July 18, 2023
By Ahmed Saeed
Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Sajid Hussain Turi, has called for the reversal of the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), which was accomplished through the 25th Constitutional Amendment in 2018.
Turi, an elected member of the National Assembly (MNA) from NA-46 Kurram Tribal District, stated that the provincial and federal governments have failed the people of erstwhile-FATA by not fulfilling the promises made at the time of the merger.
In an interview with Voicepk.net, he said,
“I was among the people who advocated for the FATA merger with KP, but now people want it reversed. We are not happy with the performance of the police and judiciary. Now we demand the revival of the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) with some reforms.”
Turi further expressed that nothing has changed for the better after the merger, pointing out how jirgas, who were primarily engaged in resolving conflicts prior to 2018 have continued to do the same in the absence of functional police and judiciary.
The Kurram tribal district has witnessed deadly sectarian clashes between Shia and Sunni tribes stemming from a decades-old land dispute. In the most recent spate of violence which began on June 28 this year, 12 were killed while another 50 were injured over the course of a week. The clashes ceased after a jirga-mediated ceasefire agreement was reached between the armed groups.
The Shia-Sunni conflict in the border region has been simmering for decades and has so far claimed hundreds of lives. According to locals, the conflict initially stemmed from a long-standing land dispute between the Turi, Bangash and Mangal tribes, but in recent years it has taken on a sectarian nature. Addressing the current situation, Turi stated, “Law and order have been completely restored, and normalcy has returned to the district.”
‘Rockets fired from Afghanistan during clashes’
The Federal Minister confirmed that there was cross-border infiltration from the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan during the clashes. He mentioned that dozens of rockets were fired from across the border into Kurram, while locals reported several instances of intruding Afghan militants. Turi added that this phenomenon is not new, as some tribes such as Mangal reside on both sides of the border, and that cross-border firing is a normal issue. However, those responsible for border security should be questioned about these incidents.
‘Land dispute turned into sectarian issue during Zia’s regime’
He also stated that the Turi-Bangash-Mangal land dispute turned into a sectarian issue during former military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq’s era, when political agents gave prominent positions to unrelated people and pursued a policy of ‘divide and rule’ for the Shia and Sunni tribes.
The KP government has notified a land commission to settle disputes between the warring tribes and ensure stability in the border district. Turi stated that the land commission has reached Parachinar and met with the warring parties.
“I am in favour of resolving the issue through the commission, but if any party to the conflict violates the commission’s decision, then the government must take action against the violators,” he held.
‘Issues were resolved quickly during FCR system’
Turi considered the criminal justice system a major reason behind the increasing unrest in the ex-FATA regions. He mentioned that although the police register FIRs and arrest a handful of people if a land dispute turns violent, the miscreants are usually able to easily obtain bail from the courts within days and go back to fighting until the matter is finally resolved through jirgas.
Referring to the accountability mechanism under the FCR, he said that the system was quick to provide justice and people accepted the decision of the jirga under the rule of collective responsibility.
‘Former PTI govt deserving of blame for merger failure’
Addressing the failure of mainstreaming ex-FATA in KP, as envisaged in the 25th Amendment, Turi held the PTI-led KP government responsible for failing to do so.
He held that the PTI-led KP government did nothing for the integration of the Levies Forces into KP police.
“After the merger, then-Chief Minister of KP Mahmood Khan announced the merger of the Levies into the police, but it has yet to be implemented. The fate of Levies personnel is still uncertain and, as a result, the police have zero role in maintaining law and order in ex-FATA areas. The police officials posted in the tribal districts have no knowledge of local customs and laws,” stated the Federal Minister.
He further expressed that other promises, such as a 3% share from the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, the establishment of a tax-free zone for 50 years, the upgradation of hospitals, and the construction of new colleges and universities, were never fulfilled.
“This new system is not working for us. I was a supporter of the merger, but now I think that it was a conspiracy. We do not want these reforms anymore,”