FATA merger: Jamaat-e-Islami gives Government deadline

Government

News Analysis |

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the parliamentarians from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have on Sunday warned of staging sit-in in the federal capital if the government failed to merge FATA with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) has expressed support for the demand of JI and parliamentarians, who gave December 31st as the deadline to the government, pertaining to tribal areas merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). On the other hand, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Moulana Fazlur Rehman said that a referendum should be conducted in the tribal areas to decide the future status of FATA.

The FATA-KPK merger seems to be engulfed in political wrangling between the PTI led KPK government and its staunchest opponents in the Pushtun belt, the JUI & PKMAP.

The JUI chief’s demands seem to be in line with a December 2016 declaration of a FATA grand alliance consisting of at least 200 elders from all seven agencies and Frontier Regions. The Grand Alliance insisted on holding a referendum on the fate of tribal areas, maintaining that they would oppose the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. They also stated to “never compromise on the Jirga system”

Read more: Delay in FATA reforms could waste all counterterrorism successes

Referendum should be conducted on whether the people of tribal areas wanted a merger with KP or a separate province, he added. The PPP, JI and FATA parliamentarians were of the view that the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) should be abolished and the tribal areas should be merged in with KP.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had reiterated that the merger of tribal areas issue would be resolved sooner adding certain political elements were trying to politicize the matter for their personal gains.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Moulana Fazlur Rehman said that a referendum should be conducted in the tribal areas to decide the future status of FATA.

The delay in the merger is causing unrest in the region, but the stakeholders have remained unsuccessful in developing consensus on the issue and the matter is lingering on since March when FATA Reforms Package was approved by the cabinet and then PM Nawaz Sharif. Opposition parties repeatedly staged a walkout of the National Assembly session for dropping out of FATA Reforms Bill from the agenda and made it clear that till the tabling of the bill in the National Assembly they would continue their boycott.

The PML-N itself is highly conscious of the fallout of the FATA decision. A PML-N legislator claimed that the government has already decided to reject Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s opposition to FATA reforms. Fazl’s JUI-F and Achakzai’s PKMAP are government allies that oppose immediate merger of tribal areas with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

Read more: Will FATA finally merge in KPK?

“Achakzai’s party has nil presence in the K-P Assembly. Both Achakzai and Fazl parties have a small presence in Parliament.  The views of a tiny minority should not be allowed to influence the will of an overwhelming majority,” said the legislator.

A PML-N legislator claimed that the government has already decided to reject Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s opposition to FATA reforms.

Earlier on Monday, the opposition parties resorted to strong protest in the National Assembly after the government withdrew its decision to table the FATA Reforms bill in the House for debate. The reforms plan recommends electing parliamentarians from FATA to the KP assembly during the 2018 election, thus, enacting the merger with KP in the duration of a year. Additionally, it calls for mainstreaming the region “after five years” but does not shift control to the KPK government for the time.

Additional benefits of the FATA-KPK merger are the economic and social uplift of the area, which has long been marginalized. Additionally, the specter of terrorism which has caught FATA by the throat since the American invasion of Afghanistan can be properly addressed.

Read more: FATA reforms delay leading to political acrimony

The abolition of the FCR and merger of FATA with KPK seems to be the most popular option for FATA’s future. According to a study published by FATA Research Centre titled “Governance Reforms in FATA: People’s Perspective”, 68% population of FATA is for the abolition of FCR, and 74% endorsed the option of the merger with KPK.

The FATA Reforms bill had earlier been made part of the agenda but later it was pulled off, which according to the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, happened because further consultation was required on the bill.

However, the FATA-KPK merger seems to be engulfed in political wrangling between the PTI led KPK government and its staunchest opponents in the Pushtun belt, the JUI & PKMAP. Observers assert that both JUI and PKMAP fear of losing of electoral power if FATA combines with KPK as well as the credit of the merger going to their nemesis, PTI.

Pakistan’s political Sunday? What lies ahead for PTI & PMLN?

Political Sunday

Moeed Pirzada |

With Imran Khan of PTI announcing a ‘Campaign against Corruption’ from Fatima Jinnah Park in Islamabad; Jammat-e-Islami organizing a ‘Dharna’ (Sit Down Protest) against Corruption in Lahore, with Mustafa Kamal’s, Pak Sarzamin Party (PSP) organizing its first mass congregation in Bagh e Jinnah in Karachi, a feeling of ‘something cooking, something in the air’ definitely hits you. Add to this the fact that ‘an under sieged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’ facing the ‘God sent Curse’ of Panama Files has already announced a ‘Mass Contact Campaign’ (Awami Rabta Moham) from next week and you have an unmistakable evidence of ‘something happening’. But what that something is? And what it may become is the real question here.

Though the mythical 300,000 never materialized, PTI, on its 20th ‘Foundation Day’ was able to demonstrate large crowd mobilization. While importing young men from KPK, in hired transport, by a sitting PTI government — many of whom lost their minds and heads on finding themselves standing so close to beautiful emancipated Islamabad girls; something which PTI needs to address — should be less impressive, the significant  presence of people from Lahore and other parts of Punjab and very enthusiastic participation of men and women, often in the form of families, from Islamabad was a sign of party’s’ growing clout, urban middle class penetration and its ability to sustain the spirit of its young followers and professional classes despite repeated set backs at the hands of wily PMLN – PM Nawaz Sharif’s party, Pakistan’s version of GOP, well entrenched in Punjabi bureaucracy, military, media and judiciary.

Read more: Titanic of Pakistani Politics: PTI & PMLN; Upper Deck & Lower Deck?

While PTI’s crowd pull was definitely impressive, its event organization was poor. While Imran Khan was still speaking, and crowds from the McDonald end of Jinnah Ave were walking slowly, pushing and struggling to enter the park, hundreds of people were also seen emitting out of the single entry/exit on Jinnah Avenue. They told me that: there was insufficient space inside the park, it was uncomfortable to withstand repeated waves of push and pull, sound system was poor, Imran’s speech started very late and Khan Sb is repeating ‘old things’ they had heard before. Many complained that there should have been video walls/screens and speakers on the Jinnah Avenue itself. Why PTI did not do that? Perhaps it was not permitted. But there was a feeling that Imran’s speech was not ‘hard hitting’.

Apparently in Pakistan, the idea is that ‘popular mandate’ washes all your sins. This was carefully planted into public imagination through print and electronic media, by a combination of self-serving politicians, writers, and media persons in the run up to ‘NRO’.

Though PMLN leaders, I later joined in Dunya News discussion, were blasting Imran for clandestinely using his ‘Party’s Foundation Day’ for attacking PM Nawaz, (what would an opposition leader do?) most PTI supporters wanted him to hit hard at Nawaz, the way he did in his press conference one day earlier, to come up with a game plan or perhaps demand Prime Minister’s resignation on Panama Leaks. They were disappointed for Imran – quite unlike his usual self – was cautious; he announced a ‘campaign against Corruption’ from Sindh, on 26th and a rally in Lahore on 1st, but regarding Nawaz, he only thundered: ‘Mian Sahib, apko jana paray ka’ (Mian Sahib, you will have to go). Perhaps he now realizes  that to push against Nawaz, he needs to develop greater momentum.

Read more: PTI demanded PM to resign

Or else, Imran is probably only reacting to the stage set by Nawaz Sharif – who has already announced his ‘Public Contact Campaign’. But Nawaz Sharif’s objective are clear. He desperately wants to shift the focus away from allegations of corruption that emanate from ‘Panama Files’. Public rallies will also demonstrate his ‘mass support’ to judiciary, bureaucracy military and to the diplomatic community. It will be a sort of ‘message’ to them all. If despite this maneuvering, ‘pliable commission’ still became difficult, if the pressure for ‘full & Complete disclosure’ kept mounting then these rallies may turn into a ‘pre-election campaign of sorts’ for a PMLN, that till the Panama Files was pretty confident of beating all its opponents in an electoral contest in Punjab; a province it rules – something which Law Minister, Zahid Hamid, argued in the cabinet meeting three days ago, prompting a laughter from all, except PM Nawaz. Public rallies, at national exchequer’s expense, by a chief executive, who appears to be dodging an investigation into allegations of corruption, is definitely a pugnacious idea, a kind of ‘Wag the Dog’ but everything is possible in Pakistan.

However, it raises a very interesting question: Is ‘Electoral Success’ a reprieve for criminal offense? Can public through vote forgive crimes of men in leadership positions? Is law only an ‘expression of popular will’? Can people of a village get together and forgive a ‘popular murderer’ through show of hands? Apparently in Pakistan, the idea is that ‘popular mandate’ washes all your sins. This was carefully planted into public imagination through print and electronic media, by a combination of self-serving politicians, writers, and media persons in the run up to ‘NRO’. Objective was to create space for acceptance of ‘National Reconciliation Order’ (NRO) which Benazir Bhutto needed to reenter Pakistani politics, and which Musharraf wanted to offer her in return for her support to stay on as president till 2013. History, like horror movies, is often cruel: She got murdered and her successors kicked out Musharraf.

But lets come back. Those self-serving crooks – disguised as ‘intellectuals’ mostly aligned then with PPP, who wanted to bail out BB and not Nawaz- who in 2005-7, built the case for disgusting ‘NRO’ in front of the Americans, argued that cases against politicians – both Benazir and Nawaz – were made purely on political grounds, politicians have suffered in jail (like Asif Ali Zardari) but nothing has been proved against them, and since they could not be convicted therefore they were innocent victims of ‘witch hunt against the politicians’. The term ‘witch hunt of politicians’ which you keep on hearing from all sides now and again – like by Ishaq Dar in Kamran Khan Show – was coined in that era.

Ironically these cases –like the famous Hudaibaya Paper Mill and the Swiss Cases – inherited by Musharraf, were mostly made by PPP and PMLN against each other. The allegations which we now find in ‘Panama Files’ against Sharif family originally surfaced in the FIA Report of 1993-96 which was the investigative work of PPP’s Rehman Malik – who now also finds his name in the Panama Files. How interesting?

While PTI’s crowd pull was definitely impressive, its event organization was poor. While Imran Khan was still speaking, and crowds from the McDonald end of Jinnah Ave were walking slowly, pushing and struggling to enter the park, hundreds of people were also seen emitting out of the single entry/exit on Jinnah Avenue.

But given the developments since then, all published and revealed by media, we now know for sure ‘Swiss Cases’ against Benazir and Zardari were true and genuine. If convictions were not obtained, it was not because of ‘political witch hunt of the innocent’ but because of the incompetence and corruption of Pakistan’s Criminal Justice System that was totally penetrated, compromised and bought over at all levels by the supposedly ‘innocent victims’ – who could completely manage it. Also, Sharifs struck a deal with Musharraf, courtesy Clinton and Saudis, in 2000, which then stopped all prosecution against them; and Musharraf, whose principal venom was against Nawaz, for his own selfish reasons, wanted to ‘go slow’ on Benazir, so that he can bring her into power sharing – to prolong his rule. This thinking, and mutual needs, lead to the infamous NRO – midwifed by the British & Americans.

Bottom line is that the ‘flawed and corrupt paradigms’ established by self-serving ‘hyenas’ who masqueraded as ‘intellectuals’ in the run up to a ‘Faustian Bargain’ between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto for creating “NRO” may again be used now to continue the cycle of pain and misery. Is Pakistani state and people then the mythical ‘Prometheus’ being punished by God Zeus?

Question is: Will a new generation of Pakistanis, a decade later, will allow itself to be fooled again by the self-serving paradigms of ‘corrupt writers’ or will it cleanse itself like a smart CPU that routinely trashes the ‘corrupted files’ from its cache?

Read more: Imran Khan’s PTI ends its boycott of Parliament, but why?

So lets sum up Pakistan’s Political Sunday. With Imran initiating his ‘Anti-Corruption Campaign’ from Sindh, with Jammat offering dharnas in Lahore, with PM Nawaz kick starting his ‘public contact campaign’ from KPK and with PPP’s Maula Bux Chandio shouting on Imran’s ‘Sindh yatra’ its clear that fault lines and alliances of Pakistani politics are being finally defined. PTI has apparently decided, without declaration, that PPP will leave it sooner or later; so let’s face today what confronts you tomorrow. Nawaz and Zardari will be natural allies, like they were since 2007.

It’s only that developing circumstances won’t allow them, anymore, to pose as ‘enemies’ and ‘opponents’. Next few weeks and months are thus momentous in shaping the coming decade of Pakistani politics. Though everyone tells me that in a country as illiterate, as elite controlled and as corrupt, as Pakistan, history will only repeat itself. Prometheus will remain chained to the rock, with Zeus’s  ‘mythical eagle’ eating away his liver. I am not that sure. I think you can fool all the people some of the time, some people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Something that worked out in 2006-7, wont work in 2016-17. Even then Benazir got murdered and Musharraf was kicked out by her successors.

 

Moeed Pirzada is prominent TV Anchor & commentator; he studied international relations at Columbia Univ, New York and law at London School of Economics. Twitter: MoeedNj. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy. This piece was first published in Moeed Pirzada’s official page. It has been reproduced with permission.