Do Residents of FATA Count?

Feb 2014

Feb 21 2014—Even as the government suspends peace talks, a discussion about them is still in the air. In FATA , opinions on the peace talks vary, but to many it seems that neither side is serious about the process. People are confused about whether the government—or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)—are sincere about their desire for talks. The government initially failed to show up for negotiations–and appears to have now suspended them.

As for the TTP, it is an umbrella organization consisting of several groups. Some of these groups, like the TTP of Mohmand Agency, are still not ready and have announced that their war against the present democratic system will continue because they want to impose Islamic sharia throughout the country. So, the question arises: if the TTP’s central shura agrees on cease fire than all others sections inside main TTP will follow it?

Malik Qadar Khan, a resident of FATA, expressed his belief that both the government and the TTP using FATA as a battlefield without an genuine desire for negotiations. “If the government really wants restoration of peace in FATA, then FATA and Waziristan elders should be included in peace process.” A malik himself, Khan would like the negotiations to occur through the jirga system because he argues that it is tribal elders like him who know how to negotiate better than the appointed representatives of either side.

Others echoed the sentiment. As another malik put it, it’s the locals who suffer every time there is a clash between the militants and the army. He highlighted the fact that dozens of “our beloved people” from FATA and Waziristan have been killed in military operations. It is the residents of FATA who are being attacked from both sides and suffering loss, he said.

Many people remain skeptical about the government’s ability to conduct the negotiations. They point out that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief, Imran Khan and politician Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman have emphasized peace talks, yet have failed to take an active role in the negotiations themselves—leading some to conclude that they are more interested in using the issue for political reasons than in resolving the crisis in FATA.

The framework for the talks also remains unclear. The Taliban have demanded that talks use sharia law as a basis while the government has insisted on the constitution. Most importantly, the TTP’s attacks have continued while the government has offered negotiations and the representatives of either side have failed to agree on a ceasefire.

The talks also lack any real representation from FATA which has dealt with most of the violence. Twenty-year-old Salman Khan of FATA demanded the same facilities and protections as other Pakistanis in Islamabad or Lahore who “play with our blood all the time.”  Khan insisted that the government committee nominated for the talks should make peace its priority.  “The committee members are just busy in nominal meetings instead of forwarding practical steps.”

A local elder from North Waziristan, Malik Haji Akbar Jan said that the area and its people have been confronting one of the worst law and order situations in the last decade. “Almost all the segments of society have been badly affected, and our lives and our property are not safe.” He added that it was FATA, and especially North and south Waziristan, that have been mostly affected in the “war on terror”, so “we want peace and protection of life and property at all costs.”

Umar Daraz Wazir is an independent journalist.

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