After the announcement from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that it would not disrupt the procession of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to South Waziristan as well as the public meeting in Kotakai town there should not be any reason for the government to disallow the march which could have deeply wholesome effects on the situation in the tribal agency in particular and the tribal areas in general.
It may be mentioned that Kotakai is the hometown of TTP head Hakimullah Mehsud. The TTP has conveyed its Shura’s decision to the leadership of PTI and even told the latter it was ready to provide ‘security’ to the peace marchers if the need so. Consequently all the PTI leaders are saying with one voice that the march to and public meeting in South Waziristan would definitely take place.
Previously it was the TTP which posed threat to the PTI procession and meeting in South Waziristan. Reportedly some TTP commanders had threatened to attack PTI rally if it entered Waziristan. However, it has now been revealed by the TTP that the threat was not from its Shura and those who hurled the threats had been nabbed and were being punished. Against this backdrop there is no reason to disallow PTI to hold its march and public meeting in Waziristan because Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) the other day remarked not to risk peace in the tribal areas for the sake of just one rally. The governor although has not taken a final decision regarding allowing the march but it appears that the governor and his party Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been seriously perturbed by the prospect of a historic and a successful rally and public meeting by PTI. Therefore, chances are that the authorities would disallow PTI to have the peace march to Waziristan.
If this happens this would be unfortunate. For the first time a secular and liberal political party, which is also one of the largest of the country, has decided to reach the troubled and dangerous badlands of FATA. So far none of the mainstream political party central leadership has visited any part of FATA. PPP, its prime ministers, federal ministers including federal interior ministers have never dared to go to the tribal areas and have a firsthand knowledge of the situation there. Similar has been the case with the party’s KP chapter. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders also have kept themselves away from undertaking visits to any of the seven tribal agencies let alone the extremely dangerous North or South Waziristan. The so-called Pashtoon nationalist Awami National Party (ANP), which has also been heading coalition government with the PPP in KP since 2008, leaders also have kept themselves at bay from FATA despite vowing unceasingly about the rights and plight of the inhabitants of the tribal areas and their sufferings due to extreme underdevelopment, religious insurgency by Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda. The so-called Champion of Islam Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who is the head of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), also failed to reach Waziristan despite of having a number of having a number of its party leaders as members of various Shuras (Councils) of Taliban in different tribal agencies.
If the government decides not to allow PTI and its head to lead a peace march of hundreds of thousands of people from across Pakistan including foreigners to South Waziristan then it would violate the provisions of Political Parties Act, which has been extended by President Asif Ali Zardari, as the constitutional head of the FATA, to the tribal areas on August 14, 2011. Under these provisions political parties and their leaders from anywhere in the country can go to FATA and carry out political activities including marches, rallies, meetings etc there. Thus it would be interesting to see how democratic the PPP is when it comes to the question of implementation of orders of its own head and president of the country.
In case Governor KP disallows PTI march and public meetings in South Waziristan it would be at the behest of his party leadership as well as of its key ally ANP and associate partner JUI-F as all these fear loosing further ground to the PTI in KP and FATA. After the extension of Political Parties Act to FATA, elections for 12 National Assembly seats of the tribal areas have become extremely important with different surveys showing PTI to get most of the seats from the tribal areas due to the consistent opposition of Imran Khan to military operations, US drone attacks in FATA apart from highlighting the woes of inhabitants of the tribal areas.
The decision-cum-promise by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan to lead a procession of his party and civil society Waziristan has been a single significant development as far as resolving the decade-long conflict in the region is concerned.
The procession of PTI, if it is able to reach Waziristan, would throw open the region to the entire World. This would also give a very strong message to the World that there is nothing surprising about Waziristan. However, due to incessant World media attention depicting it the most dangerous place in the World, a perception has been created among the countrymen and people in the foreign countries that Waziristan is some kind of place on another planet inhabited by aliens.
For last many years the key issues about FATA particularly Waziristan have been terrorism emanating from there in the name of Islam; Pakistani military operations to eliminate terrorist networks; US drone attacks and legal political and development related issues. However, none of the mainstream political parties seem to have a core group that could focus on these issues and give recommendations to their respective parties to adopt them as party lines and transform the same into policies in case of the ruling parties. This complete indifference within the political parties towards FATA rendered the military and civilian bureaucracy to deal with the conflict and other matters in the region on their own and in their way. The consequences of military and civilian official dealing solely with the situation in FATA are out there for everyone to see. All the issues relating the tribal areas and FATA are fundamentally political issues and ought to be addressed politically by the parliament and politicians and political parties instead of by the ‘political agent’ (the top civilian bureaucrat heading administration in every tribal agency or district). Even the use of military in the tribal areas must be a politically decision, which has not been the case.
Now when the TTP and its affiliates decide to welcome PTI and Imran Khan, this would go a long way in bringing the insurgents to the negotiating table. Obviously for any insurgency to be amicably solved there is a need of a certain high-profile personalities to facilitate and guarantee the process of negotiations. Imran could be the right choice keeping in view his Pathan background and maternal links to Barki tribe of Waziristan; besides he being the only reliable person among the available lot of mainstream Pakistani politicians.
(The writer is a political analyst and researcher: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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