People optimistic to have fruitful results of merger of ex-Fata with KP

Farid Shinwari

PESHAWAR: Though, the merger of tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not yielded much anticipated results in militancy-stricken-tribal areas but it is widely believed that change is a gradual process and takes much more time to happen.

The merger process was an important step by the Government of Pakistan to address the prevailing security issues and bring prosperity to the region and it is believed that the merger may help in dealing with the structural and cultural reasons of the violence prevailing under the old system.

People used to have different thoughts about merger but a section of society who opposed the merger of tribal areas with KP were of the view that something strange and unusual will happen but tribespeople already familiar with laws in settled areas easily adjusted themselves with extension of various laws to merged districts. However, the tribesmen were given the right to know by the much needed 25th Constitutional Amendment by the then Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz led federal government which has given them constitutional rights. As the amendment helped people to get rid of a system once universally known for being governed under a draconian law of Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) for several decades.

Current scenario in merged districts

Two years about to complete and since then, the people on one way or the other are trying their level best to familiarize themselves with new system, police stations, laws and extension of constitutional rights. Though, people at the start were reluctant to accept the police system, such as establishment of police stations, but after sometime they realized that resistance would not work anymore and the only option is that they will have to adjust themselves.

Slowly and gradually levy and khasadar forces integration with regular police occurred and even a bill was formally introduced in KP assembly to integrate levies and khasadar forces into police force in the province.

As the decade long security issue to a greater extent has been resolved and peace and certainty restored with sacrifices of people and forces. As

KP government has extended several laws to merged districts including Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013 to get them right to access information, document, records and other required materials from government owned departments. Similarly, the Right to Public Services Act, Rescue 1122 service, KP Khasadar Force Act, Land Law, establishment of local courts and appointment of judges and so on to ensure extension of all laws in the light of the 25th Constitutional Amendment which is the basic right of people of the merged areas.

Merged areas during Covid-19

As it was first of such kind major natural epidemic that not only affected entire Pakistan but also parts of the country and at the same time, it also tested the capacity and response of the district administrations after merger. The number of positive cases detected in merged areas are 162 till last night and the deaths occurred owing to coronavirus are about five as per the daily report issued by KP health department.

While districts administrations in all tribal districts have established quarantine centers, isolation wards and thus serious patients are referred to hospitals in provincial city for high dependency ward. Let’s take the example of Khyber tribal district that received more than 21,000 Pakistani who were trapped in Afghanistan and returned to homeland via Torkham bordering point.

Interestingly, the all the Pakistanis were not let to go homes and instead shifted to quarantine centers already established in Landi Kotal, Jamrud and Bara tehsil of Khyber district where their samples for corona tests were taken. Those who were tested corona positive were taken to isolation wards and the rest were allowed to move back to home as the people came from Afghanistan were not only hailing from Khyber, but from Peshawar, Swat, Dir, Punjab and other parts of the country.

Challenges and possibilities

There are several challenges before the PTI-led-KP government with regard to bring drastic changes after merger of ex-Fata into KP but some of them needs special attention which will definitely bring about unanticipated changes in the area. A majority of people from ex-Fata had been displaced and taken to camps in settled areas who after repatriation have still been deprived of basic right of education. Their schools have been either devastated or in dilapidated condition which needs to be reconstructed. Medical and engineering colleges should be built on priority basis and degree colleges to be upgraded to post graduates.

The second thing, is to hold instantly local bodies elections that faced halt since long and it can be a milestone for bringing changes at lower level as it should be on party basis or non-party basis but this is a debatable issue. KP government on several occasions had decided and also announced to hold local government polls in merged districts and for this purpose, it (government) had almost completed its ground work.

Despite integration of levy and khasadar forces into regular police, they are still holding protests in favor of their demands like release of salaries, promotions and others. Besides, their proper training is the need of hour so that they know the rules and regulations, procedure and how to register FIRs, investigation of different cases and etc.

So it is believed that federal and as well as provincial government will heed their attention towards promises being made with tribespeople to initiate developmental works with spending of Rs 100 billion each year that can change the fate of them.