March 18, 2023
Even after five years, the merged districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa are still waiting to be fully integrated into the province by securing its people’s civil, political, social and economic rights under the Constitution. This was concluded by the Human Rights Commission’s (HRCP) fact-finding mission to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), comprising Hina Jillani, chairperson, Vice chair, KP Akbar Khan, and members Jamila Gillani and Professor Ijaz Khan. The team spoke to a range of civil society members, journalists, lawyers, and district administration officials in Bannu, Peshawar, Khyber and Swat.
The report which was released on Saturday stated that because of this delayed integration and the lack of fundamental rights, citizens of the region were frustrated.
According to a statement by Hina Jillani, the undue delay in the transfer of power to the civil administration and elected representatives in western KP, was one of the major problems. This was meant to happen after the 25th constitutional amendment in 2018. The merger took place in the name o basic facilities and rights which were being denied to the region, such as protection of life and property, education and healthcare, water and electricity, and access to justice, including through courts in the vicinity. However even after five years the situation remains the same more or less.
‘While some progress has been made, it has simply been too slow,’ she said in her statement.
RISE IN MILITANCY
But one of the chief issues that the residents of the region face, particularly those living in former FATA areas, is that of a rise in militancy and terrorism. HRCP has expressed serious concern over the resurgence of this militancy in KP, which has been compounded by reports of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
in the fact finding report it was observed that the continued presence and control of security forces in the newly merged districts appear to have undermined the authority of the local government and civil administration.
“It is also a bone of contention for local residents who question how peace will be maintained if the region remains hyper-securitized. In this context, HRCP has been alarmed by reports of continued restrictions on freedom of movement and speech, including widespread self-censorship,” said the report. “We welcome the recent local government elections, but observe that the effectiveness of this system has been compromised by lack of funds released to elected representatives, many of whom have complained they lack even a workspace. There are alarming allegations from multiple sources that the funds that should have been transferred to the local authorities for the merger and subsequent development schemes have either been siphoned off as a result of corruption or diverted to other regions.”
The spirit of resistance shown by the civilians of the area was commendable, said the report, particularly local residents in Swat who have continued to display in the form of ulasi pasoon [the people’s uprising], making it clear they are not willing to tolerate militancy any longer. The process of restoring law and order in the newly merged districts, while slow, is visible in the form of robust policies for police reforms and capacity building.
The political mobilization among the youth of the newly merged districts is impressive, concluded the team of the fact finding mission. They have been constantly exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by making demands for peace.