clear across Pakistan, because some of the speakers of this gathering may not remain among us in the coming months and years. They might be target killed just like over 1,500 tribal leaders and other politically active people in the tribal areas have been killed for expressing similar views in order to silence others with fear of target killings for speaking out. Two of the important speeches in the jirga were from Nisar Wazir, popularly known as Nisar Lala in Waziristan, and Latif Afridi, well-known advocate and political leader from the Khyber Agency. In addition to that, important ANP leaders also spoke on the occasion, expressing their political commitments for FATA in line with the jirga members’ aspirations.

A representative from the FR D I Khan said that the outside vested state interests have drawn divisions under various labels among the Pakhtun and so we reject all such divisions. He urged the ANP to keep fighting for the unity of the Pakhtuns. The representative from FR Tank said that all Pakhtuns from Chitral to Bolan (Balochistan) are one and the same and divisions among them are not acceptable. He demanded inclusion of FATA in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and total abolition of the FCR law that he said treats the people of FATA worse than animals. One punishes only one animal, not the whole herd, for an unwanted act of that single animal but under the FCR the entire tribe is punished for the wrongdoing of one person among them. He said that the British government stopped water that irrigated the land belonging to his tribe, the Bhittani tribe, as punishment for the tribe’s close links with the movement of Khan Ghaffar Khan. He also referred to the visit of Ghaffar Khan and Gandhi ji to his tribe in the past.

Referring to the lack of public protests in Pakistan over the decade-long innocent killings in FATA, the representative from Mohmand Agency said everyone takes serious note of the innocent killings in Karachi but no comparable attention has ever been shown by the wider Pakistani society towards the killings and sufferings of innocent people in FATA. There were so many protests in Pakistan over the US killing of Pakistan Army soldiers on Salala checkpost, but never any protests over the thousands of tribal civilians’ killings in Mohmand or the rest of FATA. He said the state has kept FATA away from civilisation and since 9/11 it has also been stripped of dignity in death — a reference to the frequent desecration of dead bodies and attacks on funeral ceremonies. He said that as long as the state does not take its hands off Afghanistan (a reference to the strategic depth policy of Pakistan) there will not be peace in Afghanistan and by extension in FATA. All political parties of Pakistan have compromised on the blood and also on legal exclusion of the people of FATA from the rest of Pakistan. He said that once a national census team came to his house but he saw no reason to enrol his family in the population of Pakistan on this ground: I live under the British law (FCR); I am forcibly stopped by Pakistan from establishing normal social relations with my co-ethnics in Afghanistan and I am kept legally excluded from the rest of Pakistan. How can I be a Pakistani in this situation? He also informed that recently a group of students from Mohmand Agency visited a FATA parliamentarian in Islamabad in which the latter urged that students should stop speaking against the FCR and for girls’ education. The parliamentarian’s wife and daughters, added the Mohmand representative, are well-educated women, but nevertheless he wants to see the people of FATA live in ignorance and under the oppressive FCR. The FATA parliamentarians have been exploiting their perks and privileges but have done nothing to alleviate the sufferings of the tribal people and have never raised their voices against the decade-long human rights violations in FATA. He said the national debate on how to integrate FATA with the rest of Pakistan is merely a lame excuse to prolong the legal isolation of the area for an indefinite time. This is because the state does not want to end the legal isolation of FATA. Swat, Dir, Chitral, Bahawalpur and many other areas were included in the normal legal state system of Pakistan with a simple stroke of the pen without any debate on how to integrate these areas into Pakistan. The state must fully include FATA with one stroke of the pen in the legal framework of Pakistan just like the other areas if it is sincere with the tribal people. All political parties of Pakistan must fully support this move as well as the incorporation of FATA in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the complete abolition of the FCR, if they are also sincere with the people of FATA.

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In the Awami National Party’s (ANP’s) convened grand tribal jirga held in Peshawar on January 1, 2012 the representative from Bajaur, Sheikh Janzada, said this: “Death and destruction have been imposed on people in FATA due to the strategic policy of the state of Pakistan. Pakhtuns on both sides of the Durand Line are devastated by design. The entire Pakhtun culture is under assault through targeted terror attacks, such as the attacks on tribal leaders, jirgas and funeral ceremonies. But still no one in Pakistan seems to bother about the atrocities against the Pakhtun.”

Sheikh Janzada said that the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) by which Pakistan governs FATA, is a dark colonial remnant. No changes in the FCR are acceptable to the people of FATA. The FCR must be abolished altogether immediately. In the presence of the FCR, with or without reforms in it, political parties of Pakistan cannot freely function in FATA because the political administrations in FATA would continue to interfere with the normal political processes there at the behest of the military establishment. Recently, three sitting ANP provincial ministers, including Bashir Bilour and Mian Iftikhar Hussain, came to Bajaur, but they could not freely meet the people there. The ministers were made to meet in the office of the Political Agent Bajaur with only eight local tribal leaders, handpicked by the political agent. Following the meeting, the ministers were led away from Bajaur. A sustained struggle must be launched to abolish Article 247 from the Constitution of Pakistan. As long as this Article is not removed from the constitution, FATA will remain outside the purview of parliament and the FCR will prevail over the area in one form or the other in order to abuse the area as a strategic space of the state.

The Bajaur representative further said that the people of FATA are thankful to the ANP for renaming the former NWFP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in line with the Pakhtun identity of this land. But this is an incomplete Pakhtunkhwa and will remain so as long as FATA, Pakhtun territories in Balochistan and the Pakhtun areas of Punjab (Attock, Mianwali and Hazro) are not included in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Now the struggle must focus on reuniting all Pakhtun territories in Pakistan. From a historical, cultural, territorial, economic and political point of view, FATA is an integral part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and so it must be given representation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly so that representatives from both areas jointly discuss to find mutual solutions for their problems that are inextricably interwoven.

The representative added that since decades the state-run Radio Pakistan is lying to the people of Pakistan about massive development in FATA that just does not exist on the ground. Going by this state propaganda, FATA today must be competing with Paris in socio-economic development. Over the decades, FATA political administrations, local vested interests linked with the administration and their touts have exploited the people of FATA. There can never be any development whatsoever in FATA under the Political Agent-Malik (tribal/clan chiefs) alliance that must now be relegated to the dustbin of history.

The Bajaur representative also said that the current governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who governs FATA on behalf of the president of Pakistan, is disconnected from the people of FATA and could not care less about the sufferings of the people of FATA. The governor has yet to convene a grand tribal jirga from FATA. Instead of coming to Bajaur to distribute prizes among outstanding students from the area, the governor recently invited the students to Peshawar and became the chief guest within his own house, the Governor’s House, in the prize distribution ceremony arranged for the students. He requested the ANP to arrange an all-FATA tribal leaders’ meeting with President Zardari to convey the grievances of the tribal people to the president. The Bajaur representative ended his address with these two lines of Pashto poetry symbolically directed by the people of FATA at the rulers of Pakistan: “Pa khpala ta munsif sha ze bashar yam-o-ka na yam, Ka ze cherey bashar yam no haquq di zama cherey” (Be a judge and tell me whether I am a human or not, if I am a human, where are my human rights).

Representatives from Kurram and North Waziristan, Nazir Hussain and Fazal Qadeem respectively, demanded complete abolition of the FCR, incorporation of FATA in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and FATA representation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. Questioning the people who demand a separate FATA province, the Kurram representative said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly inherently belongs to the people of FATA, who have an absolute right to have their elected representatives seated in this assembly.

Shah Hussain, representative from Khyber, thanked the ANP for holding the jirga amid immense dangers to the party (reference to the repeated terror attacks on ANP leaders and workers due to the party’s stance against the strategic depth policy of the military establishment of Pakistan). He said it is mindboggling to hear some people wanting a separate province in FATA. How could that be? FATA is like a chronic patient who has been paralysed and bed-ridden for several decades since birth. Those demanding a FATA province are like someone trying to arrange a marriage for such a chronic patient. The patient does not need marriage. It needs a cure to be able to stand on its own feet. FATA does not need to be a separate province. It desperately needs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to stand on its feet. The cure for FATA is its incorporation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to be able to overcome its problems. He requested the ANP to increase political activities in FATA. Rejecting any changes in the FCR, he demanded its complete abolition and termed the FCR as the mother of all crimes in FATA.

The representative from Khyber also said that those people who demand a separate FATA province have nothing to do with the people of FATA. Such people are not representatives of FATA (this is a reference to Hameedullah Jan, MNA Khyber Agency who has made the FATA Grand Alliance, which is demanding a separate FATA province). Such people are the representatives of the oppressive political administration in the area (and by extension the representatives of the military establishment). In the past, the political administrations used to speak through the handpicked Maliks and now they make their views known through FATA parliamentarians, who speak as and when directed by the political administration. The whole world is in step with the onwards march of time, but FATA has been frozen in a 100-year-old FCR system. The so-called FATA representatives in the Pakistani parliament have even announced to keep the FCR imposed on FATA for the next 100 years.

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An important speaker in the ANP’s convened tribal jirga on January 1, 2012 in Peshawar was Nisar Khan, a widely respected tribal leader from South Waziristan. Politically, Nisar Khan is close to those 200 or so tribal leaders from South Waziristan who have been target killed since 2003 due to their opposition to the Afghan policy of the military establishment of Pakistan. These tribal leaders were opposed to the arrival and activities of the militants in South Waziristan following their escape from the post-9/11 US bombing of the Taliban and al Qaeda positions in Afghanistan. Their targeted killings are closely linked with the gradual slipping of Waziristan into the militants’ control. The media in Pakistan and around the world have either ignored those killings or have been uncritically attributing them to the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.

Families of the target killed leaders hold officers of the Pakistan Army and the ISI stationed in Waziristan at the time responsible for the killings. The government of Pakistan never had any impartial investigations to verify the claims of the families. But it is pertinent to note that the so-called ‘free’ media of Pakistan usually follows the military establishment’s line on matters related to the Afghan policy, including an uncritical dissemination and promotion of the distorted information about the events on both sides of the Durand Line. This context of the media-military alliance of Pakistan seems to explain why the perspective of the family members of the target killed tribal leaders has never been accommodated by the media. Large sections of the international media, which has no independent access to FATA, have also breached professional standards by uncritically projecting the information and narratives picked up from the Pakistani media.

The families of the target killed leaders do not view the militants based in Waziristan, including foreign militants, as anything more than an ‘irregular’ army of the state who were and still to this date are ordered by the regular army commanders based in Waziristan to carry out the killings in order to silence the tribal opposition to the state’s Afghan policy through terror. Moreover, the militants are also directed for cross-border attacks inside Afghanistan. Secondly, the establishment, the family members argue, needs this kind of irregular army for the ‘necessary’ acts of terrorism to plausibly deny any state involvement in them and thus continue their double-dealing in the war on terror.

In terms of state control, several people draw a parallel between the Taliban fighters and the soldiers of the FC, a paramilitary force of Pakistan. The FC soldiers are abused in all kinds of brutal ways by the military establishment and these poor men from the poorest Pashtun families continue to suffer in silence. The Taliban are, in the words of some of the affected family members, like the ‘irregular’ FC soldiers of the military establishment and they just execute the orders given by their handlers from the Pakistan Army. The Taliban fighters are also eliminated by the state’s agents when they are no more useful for the state in its double-dealing in the war on terror whereby the Pakistan Army ostensibly fights the Taliban but tacitly recruits, trains and arms them in order to beat the US in Afghanistan and to create a reign of terror in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan to assure the world that the Pakistani Pashtun are enraged by the US attack on Afghanistan.

Nisar Khan has so far survived the spree of target killings of those in Waziristan who disagree with the state’s Afghan policy. Perhaps this is because he had distanced himself from public life in Waziristan in the form of a self-imposed socio-political isolation as he saw popular tribal leaders, including his close friends, being brutally killed one after the other due to their opposition to the Afghan policy of the military establishment. His appearance at the ANP-convened jirga is thus a sign of his coming back to public life. His speech in the jirga was guarded, which is understandable given the threats to his life but still he highlighted some important issues of FATA. This is what he said:

Due to terrorism emanating from FATA, the region has become the centre of global attention whereby people around the world are discussing the area. But the strangest thing is that no one seems interested to speak to the people of FATA about this issue. This is despite the fact that the people of FATA are the biggest victims of terrorism in the region in terms of death and destruction. It cannot be assumed that the wider Pakistani society or the world at large does not know about the human sufferings in the area. Every single day the people of FATA bury the mutilated bodies of their relatives who have died violent deaths. Conflict-driven internally displaced people from FATA are spread all over Pakistan in pathetic condition and many of them have been constrained to beg for survival on the streets of the Punjab and Sindh. All this has been reported by the media all over the world. How can the world or Pakistan then claim to have been unaware of the crisis of humanity in FATA caused by the post-9/11 security crisis? The Pakistani state has never considered the tribal people worthy of equal values and dignity at par with the other people of Pakistan. The state has given them only a Pakistani identity card as a symbol of their connection with Pakistan and in lieu of that has exploited them for foreign policy objectives. There is a debate in Pakistan that offers three incentives to the people of FATA: peace, reforms in the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) and development. But all the three mutually contradict one another in the context of the region abused by the state for strategic objectives. FATA reforms are only a joke to the tribal people. The current death and destruction in FATA are rooted in the FCR-given impunity to the state to exploit the region. The writ of the Pakistani parliament should be extended to FATA. Without this, the party-based elected representatives from FATA would remain irrelevant to FATA as parliament will not be able to legislate for this region. Thus, the recent reform in the FCR whereby the Political Parties Act of Pakistan has recently been extended to FATA is meaningless. He demanded the incorporation of FATA in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He also requested the military rulers of Pakistan to take pity on Pakistan, if not FATA, because by now the security situation in the whole country has deteriorated to such an extent that the continual state torture of FATA is by implication a state torture of the people of Pakistan.

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Arguably, the most important speaker in the Awami National Party’s (ANP’s) convened tribal jirga (assembly) on January 1, 2012 in Peshawar was Mr Latif Afridi, a well-known lawyer of Pakistan and an important ANP leader from Khyber Agency. He informed about the combined atrocities of the Pakistan Army and the Taliban against innocent civilians in Kurram, especially against the Aash Khel clan of the Central Kurram-based Masuzai tribe. He said recently the Aash Khel clan clashed with the Taliban in Central Kurram during which the clan members captured a Taliban commander. Soon it turned out that the commander was actually a Major of the Pakistan Army leading in garb of a Taliban commander the group of the Taliban foot soldiers who had attacked the anti-Taliban Aash Khel clan. The Aash Khels were so angry that they decided to kill that Major. Upon this, both the Pakistan Army and the Taliban fighters jointly attacked the Aash Khel villages. This devastated their villages and rendered over 400 innocent Aash Khel men, women and children homeless and internally displaced. The displaced Aash Khels now live in most pathetic conditions and need immediate help.

Interestingly, the media in Pakistan has been reporting that militants have been killed by the Pakistan Army during the ongoing operation in Central Kurram whereas the reality seems to be that the entire Aash Khel clan is being collectively punished by the Pakistan Army for the clan’s defiance against the Taliban.

It is even more interesting to note that the ANP also ‘censored’ this bold speech of its own leader, Latif Afridi. The YouTube clip of the jirga, seemingly placed online by the ANP, does not contain that part of Mr Afridi’s speech where he says that a Major of the Pakistan Army was leading the Taliban fighters who had attacked the anti-Taliban Aash Khels. Nevertheless, what Afridi had said is now public knowledge since he highlighted the plight of the Aash Khels in a grand public jirga participated by hundreds of people, including media personnel. But the ‘independent’ media of Pakistan never reported nor ever investigated the plight of the Aash Khel clan.

Mr Latif Afridi questioned the recent negotiations with the Taliban in Bajaur by saying that neither the local tribal leaders nor the ANP-led government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been taken into confidence about the negotiations and subsequent peace deals with the Bajaur Taliban. He reminded the jirga audience that the Bajaur Taliban, including Maulvi Faqir, are the same Taliban fighters that the Pakistani (military) authorities have been accusing of cross-border attacks into Pakistan from their safe havens in Afghanistan. It is amazing how comfortably the (military) authorities have entered into peace deals with these Taliban. Mr Afridi informed that the most important tribe of Bajaur, the Salarzai tribe, has rejected the peace talks and deals with the Taliban, including Maulvi Faqir. The Salarzai tribe in Bajaur is fiercely anti-Taliban since the appearance of the Taliban in Bajaur following the post-9/11 US attack on the militants’ positions in Afghanistan. The tribe has suffered enormous human and material losses in their resistance against the Taliban and continues to suffer to this date but still is determined in its opposition to the Taliban. Mr Latif Afridi said that there could be talks with the Taliban when they surrender weapons and accept the writ of the government. Anything less than this implies that the Taliban are being prepared (by the military authorities) under the guise of the peace deals for more targeted killings of (anti-Taliban) tribal leaders. Hence, negotiations with the Taliban in such circumstances are unacceptable.

Referring to the targeted killings of hundreds of anti-Taliban tribal leaders across FATA since the post-9/11 US attack on the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Mr Afridi said that the government of Pakistan has never ever investigated who killed the tribal leaders and thus no one has ever been faced with justice for the assassinations. On the other hand, he said, ‘they’ (seemingly a reference to the military authorities) indiscriminately bombed to kill and flatten entire communities in FATA in response to any deaths of ‘their dogs’ (a reference to the Taliban fighters as strategic assets of the military).

Referring to the different outcomes of the crisis of the IDPs in Malakand and FATA, he said the IDPs from the former were sent back to their homes as peace has been restored in a relatively short time in Malakand. But there seems to be no hope for peace in FATA and for the end of its IDP crisis in the near future. The difference, he said, underscores the different role played by the elected representatives from both areas. Elected representatives from Malakand in the national and provincial assemblies, mostly from the ANP and PPP, tirelessly highlighted the plight of their electorates on all forums until peace returned to the area and the IDPs were sent back. In contrast, the elected representatives from FATA never fight for their people in the government or other forums in Pakistan. The hall where the jirga was being held echoed with ‘shame shame’ (on FATA representatives) as Mr Latif Afridi was making this comparison between the roles of the elected representatives from FATA and Malakand.

Afridi also said that during the consultations among the political parties of Pakistan for the recent 18th Amendment, the ANP proposed amendments in Article 246 and 247 of the constitution of Pakistan. The two Articles forbid parliament of Pakistan from exercising its sovereignty over FATA, including legislation for the area. ‘They’ (reference to the military authorities) strictly forbade the political parties from any changes whatsoever in these two Articles of the constitution. At that time the FATA representatives supported the military authorities against the proposed constitutional changes (once again the hall echoed with ‘shame, shame’ as Afridi was narrating this). Consequently, all political parties backed off from touching the two Articles and the ANP was left alone on its stance.

As an ANP leader, said Mr Afridi, he has been arguing with the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to use some of his government funds for FATA. But the chief minister insists that the constitution of Pakistan limits him to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and that any use of the provincial government funds for the people of FATA, no matter how well intended it may be, would be a misappropriation of the funds under the law on the part of the ANP-led provincial government. Mr Afridi also said that it is the stance of the ANP that FATA be legally incorporated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. This would place the area in the normal legal framework of Pakistan with a local self-government system, share in the provincial developmental funds and provide human rights entitlements to the people of the area.

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The last two speakers in the ANP-convened jirga in Peshawar were Mian Iftikhar Hussain, provincial minister, and Afrasiab Khattak, provincial leader. Referring to the exclusion of women from public life in FATA, Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that this is neither part of history nor the tradition of the area, which is full of examples and the practice of women’s participation in public socio-cultural life. The exclusion, he said, is a consequence of the engineered misogyny and socio-cultural backwardness systemically injected in the area for the sake of its use for strategic objectives. The women are and will be much more represented in the ANP political setup in FATA, declared the minister. Their wider participation in socio-political life of the area will be part of FATA incorporation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which he said is a key objective of the ANP’s political agenda that the party will never give up.

Mr Hussain said that peace could be achieved by two means: negotiation and military operations. In FATA both have been tried but none succeeded because both have been conducted aimlessly. The operations have not been targeted and the negotiations with the terrorists (Taliban) have been secret and the tribes and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government never had any clue about what was happening in the negotiations. He said that besides Pakistan, the US and Afghanistan have also been separately entering into secret negotiations with the terrorists with no declared framework of negotiations and declared teams of negotiators. Such negotiations are bound to fail because they are a mere facade to camouflage the promotion of vested interests of one of the stakeholders to the total exclusion of all others. For negotiations with the terrorists to succeed, there are two pre-conditions: one, the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan must bridge their strategic differences in the region, and two, there must be an agreed framework for negotiations by the three countries, and publicly declared teams of negotiators from all sides — the three countries and the terrorists. Negotiations following these pre-conditions can succeed and the minister said as a mark of goodwill for such negotiations, he would forgive the blood of his only son to the terrorists, who brutally killed the young man.

Mr Hussain added that if the terrorists did not give up violence following such negotiations, there have to be targeted military operations against them. He also said that peace in Afghanistan is closely interwoven with peace in Pakistan. Those in Pakistan who believe that terrorism in Afghanistan will have no disastrous consequences for Pakistan are not only wrong but actually the enemies of the people of Pakistan.

Afrasiab Khattak said that historically all armed resistance in FATA against foreign aggressions have basically been nationalistic. People with a religious outlook, who were fighting against the British in FATA, had cordial relations with the movement of Ghaffar Khan, a Pashtun nationalist movement. The Taliban, whether in Pakistan or Afghanistan, exist nowhere in this context of belonging to the soil. The so-called Afghan jihad, Mr Khattak said, was basically an American jihad. He reminded the jirga audience that at the outset of this jihad the former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (1977-1981) travelled all the way to Kurram to address the so-called Afghan mujahideen on the edge of the Durand Line, where the US advisor urged the mujahideen to launch jihad against the former USSR. At that time Ghaffar Khan and Wali Khan had been urging the people of Pakistan to stay away from the US jihad, which was being promoted as a great Islamic cause by the then government of Pakistan. The Pakistanis who supported the US jihad should now go to the graves of Wali Khan and Ghaffar Khan to offer an unconditional apology for their support of the US jihad in Afghanistan.

Mr Khattak said that the root cause of terrorism in Afghanistan, FATA and Pakistan is the strategic depth policy of Pakistan. FATA is a bridge in this policy that ensures that Pakistanis enter into Afghanistan to engineer strategic depth in that country. The policy, implemented since military dictator General Zia’s time (1977-1988), is being followed to date and causing terrorism in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The people of FATA have nothing to do with the centre of terrorism in FATA except that they have been devastated by the terrorists based there. Nobody in FATA invited the foreign jihadis and the Punjabi terrorists now controlling the area. Instead, they have imposed death and destruction on the tribal people.

Mr Khattak paid tribute to the large number of ANP workers in FATA who have been killed by the terrorists for their association with the nationalist party. Most recent among them is Fazal Hamid, ANP leader from North Waziristan, who had been kidnapped and killed by the North Waziristan-based terrorists. Mr Khattak informed the jirga that the terrorists offered Fazal Hamid to spare his life provided he agreed to announce dissociation from the ANP in a press conference. Mr Hamid, according to Mr Khattak, said he would never abandon two things: Islam and the ANP. Consequently, the terrorists killed him.

Mr Khattak said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is incomplete without FATA as it is an integral part of the province. Traditionally, the people of FATA have two homes, one in the mountains (FATA) and the other in the plains (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Those who demand a separate FATA province want to deprive the people of their homes in the plains. He declared 2012 as ‘FATA Year’ during which the ANP will do all it can to highlight the FATA issue on national and international public forums. He also said the ANP will arrange meetings of FATA delegations with President Asif Zardari.

This jirga in Peshawar is an important public display of the ANP’s policy on FATA. The Pakistani media, in line with its pro-strategic depth orientations, gave only nominal coverage to this event. Nevertheless, it seemed to have caused some panic among the backers of the strategic depth policy, which was evident in the pro-establishment political parties, such as the MQM demanding a separate province in FATA. From this jirga it seems that the fundamentals of the ANP’s Afghan policy, as well as the wishes of the people of FATA, are clashing with the strategic depth policy of the military establishment of Pakistan. Let’s see how the two sides deal with each other. One thing seems clear though: the ANP would be facing more attacks from the ‘strategic assets’, the Taliban, as well as the pro-establishment political forces in Pakistan.

(Concluded)

The writer is the author of Taliban and Anti-Taliban

Source : Daily Times