WEB DESK: JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman continues to oppose the government-appointed Fata Reforms Committee’s proposal to merge the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa so as to bring them into the national mainstream.
Addressing a news conference the other day, he reiterated his stance that a referendum should be held to seek the opinion of the local people about the region’s future status, whether they want to join KP or have a separate province.
Almost all the major political parties have been voicing support for the merger proposal. On the face of it, the JUI-F chief is making a perfectly legitimate, democratic argument. It is hard to quarrel with the idea of letting the people decide their own political future. The situation on the ground, though, is rather complicated.
Indeed, the local elders are with the JUI-F in opposing union with KP. Last July, the Maulana had convened a tribal jirga in Peshawar to press the demand, which was defended by Fata notables participating in the event. They had called on the government to either hold a referendum or form a legislative council to determine the tribal people’s choice. It is not surprising if the local elites are so against joining KP.
Thus far they have been representing – by dint of their privileged positions – the tribal areas in Parliament, and almost invariably serving self-interest rather than those of the represented. Fata Senators are notorious for selling their votes to whichever political party is in power in Islamabad. Rates are set depending on the buyers’ needs. As for the JUI-F chief, he is known to already have considerable ingress in the tribal areas through his seminaries and religious followers.
No wonder he recently created quite a stir with his statement in which, aside from advocating consultation with the Fata people for deciding the areas’ status, he criticised the Zarb-e-Azb operation equating it with Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir. The other political parties have had little influence in the tribal belt since it is difficult for them to operate freely under the prevailing conditions.
In case Fata becomes part of KP that would upset the power balance, weakening the local elites and JUI-F’s influence. The party, the local maliks and other notables therefore have a vested interest in demanding an autonomous status for the region. The tribal people of course have a right to run their own affairs as they deem best, practical implications of the issue at hand are quite another matter, however.
The tribal elites together with religio-political forces like the JUI would want to maintain the power status quo at the expense of ordinary tribesmen. The ground reality being what it is, any decision about the status of Fata must be well thought-out, with a focus on bringing about improvement in the lives of ordinary people living in the tribal areas.
Source: Business Recorder