Pakistan Reader# 110, 7 June 2020
The Sunday brief looks at the following developments in Pakistan: a tribal jirga in South Waziristan planning to raise a Lashkar to demolish the house of an ANP leader, a short note on the two years of the merger between KP and FATA, a continuing record number of COVID cases every day, and developments relating to a conversion case of two Hindu girls in Sindh.
South Waziristan: An Ahmadzai Wazir tribe plans to raise a Lashkar to demolish the house of an ANP leader, and then forgives, as the government remains a spectator.
In the news
It all started on 4 June 2020, when the administration convened a jirga in Wana of local elders belonging to the Ahmadzai tribes in South Waziristan. The primary agenda for the local administration was to ensure the targeted killings in the region comes to a stop. The jirga was chaired by the Deputy Commissioner.
During the jirga, Ayaz Wazir, a tribal leader belonging to the ANP suggested that the police be given the power to raid the houses of those who are wanted, to prevent crimes. All hell broke, as the tribal elders considered the suggestion as against the tribal customs.
The Ahmadzai Wazirs held a separate jirga on 5 June and decided to raise a Lashkar to demolish the house of Ayaz Wazir. On 6 June, they reconvened again and decided to go ahead with the decision first. However, better sense prevailed, as the jirga withdrew its decision, as the Jakhel clan of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe (to which Ayaz Wazir belong to) approached the jirga with four sheeps and agreed to pay a fine of one million rupees. Offering sheeps is considered as a part of the tribal tradition to appeal for peace and request forgiveness.
Issues in the background
What happened in South Waziristan during the last four days highlight one of the larger problems of mainstreaming the tribal regions of the former FATA, despite their merger with the KP province.
Despite the presence of administration and political parties (JUI-F, ANP, PTI, PPP and PML-N), the primary decision-making process remains with the tribal elders. The ANP has been complaining that this leadership has been either abdicated by the local leaders to the pro-Taliban commanders, or the latter has usurped it from the former. During the previous elections in 2013 and 2019, political parties like the ANP and PPP were not allowed to fly even their party flags on top of their houses and party offices. The ANP has been questioning the role of the jirgas and peace committees in South Waziristan.
Third, the local administration and even the security forces are seen with going along with the local committees to maintain peace. The recent jirga was actually convened by the administration, following a series of targeted killings in the region.
Fourth, the targeted killings in South Waziristan. From leaders belonging to parties and movements, to others, there has been a spate of killings during the recent weeks in Waziristan. The administration has been unable to maintain law and order, and one of the reasons for convening the jirga was to address the issue.
Two years of KP-FATA merger
In the news
May 2020 marked two years of the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
One of the primary objectives of the merger was mainstreaming the FATA region; there was a specific request from the locals, especially the youths, in the FATA on the issue. And a majority in the rest of Pakistan also wanted to go ahead with the idea of mainstreaming, to ensure that the tribal regions get developed and do not provide space for radical groups such as the Taliban. Afghanistan also figured in the local calculations. The FATA reforms committee that oversaw multiple recommendations and inputs looked into these issues before making final recommendations.
There was also positive feedback from the political parties – PPP, ANP, PML-N and the PTI on the idea of a merger. The above did not mean, there was no opposition to the idea. A section within the local elders, Taliban and even the political agents, opposed the idea of the merger for different reasons. Religious political parties such as the JUI-F and a section within the ulema in the FATA were also against the merger.
The KP provincial assembly went ahead with the bill for the merger in May 2018; the Parliament passed the same, and the President gave his assent on 31 May 2020.
Issues in the background
Two years since the merger, where do the tribal regions stand today? What has been the fallouts of the merger? Has the mainstreaming happened?
First, the legal merger has happened, but not the political and administrative. This has been the primary failure of the merger so far in the last two years. Second, the administration of the region is more led by the military, than the elected leadership; there was an expectation that the merger would lead to the removal of security posts and an element of demilitarization of the FATA. It is yet to happen. Third, there was also an expectation, that the local leaders, especially the tribal youths would get an opportunity in taking the lead; for example, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement would have preferred a larger role in the tribal region. Finally, it was also expected that the Taliban and the pro-Taliban tribal groups would lose their relevance. As could be seen from the above development in South Waziristan, it has not.
For a section within the erstwhile FATA, it is the continuation of the status quo, despite the merger.
Record number of COVID cases; but, the government believes, the Smart Lockdown is an example for the rest of the world
In the news
On 7 June, the casualties in Pakistan due to COVID has crossed 2000. The confirmed cases are close to 100,000. Punjab with 37,000 plus recorded cases has overtaken Sindh (36,000) to be the most affected province within Pakistan.
Issues in the background
First, the staggering numbers since the last week. Both in terms of cases and the casualties, the numbers for this week were deadly for Pakistan. Last Sunday (31 May), the total cases were 66,000 plus with deaths close to 1400. The previous Sunday (24 May), the total number of cases were 53,600 plus and casualties were 1100 plus. One week earlier on 17 May, the numbers were 39,700 plus and 860 plus respectively. The data would prove there has been a steady increase in the cases and casualties during the last few weeks.
Second, the spurt in numbers highlights the failure of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that the government has put in place. Media and independent analysts within Pakistan have repeatedly warned about the dangers of people not adhering to the SOPs. Unfortunately, there are being proved correct.
Third, the provincial differences within, and the Centre-Province discord on the strategy. Sindh has taken strong measures; as a result, last week, Punjab has recorded more cases than Sindh. Balochistan also has preferred to go slow with the opening; it has only 6000 plus recorded cases. KP has registered double the numbers of Balochistan – with 13,000 plus.
Finally, the refusal of the PTI government to accept that it has relaxed too early and too much. According to Imran Khan’s latest statement, “The only solution as world has discovered is smart lockdown which allows for economic activity with SOPs. We are amongst pioneers of this approach.”