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March 25, 2019

Administrative vacuum in erstwhile Fata


March 25, 2019

PESHAWAR: The two recent incidents in South Waziristan tribal district where local armed tribesmen trampled all laws and took punitive action against their rivals has raised serious questions over merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and failure of the state institutions to implement laws to protect the weaker communities.

Presently there is neither the old governance system nor the new one in the erstwhile tribal areas and like the tribespeople the government officials are also confused about delivery of services.

Government officials in the past used to exercise unchallenged powers in the erstwhile Fata, but are now publicly admitting having lost all powers after the mainstreaming of the tribal areas.

“Currently our hands are tied and cannot take any punitive action against those violating the law. We can’t even lodge FIR against those charged for committing any crime due to the ongoing confusion about transfer of power,” argued deputy commissioner South Waziristan, Nauman Afridi, when his comments were sought about the two incidents there.

In the first incident, armed tribesmen of Khojal Khel clan of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe stormed and set on fire three houses owned by local tribal journalist Hafeez Wazir in Wana, the administrative headquarters of South Waziristan.

The reason was that Hafeez Wazir had reportedly sold a piece of property to Wazir tribesmen other than the Khojal Khel Wazirs. The Khojal Khel elders later claimed that there was an agreement within the tribe that properties owned by the Khojal Khel would not be sold to people outside of their tribe.

Journalist Hafeez Wazir claimed that the price members of his tribe had offered was three times less than the market rate. When he dared to sell his property to other Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen, it provoked the Khojal Khel tribesmen to set ablaze in broad daylight in Wana the three houses owned by Hafeez Wazir, his brother Saifullah Wazir and their cousin.

The local administration instead of taking action as per law against those found guilty has allegedly approached other sub-tribes of the Ahmadzai Wazir to raise tribal Lashkar and take action against the Khojal Khel tribe.

The Ahmadzai Wazirs held their grand jirga in Wana and not only condemned the action taken by their fellow Khojal Khel Wazir tribesmen, but also announced a social boycott of the Khojal Khel.

Hundreds of tribal elders belonging to eight sub-tribes of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe threatened to raise tribal Lashkar and take action against the Khojal Khel if they didn’t publicly regret their action and compensated Hafeez Wazir and his family members for the losses suffered by them.

Hafeez Wazir and his family claimed to have suffered losses of more than Rs200 million (2 crore).

The second incident this month took place in Ladha subdivision, also in South Waziristan, where armed members of the Eshangi sub-tribe of the Mehsud tribe reportedly stormed a village inhabited by the Syeds.

The issue was stated to be a property dispute. According tribal sources and members of the Syed tribe, dozens of Eshangi tribesmen attacked a village inhabited by the Syeds

and burnt their houses and tents.

Dr Syed Fakhar, a representative of the Syeds, told The News that seven of their family members, including women and children, were injured when the Eshangi tribesmen opened fire and assaulted them.

He said the political administration had formed an arbitration committee of the tribal elders to resolve the property dispute between the Syeds and Eshangi tribe. He added that the jirga after a few meetings resolved the issue and declared Syeds as the real owners of the property.

“After the jirga meeting, we approached the political administration to allow us to start construction of houses on the said land. The assistant commissioner told us that you are the legal owners and are therefore allowed to begin construction,” said Dr Syed Fakhar. He said the officer told them to also inform army officials in the area so that they can provide them security in case of any mishap.

“We met the sector commander Brig Asif Hikmat and told him about the jirga decision.

He also asked us to start construction but said that the security forces had been moved to the border and thus it was not possible to provide them security,” recalled Dr Syed Fakhar.

He said they started construction work on March 15 and on March 19 armed tribesmen of the Eshangi tribe arrived there and started firing at them.

“They demolished whatever we had built and set on fire our village and the tents we had installed there. They injured seven of our people, including women and children,” he said. He said Malik Roshan led the armed men.

“We approached the deputy commissioner and other relevant officials. The administration arrested seven members of the Eshangi tribe and held them in Ladha for two days. Later they were shifted to Tank district where all of them were freed by the deputy commissioner,” Dr Syed Fakhar said.

Deputy Commissioner Nauman Afridi said these men were released on the request of a jirga. Asked if the jirga system and tribal Lashkar have stopped working after merger of the tribal areas, he said they were still waiting for transfer of power and the police force to come and start duties. The government had announced setting up three police stations in South Waziristan in Wana, Sra Rogha and Sarwakai but it yet to take practical measures and deploy police there.

The same is the case in other six tribal districts. Efforts were made in vain to seek comments of DIG Police, Dera Ismail Khan region Feroz Shah as he will be deploying police in South Waziristan.

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