Tribesmen complain of being left out of peace process

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PESHAWAR: Participants of a tribal jirga in the provincial capital on Wednesday supported peace talks between the government and banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan but expressed serious reservations about the composition of the official committee comprising senior bureaucrats.

During the event, which took place at the main hall of the Governor’s House, Senators, MNAs, political agents and elders from seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions were unanimous in demanding restoration of peace, rehabilitation of displaced persons and revival of the customary administrative structure, including maliks and political agents.

Provincial governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan also addressed the jirga.

Malik Qadir Khan, an elder of Madakhel tribe from volatile North Waziristan Agency, said peace couldn’t be restored in the country until tribal people were involved.

Other elders expressed scepticism about the future of peace talks between the government and TTP saying the process won’t achieve desired results until the people of Fata were involved in it.

Some participants regretted the government hadn’t involved parliamentarians from Fata in negotiations with the Taliban.

They criticised the government for ignoring sacrifices and hardships of the tribesmen, who had to flee their homes due to militancy and the subsequent military operations.

Provincial governor Sardar Mehtab told participants that the successive governments and tribal mindset were responsible for overall backwardness of and lawlessness in Fata.

He said Fata remained underdeveloped as tribal people contained the government’s role and intervention to the specific area.

“The government and people are responsible for the current poor state of affairs. Now both are at the receiving end as power has shifted to others,” he said.

The governor said reforms would be brought in tribal areas without disturbing local customs and traditions.

He said mechanism for introducing Fata reforms was being worked out and that the process would begin after two months.

Terming Fata the most ignored part of the country, Mr Sardar Mehtab said several commissions, task forces and committees had been formed during the last 67 years to propose viable reforms for the area, but the desired results could not be achieved.

He said Fata needed an effective administration and that the government won’t disturb local customs and traditions.

“Your customs and traditions will never be disturbed,” he told Fata elders seeking their cooperation for the purpose.

The governor said peace could be restored through unity and that peace was not vendible commodity.

He said civil war in Afghanistan had adversely affected tribal areas.

“Helplessness is not our destiny. We will meet all challenges through abilities,” he said.

Sardar Mehtab announced the establishment of a Rs1 billion endowment fund for the needy students and deserving patients in Fata and for the assessment of the possibilities for creation of Fata youths-focused institutionalised arrangements for provision of micro level finances and creation of skill development centres.

He later told reporters that the government wanted to give dialogue a chance for peace and that the government peace committee would be enlarged whenever the need arose.

When asked if Fata will be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or it will be given the status of a province, the governor said major decisions on the matter would be taken after consultation with the people of Fata.

“Hasty decisions could create complications,” he said.

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