The holy month of Ramazan this year has brought special blessings to the people of the tribal areas – and the whole country. Unlike the past practices of Mufti Munib-ur-Rehman and Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, this time Ramazan started on the same day throughout the country.
The most precious gift, though, that this month brought to the people of the tribal areas was their emancipation from the black law of the Frontier Crimes Regulations, and their merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This historic decision has created new hopes for a stable and bright future in the hearts of the people of this region. This is why the merger is being celebrated so much – from Bajaur to Waziristan.
Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa recently invited the Fata Youth Jirga (FYJ) for dinner to celebrate the occasion. The army chief had played a decisive role in changing this long-awaited dream into a reality. Seeing the enthusiasm of the youth, he extended his full support and stood true to his promises. I directly witnessed the fact that, in the time leading up to the decision, Army Chief Bajwa, Corps Commander Peshawar Lt-Gen Nazir Butt, Chief of General Staff Gen Bilal Akbar and DG ISPR Maj General Asif Ghafoor showed great interest in the Sartaj Aziz Committee report.
The political leadership also showed great maturity and worked hard to bring about the reforms, and change the destiny of the tribal belt. Former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Sartaj Aziz, Barrister Zafarullah, Ayaz Sadiq, Asif Ali Zardari, Asfandyar Wali Khan, Imran Khan, Sirajul Haq, Aftab Khan Sherpao and Maulana Samiul Haq etc also deserve special appreciation for their hard work. Haji Shahji Gul Afridi, Shahbuddin Salarzai and Sajid Thori also played an important role by keeping a constant pressure on the political forces. However, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai resisted the change till the end.
The truth is that the real joys of the merger can only be felt by those who have spent their lives under the draconian FCR. It is indeed the happiest occasion in their lives.
For me, this is the happiest moment of my professional life and I truly feel proud of the role that I played in the merger process. However, as people celebrate the merger, there are still some egoists who create confusion and doubts by questioning the benefits that the merger has brought. The confusion needs to be cleared and it is my firm conviction that the Fata merger has brought tremendous benefits to the tribal people, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the whole country on many different grounds.
First, till now Fata was considered alien territory, completely detached from the mainstream political and administrative system. But now it has been mainstreamed and, unlike the past, now no one will look suspiciously at someone who comes from Fata.
Second, till now the people of Fata were being killed and missed in the thousands, and no court of the land could listen to their grievances. But today they can knock at the doors of the Supreme Court and the high court. Now anyone who gets arrested must – under the law – be produced before a magistrate in 24 hours.
Third, till now Fata representatives in parliament – who would come into power through money – could not legislate for their own region. But now the true representatives of Fata will be able to legislate for the region and even become chief minister and minister.
Fourth, though the region will have no special seats in Senate, its people will be able to become senators from KP and they could even get more than a dozen senators.
Fifth, till now the region got an annual fund worth Rs22 billion but now it will get Rs100 billion annually in addition to the Rs22 billion. What the region used to get till now had no audit and accountability mechanism and thus more than half of the fund would get lost in corruption by SAFRON, the Governor’s Secretariat, Fata Secretariat and political agents. But now the funds given to the region will have a proper audit and be exposed to the scrutiny of parliament and the media.
Sixth, till now the people of Fata got education and treatment on a preferential basis but now they will be able claim their due rights.
Seventh, till now the security matters of the region were handled by outsiders, but now their law and order administration will be in the hand of the inspector general of police who at the moment is a Mehsud from South Waziristan.
Last but not the least, till now they were considered a burden on the resources of KP, but now they will be considered the owners of these resources and will be able to claim their due share.
In short, the Fata merger with KP is the start of a new era and worth being celebrated. I would like to congratulate the people of Fata, who overthrew the yoke of the draconian FCR – the last symbol of British imperialism. I would also like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who contributed into this just cause.
The writer works for Geo TV.