This report is supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives
September 28, 2023
By Maryam Missal
Despite the intervention of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa’s Chief Minister in the South Waziristan journalist’s case, and had decided to demolish the journalist Miraj Khalid’s house over his critical tweet.
Four days since the Zikhel Qaumi Jirga’s decision to ‘condemn’ Khalid’s Wana residence, police, as well as local authorities, have yet to take any action to remove the seals placed on his house and plantations.
Earlier, caretaker Cheif Minister of Khyber Pakhtunhwa Muhammad Azam Khan issued directives to the Additional Chief Secretary Home as well as Divisional and District Administration to take the necessary steps to ensure protection to Khalid’s familiy and residence. Furthermore, on Wednesday, Commissioner Dera Ismail Khan (D.I. Khan) Zafarul Islam Khattak told media that police presence has been enhanced to safeguard the journalist’s home.
However, no action has yet to be taken against the jirga for operating extrajudicially, as on Thursday, the Zikhel Qaumi Jirga rendered a verdict to demolish the house of an ‘accused’ in an honour-related matter. Local sources told Voicepk.net that the family of the ‘accused’ do not want their issue highlighted in media, and are willing to acquiesce to the tribunal’s demands.
Miraj Khalid case
On September 23, Khalid published a text post on Facebook where he criticised the jirga system, particularly the Zikhel Qaumi Jirga’s past verdicts to demolish people’s homes over various transgressions.
In the post, Meraj wrote, “Once again, I say that if someone has committed a mistake, it is the job of the state to punish. But where we are living, there is a state within the state. For God’s sake, do not demolish anyone’s house. Children and women are the most affected due to house demolition. What is their fault?”
The following day, the jirga demanded that he take down the post and pay a fine of up to Rs. 1 million. If he failed to comply, his house will be torn down. Upon Khalid’s refusal to accept these orders, the tribunal issued an ultimatum to his family to vacate their home and lands by September 25. The journalist’s parents, wife and two children fled Wana to seek refuge with relatives in Islamabad.
Authorities’ hands tied
Although the home has yet to be demolished, it has been sealed, while Khalid’s family is now renting accomodation in Islamabad. Furthermore, in addition to issuing threats to his family, the jirga has also strictly prohibited residents from providing them any shelter or assistance.
“They said ‘If anyone offered even a glass of water to [my] family, we will fine them up to Rs. 1 million,” the journalist told Voicepk.net.
Khalid’s father, Sher Ali, demands to know why the state has been absent while the jirga continues to operate with impunity.
“Why are we being held accountable for a crime we did not commit? I am going to Islamabad to find out my identity, whether I am a Pakistani or not. If I am Pakistani, why am I being accused of something that is not considered a crime by this country?”
Despite D.I. Khan Commissioner Khattak’s assurances that police detail has been beefed up to ensure Khalid’s home remains secure, the young journalist claims that his abode and plantations remain sealed, barring their access. He further says that the local police are hesitant to take any real action against the jirga or its order, as they possess their own private force numbering in the thousands.
‘If I give in to threats, they will continue to do this.’
Khalid has been an outspoken critic of the jirga system in Waziristan since the merger of erstwhile-Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in 2018. He received warnings from local jirgas in the past, urging him to remain silent on their decisions and policies.
According to a local reporter, between 30 to 50 houses in Waziristan have been demolished on orders of jirgas post-merger.
“I am a journalist. if I comply with their threats, they will continue to push me,” he told Voicepk.net, dejectedly. “I made this sacrifice so that other journalists could also find relief through my actions. These are petty people who exile individuals based on social media posts and demolish their homes.”
Jirgas in Waziristan
Before the merger of erstwhile-FATA with KP in 2018, the region was governed by the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), which recognized and formalized the existence of jirgas or Council of Elders, whose judgments and decisions were rooted in tribal customs.
However, the merger nullified this system, subjecting the region to laws and regulations passed by the KP assembly under the constitution of Pakistan.
Even after the merger, the jirga system remains strong in various tribal regions in the absence of adequate state presence (such as law enforcement agencies and courts).
Khalid believes that the failure of the local administration to ensure his family’s safety may indicate its desire to reinstate the FCR system in Waziristan.
ذرائع کیمطابق زلی خیل قوم کے مشران نے لوئر جنوبی وزیرستان علاقہ کالوشہ میں ایک اور خاندان کو گھر خالی کرنے پر مجبور کیا.ہم برائے نام مرج ہوچکے ہیں.ضلعی انتظامیہ،پولیس اور عسکری قیادت خاموش تماشائی بنی بیٹھی ہے.لگتا ہے یہ لوگ دوبارہ ایف سی آر لاگو کرنا چاہتے ہیں.
— Miraj Khalid Wazir (@wazir_miraj) September 28, 2023